Every year, a local community-based organization here in our neck of the woods invites public school children to write essays based on a theme pulled from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech; each school sends one finalist to a county-wide MLK celebration, and there, the students read their essays in front of a packed audience, and a winner is chosen. This year’s theme, “From Dream to Fruition,” drew a plethora of entries. And guess who was a finalist?

Yup, my baby, Mari Chiles!

Turns out she’s nice with the verbs. Mari, 9, bested a bunch of kids in grades 1 to 5 in her school-wide contest with a story about one of her best buddies back in New Jersey, and now she gets to rep her school at the MLK Day festivities. The crazy part is that the girl wrote her piece the night before it was due, while she was home recuperating from pneumonia. Just knocked it out, through all the coughing, all the wheezing, and all the medication. Nick and I are so proud of her, we just don’t know what to do with ourselves.

I was going to tell you all about her essay, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to do it the justice it deserves without posting, verbatim, what she wrote. So, to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the national holiday celebrating The Prince of Peace, I present to you the brilliant words of my daughter, Mari.


I have a friend named Ruby, who I’ve known for a long time now. We’ve been friends since I lived in New Jersey, four years ago. We used to play with each other and go to one another’s house. We had sleepovers, and trick-or-treated, and did ballet together. Both of our little sisters even had the same first names! And guess what? I am black and Ruby is white.

That was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dreams. For white and black children to play with one another. And it has come true. Back then adults had the children separated. If they caught black and white children playing together, the kids would be in big trouble. But most people don’t care about that today. People should be looking at one’s personality and humor instead of their skin color. People now even have friends from other countries. A person that you’re looking at right now could be a very good person but somebody who doesn’t care about people’s personality and humor would just walk away from them because of their skin color. Martin Luther King, Jr. was truly right when he said that black and white kids should be able to play together, and that is exactly what we do now.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Take the time today–if only for a moment–to reflect, believe, inspire, and serve someone who is less fortunate than you. It is our duty. It is what Dr. King would have wanted. And it is only right.

Peace, then love.

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  1. Ok, she had me at the first paragraph =). Looks like someone might be following in the shoes of mommy and daddy!

  2. I think your sweet little girl is one very wise girl as well. So simply written and yet so very true. Way to go Mari!

    P.S. Fantastic pic Denene…you’re doing good too! 😉

  3. Dear Mari,

    I love your essay. You are an exceptional young lady and you will do a fantastic job representing your school at the MLK celebrations.


    Mama Shujaa.
    P.S. Your mum and dad are pretty cool too.

  4. Denene please tell Mari that was great!!!She is well on her way to becoming a journalist.

  5. Crying again….You truly have raised a bright young lady. I love your stories about Mari. Okay I’m going to get some tissues now.

  6. That was incredible!!! After I read Martin’ Big Words to my kindergartners, one little boy said, “I am so sad that he’s dead.” And another little boy said, “Yeah, but his words are still alive in my heart.”

    sniff, sniff.

  7. i am so proud of Mari, what a great post!

  8. Congratulations Ms. Mari! Go girl.

  9. I can see why you’re busting with pride! Not only thoughtful, but very well-written!

  10. Denene,

    I can see why you are so proud. Congrats to you and your daughter. I hope she continues to write!


  11. Phenomenal! Mari, your essay is absolutely phenomenal.

  12. Mari, that was wonderful! Your essay is amazing, just as you must be an amazing little girl.

  13. Mari, your one smart cookie! What a great essay.

  14. Leslie Roark Photography

    What a perfect story!! It gave me chills! Way to go!

  15. What a cute little girl. That face is totally priceless.

  16. So much joy! I’m so happy to see her beautiful face on iHeartFaces this week. 🙂

    co-founder of I ♥ Faces

  17. Life with Kaishon

    OK. Seriously! This picture of Joy is outstanding. I love it. She is a beauty and what a profound paper she wrote. What a great child : ). She made my day. I love my own brown baby too!

  18. Great photo and your daughter’s speech is just amazing.

  19. She is just amazingly beautiful, you can see it inside and out!

  20. i love the photo! excellent shot. and what a talented young lady.

  21. Adrienne in Ohio

    The photo is a perfect joyful expression. Your daughter’s essay is sweet and so insightful. Congratulations to her!

  22. You tell her I wish she lived in Ohio because she’s the kind of girl I want my daughter to be friends with, that girl is going places! Be proud Mama!

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