Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the U congratulate the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Award recipients.
As an integral tradition of MLK Week, the award honors seventh-12th grade students who demonstrate dedication to leadership in their communities and daily activities. To address this year’s MLK Week theme, “Good Trouble,” the Youth Leadership Award selection committee asked students to address the following prompt in their application:
Sometimes it is hard to know what’s good trouble. How can we know what trouble is Good Trouble? We see from Lewis’ journey, and from that of his SNCC colleagues, that doing the right thing or causing Good Trouble can put you in harm’s way. Is there a time when you did something you believed was the right thing to do but was unpopular or even dangerous? Who inspires you to make change or get into Good Trouble? What would you do if someone you loved wanted to support a greater cause by putting their body in harm’s way? What advice would you give them? What would you do to support them?
Each 2021 Youth Leadership Award recipient submitted encouraging examples of inspiration, advice and actions of “good trouble.” Find excerpts of what they submitted below.
Ameer Al Sammarraie
During school one day, I started learning more and more about history and movements. This education made me very inspired to stand up for myself and to not let someone step over me or my friends…After we did this, on the next day of school the group came up to us, and they apologized. We all went along the rest of the year with no problems at all. This taught me that maybe some people will disagree with me…but it was “Good Trouble,” and it worked out perfectly, and taught myself and others how to be kind to each other.
There is a sense of fearlessness when you put your entire being on the line for something bigger than yourself. Marching down the streets with hundreds of people on May 26, 2020, in honor of George Floyd, I felt as if we were unstoppable. The purpose and passion we shared carried our bodies and voices for hours. I had felt so much anxiety prior to; but very quickly I learned here is nothing to be scared of—we all possess the power to change the world, together.
I never really began to notice a problem of prejudice and exclusion of other ethnic groups until we entered high school when many people, some of my closest friends included, began to what it seemed like almost distanced themselves from other ethnic groups and also began to freely throw around very sensitive “jokes” regarding race that was extremely offensive…At this point, I was faced with a decision, keep turning a blind eye or stick up for what I know is right and put an end to the discriminatory behavior that plagued our school.
Although I had to face repercussions for initiating the fight, I felt good and accomplished knowing I brought about change after telling my counselor the reasoning for the fight; she relayed the information to the principal who then developed a mandatory Diversity Awareness PowerPoint and seminar once a month for all students and much stricter codes of conduct against discrimination at the school.
As a member of the American Taekwondo Association and a Third-Degree Black Belt, I have gained an inner strength and confidence that buoys me in times of personal struggle, so when a teacher asked me to perform a demonstration for students at my local elementary school, I jumped at the chance. Luckily, the response was amazing…I was mobbed afterward and asked countless questions about the sport and where students could learn taekwondo…This was the moment that inspired me to disregard popular beliefs held by many Americans that the LatinX community is somehow unmotivated or not hard working. I chose to ignore these negative stereotypes. I chose to push back on the beliefs that my peers and their parents espoused. I chose to get into “Good Trouble,” and I did so by founding Park City Ninja Kids five years ago, which is now a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Compared to John Lewis, my good trouble has occurred on a smaller scale, through my interactions with friends and family, volunteerism, and self-reflection. Combating oppression in pursuit of equity is one of my core values that guides my actions and my decisions.
Watching America protest the unjust death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor gave me a resurgence of hope in systemic change and progress for the Black community. I attended several Black Lives Matter rallies during the summer, wrote to senators, signed petitions, and talked to my family and friends. Although my impact is small, I want to continue this work to help my community promote equity, diversity and inclusion. Good trouble is a lifetime commitment to bettering your community, educating yourself, and creating progress. I hope to make a difference in the world the way John Lewis did.
The person that made change for the better is my mom. She told me that anything is possible no matter what. You can set anything and accomplish anything that you put your mind into. She’s a very hard worker and my role model, because not only did she raise all my six siblings and me, but she is also a single mother. Something that I did that was dangerous and scary was when I stood up for my friend when the teacher was mistreating her. The teacher was not being fair to her because she was the only student of color in the teacher’s classroom.
[My mother] risked many things to be able to make it to America, this is why I think it relates to good trouble because she risked her life and tried her absolute best to help keep me and my brother safe. I think good trouble is a great thing in the right situations. If my friend did an act of good trouble, I would support them, because being in situations where you put yourself at risk to help others, like my mother did, or try to make a change, like Rosa Parks did, is a very humble thing to do and courageous act.
Even if it’s popular, remember that you have your own opinion, your own view of life. Don’t let people change that, because they haven’t seen the other side only you have. That’s the thing that makes you special, not by doing the same thing that people do, but by doing what you think is best, because to be better, you have to be you.
Bianca Salgado Alvarado
To me, ‘good trouble’ means going against societal norms and sticking to my own morals and beliefs as a person — standing up for what is right regardless of what others think or say about me…Trouble isn’t always bad; sometimes we have to fight against what everyone else is doing so we can make positive change in the world around us, even if means overcoming fear of being judged. Good trouble can be a start to great and needed change as we stand together to improve our communities and the world for the better.
Good trouble is doing what is right and standing up for what you believe in. Seeing this and trying to comprehend what trouble is "Good Trouble" may be difficult, but it really just means that you may have to get your hands dirty and break the rules if it means that you are doing what is correct to uplift, inspire, help, and be a leader if you have to…I always try to remember that getting into "Good Trouble" is OK and that there are people out there that need others to help and support them even if we don’t know them. John Lewis was and still is a big inspiration, and we should all follow his example and get into "Good Trouble" when we need to.
Good trouble is the willpower to fight for what’s right even when everybody else thinks it’s wrong. It’s the power to see that you can make a difference and stand from the others…When I was younger, things in the past have definitely crossed my mind as to why I was Black or made me thought "I wish I wasn’t Black," basically because I wanted to look like everyone else that had surrounded me. But as I grow older, I soon come to realize that my skin, my melanin, has a story behind it. People with my skin have fought for their rights. As I grow older I start to embrace my skin, I start to love my melanin, I start to not want to be the same as my peers but want to be so different from them as it is beautiful in my eyes that I am Black.
Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications