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Birmingham Urban League Essay Contest Winner


History Has Empowered Me to be Great 

By Natasha Burrell 


His story is not my story. I have learned that just because we may have the same skin does not mean we will have the same end. What binds African Americans is our struggle, our shared drive to rise above the oppression of inequality, racism, and that bit of hatred that resurfaces every time one of our own is killed in the streets. In the fall of 2016, I will be attending the University of Alabama. Many of us love to say “Roll Tide” but those same few are quick to shout “oh no” when one of our own choose to enter the same campus that Governor George Wallace blocked entrance to just fifty-three years ago.

What are we afraid of? What is it that holds us back?

In 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and went on to become a well-known abolitionist and a phenomenal writer. Sojourner Truth, a woman who in 1858 bared her breast to a crowd of both men and women to prove that she too was a woman, went on to converse with President Abraham Lincoln as an advisor. In 1947, Jackie Robinson played his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger in front of a crowd of people who hated to see him.  Martin Luther King Jr. faced death every day, but was able to say that he has seen the mountaintop.

In 2008, when I only ten years old I saw a black man walking through the doors of the White House as President. Our history has empowered my story leading me onto a path of greatness. If I have learned anything, it is that God works in mysterious ways. If in 1957, nine black teens can walk into Little Rock Central High where they are not wanted and endure daily abuse, why can’t I go to the University of Alabama and be successful? Why can’t I become a doctor like Daniel Hale Williams?  Why can’t I stand proud like Maya Angelou after my storms are over and say “Still I Rise”?

Our history has taught me that instead of holding each other back out a fear Booker T. Washington said, “A race, like an individual, lifts itself by lifting others up.” We all live separate lives, writing our own stories, but because we share that same struggle, we must support each other. I am empowered because like those before me have, “I’se still climbing, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”


Nastasha Burrell is a senior at Ramsay High School.