Telling stories powerful enough to change the world

Excited Pelham High School Junior Danielle Sanders discovers that she is a top 10 finalist in the "Selma" Movie Essay Contest. (Contributed)

Excited Pelham High School Junior Danielle Sanders discovers that she is a top 10 finalist in the “Selma” Movie Essay Contest. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Danielle, I love your quotes, your points are well-made, and your grammar is lovely,” I said as I conferenced with my student, Danielle Sanders, about her argumentation essay that she planned to enter in the “Selma” movie essay contest.

She looked so happy that I wanted to stop; however, there was more.

“But honey, your opening is flat. There is none of you in this essay. You need anecdotal evidence establishing you as the authority.”

Danielle’s face fell. I really hate this part of my job.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Danielle, I was a baby in the nursery at First United Methodist Church only blocks from Sixteenth Street Baptist when those precious little girls lost their lives. My mother said, ‘Everyone in our Young Couples Sunday School class ran for the church nursery. We realized that day that the only difference between our church and Sixteenth Street Baptist was that our children were alive.'”

Danielle and I both had tears in our eyes.

“My story comes from my oldest daughter. Studying history, she was stunned to learn that people would once have been upset by her friendship with Brian because he was black and she was white. My six-year-old was so relieved that King had led others to her simple truth: human beings are one race, skin is a covering, and character lies within. Her truth was Dr. King’s dream. Danielle, your essay needs your story.”

Sanders’ revision told her story.

“I am the dream. I am that little black girl whose first friend was a little white girl. I am the student in class who is known, not by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character,” Sanders wrote.

Out of 800 essays, Danielle Sanders placed in the top 10 in the “Selma” movie essay contest.

Sander’s work is a tribute to our community’s affection that crosses all boundaries of race and culture. Her video will be live at Libertymuseum.org/selma-contest-winners/.

Danielle Sanders wins $500. She also wins the priceless knowledge that her words have the power to change the world.