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Black History Month Literary Weekend 8th Grade Essay Contest

Leoance Williams III is the winner of the Black History Month Literary Weekend 8th Grade Essay Contest presented by Meet the World Image Solutions, LLC. Eighth and ninth graders throughout the Orleans parish, were invited to participate in the Essay Contest for a prize of $100, a year of scholarship preparation for college with Higher Minds of Education, and their entry published in SwagHer Magazine. The following is his essay, and it is pretty clear that this 13-year-old young man has an old soul. 


Growing up in the south, I find it hard to know when and if there is a safe way to stand up for equity and justice. As a young, Black man, it is easier not to make waves, keep my head down, and hold my hands up with no words or movement. Though this is my reality, it is not only embarrassing and dehumanizing, but it is also stifling and tends to hold back my greatness. Then, in the flash of my mirror, I see strength and grit pumping through the veins that are reflected. A great man from the streets of the Lower 9th Ward, Uptown, and Gentilly fought valiantly and refused to take a backseat to his potential because of the color of his skin. That great man is my great grandfather Earl J. Amedee who made significant impacts on African American History and the Black history figure I admire most.

During his time, Earl J. Amedee knew the pains of being told that he was a second-class citizen because of his race. However, he also knew his rights and helped others to learn about theirs. In 1950, Earl J. Amedee began running for public office in Orleans Parish. He did this during a time where less than 12% of the Black population of New Orleans exercised their right to vote. He knew, almost certainly, that he would lose. Still, he fought for his seat at the table; and gave a voice to the voiceless of his time. In 1958, his fight led him to become the first Black person appointed to the office of Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans since Reconstruction. Though he resigned two years later, he continued to bring the fight for equity to his home parish. He went on to become a Founding member of the Louis Martinet Legal Society, the first Black appointed to the Democratic Executive Committee and won a host of court cases that included getting Black teachers paid equally to White teachers. Earl J. Amedee did not know his place. Instead, he created a model for all those who would follow in his footsteps.

As a local hero, Civil Rights Activist, and influential patron of justice, my great-grandfather made this city a better place to live. I admire him for it. Earl J. Amedee gave New Orleans’ Black population hope. He helped to restructure this state’s views, and he helped to build a legacy that is still cherished by the named awards given in his honor each year. Every time a Black person registers to vote in this city, a Black politician wins a political office, or teachers enter their desegregated classrooms, think of my great-grandfather. I do! My great grandfather showed that having strength in the fight, and commitment to a cause, was more meaningful than sitting in the back of the bus and accepting life as it was.


-Leoance Williams III


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