By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Parris Watts was selected as the first place Region V Winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Essay Competition, sponsored by the National Bar Association and Met Life. On July 21, she competed in the national competition in St. Louis, during the association’s convention. Watts, a senior, is a member of Jackson Christ the King Parish and vice Grand Lady for the Junior Daughters of the Knights of Peter Claver court 199.
The competition is “designed to motivate high school students to excel in education. The competition encourages students to express their views on a preselected topic and focuses on the ability of the students to communicate orally and in writing. The contest is also designed to give young people experience in public speaking and reviewing legal documents,” according to the bar association website.
For the essay, Watts had to address this issue: “The Black Lives Matter movement was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman. Zimmerman was acquitted. Many have criticized the Black Lives Matter movement for focusing on specific injustices done to African Americans stating there should be an All Lives Matter movement. If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive, would he argue that Blacks should focus on the All Lives Matter movement to focus more globally and generally on all lives or would he support the Black Lives Matter movement to focus more on black lives?”
Students were given some basic background materials, but also encouraged to do their own research.
“I argued that he would chose all lives matter because he was fighting for equality for everyone no matter what their race, class, color or situation,” said Watts. Her faith played a role in her arguments. “I was researching how Dr. King based his ideas on the idea of the beloved community. My faith has taught me that Jesus loves everyone equally,” she explained.
While she did not win first at the national level, she was recognized as the top entrant from the region comprised of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Watts hopes to become an attorney herself. She is active in softball, soccer, beta club and student council.
The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges.
By Maureen Smith