Unity ribbons pay tribute to King

Art project fills hallways at Elm City Middle School

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Across Wilson County and beyond today, many will gather to celebrate and honor the man who fought for equality and against injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to unite, not divide. While it’s been more than 50 years since he was assassinated, King’s legacy of hope and peace still lives on, even in the classroom.

“We are all equal,” said 13-year-old Samad Williams, an Elm City Middle School student. Last week, Williams along with other eighth-graders worked together to create a collaborative piece of art work to celebrate King — unity ribbons.

“People can see this and know what we’re doing,” Williams added about the finished artwork.

Each student drew a ribbon on a white single sheet of paper and filled it in with bright colors. As they worked on the project, one section alone didn’t appear to look like much, but once they began connecting their sheets of hand-drawn ribbons, a bigger picture emerged — one continuous ribbon. This particular class decided to use text below the design. And it conveyed the message students had hoped for.

“We might still have problems, but if we work together, we can overcome,” it reads. “United we stand.”

Thirteen-year-old Gurnest Brown said it’s important for those who believe in King’s legacy to stand together.

“If it wasn’t for him, whites and blacks probably wouldn’t get along,” Brown said. “If he had never fought for equal rights, then this would have never happened. The world would probably be different.”

The unity ribbons are now on display in the hallways of Elm City Middle School for all to see.

Elm City Middle art teacher Michelle Driver said the project’s goal was to create original art that conveyed feelings of peace, unity and community.


A week ago, Trooper Daniel Harrell was shot during a traffic stop near Elm City. As the incident was unfolding, Elm City Middle School went into lockdown during a basketball game against visiting Forest Hills Middle School. Several hundred people were in attendance. With the MLK holiday coming up and the news of the shooting, Driver saw an opportunity for a teaching moment.

“It just seemed like we could use something that happened that wasn’t positive but come into the art room and think about someone who did so much good stuff and then use art to make a positive message,” Driver said. “Even when things around us might not be positive, we can all work together and convey a positive message.”

Harrell, a five-year veteran with the N.C. Highway Patrol, is recovering from his injuries.

“That’s one of the powerful things about art,” Driver told her students before they tackled the art project. “You can use it to spread a positive message. We’re all here together.”

Driver said while the world isn’t perfect, it’s far better than it was because King fought for peace.

“He saw,” she told students. “He witnessed. He lived injustices. He spent his life preaching for peace. Even as a small class like this at Elm City Middle School, we can still do something positive to make a positive impact.”

MLK Day Observances

• The 25th annual Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. at the Darden Alumni Center. The event will feature entertainment from The Barnes Project and the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education choir as well as a keynote speech from chaplain Wallace Allen.

• The “Walk Like the King” shoe giveaway will be held from 2-4 p.m. at St. John AME Zion Church, 119 Pender St. N. The N.C. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission has partnered with the Wilson County Department of Social Services, the Team Power Foundation and WideAwake Da Beat Radio to give shoes of all sizes to those in need.