By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published May 27, 2004
Carmen Drummer of St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur read her winning poem entitled “Human Rights” on May 7 at the 12th anniversary celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden. The garden is located at the MLK National Historic Site, the same neighborhood in which her father grew up and attended Catholic school.
Drummer, a sixth-grader, was the winner among nine student entries at St. Peter Claver in the competition to write a message of peace. The competition included students from four other schools located in the area of the MLK Jr. National Historic Site on Auburn Avenue, and Drummer and seven other students whose poems were selected also read their work and unveiled plaques with their messages inscribed on them, which will be on display in the garden for a year.
The competition, which in Atlanta was first held in 1992 when the garden was planted, is sponsored by the California-based nonprofit International World Peace Rose Gardens, with a mission to impact world peace by creating symbolically designed gardens that serve as centers for community action. Students were invited to express the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr., an inspiration of his World Peace Rose Garden or an aspect of peace dear to their hearts. Students from Our Lady of Lourdes School across the street from the MLK site used to participate yearly until it closed in 2000, and then St. Peter Claver was invited to participate, as many Lourdes students had transferred there.
The organization co-founder T. J. David helped lead the ceremony and also had visited St. Peter Claver earlier in the week where he had presented Drummer with a duplicate plaque, and all nine students read their poems. He said that the MLK garden was replanted in 1996 for the Olympics and that it reflects the life and ideals of King. “Every year we try to have the same contest. When people come to the national historic site these inspirational messages become points of inspiration, and you see how children reach out and touch the hearts of all the people who come there,” he said. The location of the garden “is one of the major pathways” of the site, which attracts some 500,000 visitors annually.
Pink roses in the center represent Coretta Scott King’s oneness with King and her continuation of his work; the red roses honor African-American contributions to the history of the United States and the world; and the solid bands of white roses honor the bond and similarity of peace movements between Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. The clusters of multicolored roses symbolize the nations of the world and the universal appeal of King’s message of peace through nonviolence. The orange rose represents lasting peace.
There are also gardens for world peace and harmony among all the nations, cultures and religions of the world, each focusing on a different aspect of peace for humankind, at places including the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy and the Gandhi World Peace Memorial, Pacific Palisades, Calif. Last year in Sacramento they created a new garden at the State Capitol Park. The organization has “always had a strong Catholic support base” with their programs.
Following remarks by Patricia Hooks, regional director of the National Park Service, Drummer and the other student winners were introduced. The St. Peter Claver student read her poem: “Everybody is a human, right? That is why we have human rights so we can stand up for what is right. Blacks and whites had to use separate things. Blacks and whites couldn’t even fly kites together. That’s why we have human rights, so we can stand up for what is right together,” she wrote.
Drummer said that her social studies teacher had put some words on the board, from which she had picked out human rights on which to write her poem. “I’m glad that I got it. At first I didn’t think I was going to get it. It’s saying blacks and whites couldn’t do lots of things together. It’s talking about human rights,” said Drummer. “I don’t really want to be an author or anything, but the reason why I did so well on the poem is because I read a lot. I have my own diary.”
Her mother Ann Drummer attended the ceremony as well. “We’re proud. She did very well, and her dad and myself are very proud of this accomplishment,” she said.
The recognition was especially meaningful for her father Martin Drummer, as he grew up in the neighborhood of the King Center, attended Our Lady of Lourdes School and went to high school with Martin Luther King’s oldest child. “It’s nice. I’ve been telling everybody I see. I’m proud of her. It’s across the street from where I went to school … I remember when it wasn’t even the King Center.”
Martin has tried to instill in his children a respect for human and civil rights. “It’s just a part of life in a way. You don’t harp on certain things, but you explain certain things to children to try to have them understand. A lot of times kids take things for granted, so you have to let them know it hasn’t always been that way. You try to teach them to do the right thing.”
David returned the plaque of past winner DeAnna Yarbrough, an eighth-grader at St. Peter Claver, to the principal, Catherine Spencer.
St. Peter Claver middle school religion teacher Margaret Ann McCabe said that teachers like this sort of competition, as “it gives them a (creative) outlet and a reason for why they have to write poetry and their thoughts on paper.” She added, “It’s good for students to realize that they can be a part of the bigger picture, that by participating in something like this they show their concern for world peace, that they are proud and agree with the things Martin Luther King stands for and they can make a difference.”