Updated: November 30, 2023
Kauaʻi seventh-grade student Lasaya Albite-Ruiz from Kapaʻa Middle School is the 2023 Kauaʻi grand prize winner in the 24th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards.
Congratulating Albite-Ruiz were former Kauaʻi Mayor and Council member JoAnn Yukimura and Kauaʻi County Mayor Derek Kawakami’s representative Annette Anderson.
Albite-Ruiz received congratulatory certificates provided by Kawakami and Governor Josh Green.
She also received an original painting “Moon Landing” donated by international artist Davo.
“We are delighted to receive work of this caliber from this young Kauaʻi poet,” said Melinda Gohn, awards coordinator.
Officials honored nine student finalists from three Kauaʻi schools for their peace poems in the countywide competition organized by the International Peace Poem Project, a nongovernmental organization of volunteers, including teachers and artists.
The annual competition is to honor Dr. King, the civil rights leader who promoted nonviolent means to achieve social change. The ceremony was held at Kapaʻa United Church of Christ May 23.
Poetry organizer Melinda Gohn said Albite-Ruiz’ winning peace poem, “His True Desire,” uses an unusual blend of immediacy, metaphor and rhyme, plunging the reader into a narrative poem about Dr. King’s life and legacy and the inspiration of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Albite-Ruiz’ poem begins, “August 28, 1963/ Martin Luther King Jr. was in Washington D.C./ He gave his speech called, ‘I have a dream’/ He was talking about inequality in our country.” She continues, “he had many goals he was trying to reach/So he tried to do so with this speech/Trying his best to end segregation/ and having to deal with this oppressive situation.”
The poem continues, “He stated, ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up’/Will our country ever change or develop?” The poem concludes, “Everyone there listened to what he had inquired/many years later, people are still very inspired.”
Gov. Green’s Office and State Senate President Kouchi provided certificates for three “Golden Circle” winners for poetic excellence and to the Teacher of the Year, Brent Andrews from Hanalei Elementary School.
All Kauaʻi contest winners received a Certificate of Achievement from Mayor Kawakami and a limited edition of Dr. King’s commemorative prize poster of the Hōkūleʻa sailing by the United Nations building in New York. The photograph by Bryson Hoe of the Hōkūleʻa was donated by the Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻŌiwi TV.
The International Peace Poem Project sponsors Dr. King poetry competitions in the four counties of the state. Project organizers participated in Millennium Peace Day at the United Nations in New York in 2000.
More information about the International Peace Poem Project may be obtained by accessing the Project’s website at peacepoem.org