Winning Essay by Henrietta R. From Kentucky Attends Louisville

“A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.”

Toni Morrison, in her subtly impactful wording, reminds us here of the true binds of humanity. What links us, what keeps people ever-growing and consistently hopeful, is their ability to see themselves in others and others in themselves. Toni Morrison has used her wisdom and artistry throughout her life to show a nation of people, and this young woman, the power of humanity.

Morrison’s writings have translated the pain and strife faced by characters that experience the racial, gendered, and socioeconomic inequalities in American lifestyle throughout decades of experience. Her fiction brings forth the emotions and heart ache one couldn’t feel in practices of radical empathy as she touches us in the deepest way possible: through art. She has shown so many with even a fictive glimpse into the unquantifiable struggle that is being a marginalized citizen. Her literature has brought forth attention and connectivity between humankind that is rooted in compassion. Being one of the greatest American authors, winning the Pulitzer prize for her book Beloved, continuing her career at Princeton University, and standing for social justice as a political activist, Morrison has made leaps and bounds to direct a conversation of equality and justice for those previously not given a voice. And with that voice, Morrison has taught me so very much.

Growing up with Morrison’s writings, I return every year to the words she has given the world to relearn my perspective and how I was meant to be a body that resists inequality. Especially poignant to me is her short story, “Recitatif.” In this story, Morrison wrote of two girls whose paths intertwine throughout their lives that are of different unidentified races, but unite to understand the world together. As I presented from the quote above, I have always come back to Morrison’s fundamental teaching that the essence of humanity is to unite. Our social atmosphere of oppression and discrimination against minorities has shown me the effects of institutional and interpersonal racism between citizens. Morrison uses her words to craft these large issues into very human and relatable scenarios that exhibit the power of seeing our similarities over our differences.

Morrison has used her incredible talent to share with so many the prominent issues of our society and teach others of their power to fix it. She has spread light into my life and encouraged me to become more than an ally, but an active participant in using my privilege to do what I can to help those who don’t have the resources I do. I hope to be a driving force in the movement to foster diverse cultures and ideas into unity. As I grow older, the lessons of hardship and kindness I relearn through Morrison’s writings are ones I will always be grateful for because it is a true gift to have someone help teach you just what being human truly means.


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