On February 8, 2022, NYU held its annual MLK Oratorical Contest as part of its larger NYU MLK Week. This year’s winner was Brenda Bunting, MA ’22, who graduates this Spring from Steinhardt’s accelerated MAT in Secondary Education.
The theme for this year’s event was “The Beautiful Struggle for a New World,” taken from a speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered at the Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967.
“I wanted to be able to honor Dr. King’s eloquent words and speak about who he is beyond the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” said Bunting, who is the first online student to win in the contest’s 17-year history.
Bunting enrolled in the MAT initial certification program more than three decades after completing her undergraduate degree in the 1980s. When the pandemic struck in 2020, Bunting quit her job as a high-level human resources contractor. She embarked on a cross-country road trip with a friend and spent time thinking about how she wanted to spend the second half of her life.
“I’ve always been interested in teaching, and I wanted a profession I could be passionate about,” said Bunting. “I’ve been affiliated with education throughout my different roles – I was a life skills specialist at a detention center, I did mediation training, I was the education director for the Kentucky Pharmacists Association – and becoming a teacher now just felt like the right fit.”
As an accelerated program participant, Bunting had to find the hours to create her original piece amidst attending classes online from her home in Maryland and teaching seventh and eighth grade humanities students at the Center City Public Charter School – Trinidad Campus in Washington, DC. She worked up until the midnight deadline to submit her composition.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. King and his sacrifice, and when heard about the contest I knew I had to make the time,” Bunting said. “I want to impact people in a positive way wherever I am, and I felt like I had a real opportunity to do that here.”
Bunting published “Poems of Love and Violence in between Life and Death” in 2015 and is currently working on her second collection of poetry. She is also a literary leader of Prince George's County Maryland, a life member of the Kentucky State Poetry Society, certified Life Coach and trained in Mental Health First Aid.
Read Bunting’s MLK Oratorical Contest-winning piece “The Beautiful Struggle for a New World” below.
The Beautiful Struggle for a New World
by Brenda Bunting
I taste joy every time I hold him between my dreams.
Dr. King you have filled the frame of many windows with the greatness of your hope.
I follow the trails of your courage and extend my hand in solidarity.
This I will do my whole life for we have been given ambrosia to share.
But deep lines, deep grooves of chasms have opened in earth.
Dividing away from itself filled with the bitter spirits of division.
The dogmatic unceasing fills the air fills the mind,
until the cruel uncompromising until caustic raging spills out.
It coats everything demanding everything thick like tar in its application,
unrelenting in its demand for absolute.
Everything born comes from destruction.
You were planted in the ground and sprung up past death,
to walk with us in new protests.
We thank you Dr. King for your sacrifice.
As blacks and browns are shot down,
the smoking pistol blazes through many hearts,
but we are becoming bulletproof armed with the love of your teachings,
and the determination of your strength.
The breaking forth, the bursting through, past the constraints of its genesis.
The world has been subjected to the greatness of its spreading.
Days of sunshine and glory fall to certain storms of drowning.
The cyclical seasons come like the uncertainty of justice.
Blind men beat vision into the unseen.
They walk with certainty into great destruction,
We have become a Picasso universe,
The sound of darkness pivots,
Into a high orbital percussion that neither eye nor ear can bear.
The rocks of stones and boulders speak out their unyielding,
As earth crumples around them.
But there is a sound that is louder. A voice that resonates through the echoes of decades. A voice of celebration in civility in a time of barbarism.
Dr. King still stands among us.
The dream walkers catch the edges of life and dive into one another's depth to swirl among the eddies of spirit into the completeness of soul.
It is a healing satisfaction.
There is a beautiful sense of purpose that accentuates the edges of these dreams,
as we walk in parallel realities of sameness.
The great differences and distances do not matter to connecting and reconnecting.
Like a graceful waltzing the pleasant dance of purity,
feasting as we partake in the sacred feeding.
I stand by the window of hope and extend my hand,
[We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.
Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. . .
Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late.' ...
Now let us begin again.
Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)]
In the beginning broken children drummed themselves to wholeness.
In the middle walked a great King,
In the end broken children wore skins of drums and power
To move forward mightily and fulfill a dream.