Friendship is colorblind, says Kate Eckert.
That’s also the title of an artwork she created, which placed first among fifth- and sixth-grade students in this year’s annual MLK Art Competition put on by the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.
The image shows an African-American boy and a white girl side by side, with their hands coming together in front of them to form the shape of a heart.
Beneath is a statement from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We may have all come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Kate was among art, poetry and essay contest winners honored as a standing-room-only crowd attended a three-hour program at the historic site, 1515 S.E. Monroe.
That building formerly housed Monroe School, the all-black Topeka school involved in the historic 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that banned racial segregation in schools.
Monday’s event took place on what would have been the 89th birthday of King, who was born in 1929. He was assassinated in 1968.
The program included a presentation about “Dr. King’s Message” by the Rev. Delmar White, pastor of Topeka’s New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Monday’s activities also included a play, “Silent Protest,” narrated by Topeka NCAA youth, and a ceremony to honor winners in the 2018 Living the Dream Inc. Student Recognition Awards.
Those included Topeka High School student Leona O’Conner, who placed first among ninth and 10th graders in the art competition.
Leona created a colorful image showing an African-American woman — surrounded by flowers and toadstools — who also happens to be a vase, with vegetation and toadstools growing out of her head and legs.
Leona said the artwork, titled “Flower Girl,” centers on the theme that African-American women are like flowers.
“Even when we’re stepped on or pushed down, we always grow and come back up together,” she said.
Recreations of some of the winning artworks, as well as some that didn’t win, will be part of a mural wall for which work is expected to begin this coming spring near the historic site, said Joan Wilson, a ranger at the historic site.
Here are listings of the winners in the poetry, essay and art contests:
Grades 11-12: First, Kiora Brooks, Topeka West High School; Second, Darby Holroyd, Washburn Rural High School; Third, Jazmin Richardson, Topeka High School.
Grades 9-10: First, Spencer Vail, Seaman High School, Second, Lauren Beavers, Seaman; Third, Katie Golder, Seaman.
Grades 7-8: First, Victoria Wagner, Washburn Rural Middle School; Second, Makayla Lebruska, Washburn Rural; Third, Zoe Turner, Robinson Middle School.
Grades 5-6: First, Abby Simpson, Elmont Elementary School; Second, Logan Whitt, Elmont; Third, Emma Ludlum, Robinson Middle School.
Grades 11-12: First, Marissa Shivers, Washburn Rural High School; Second, Orlando Rodriguez, Highland Park High School; Third, Chloe Hixson, Topeka High School.
Grades 9-10: First, Sophie Billbe, Seaman High School; Second, Kaden Fox, Seaman; Third, Molly McLaughlin, Seaman.
Grades 7-8: First, Cooper Holloway, Seaman Middle School; Second, Alex Hayes, Seaman; Third, Justin Kruse, Seaman.
Grades 5-6: First, Logan Whitt, North Fairview Elementary School; Second, Avery Samuelson, North Fairview Elementary; Third, Yuridia Garcia, Williams Magnet Fine Arts School.
Grades 3-4: First, Am’agyn Spencer, Wanamaker Elementary School; Second, Noah Kobuszewski, Elmont Elementary School; Third, Araya Harness, Berryton Elementary School.
Grades 1-2: Lillian Wiens, West Indianola Elementary School; Masyn Chard, McCarter Elementary School; Rachel Weber, McCarter Elementary.
Grades 11-12: First, Lemi Del Real, Highland Park High School; Second, Jacob Nelson, Capital City High School; Third (tie), MarinethAbegale Ordinal and Norma Arreola-Garcia, both of Highland Park.
— Grades 9-10: First, Leona O’Conner, Topeka High School; Second, Xzavriana Wade, Capital City High School; Third, Ali Reed, SeamanHigh School.
— Grades 7-8: First, Alexandria Poling, Washburn Rural Middle School; Second (tie), Lauren Reed, Washburn Rural Middle School, andJaylec Rodriguez, Jardine Middle School; Third, Amiya Thurman, French Middle School.
— Grades 5-6: First, Kate Eckert, Elmont Elementary School; Second, Skyler Pokphanh, Berryton Elementary School; Third (tie), DevonRutschmann, French Middle School, and Levi Shows, Berryton Elementary.
— Grades 3-4: First, Hara Izabel P. Del Castillo, Jardine Elementary School; Second, Am’agyn Spencer, Wanamaker Elementary School;Third (tie), Jeremiah Allen Nicol, Lowman Hill Elementary School, and Camp LeDuc, Elmont Elementary School.
— Grades 1-2: First, Lilyana Higine, Quincy Elementary School; Evan Huntly, Randolph Elementary School; Kyra Bennett, Quincy Elementary School.
Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.