Chicago girl's essay, Just Another Black Boy, wins national prize

April 29, 2013 3:00:47 PM PDT
A Chicago student inspired by the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson won an essay contest about her own struggles with the death of her brother.

Arsema Tesfai was honored Monday by Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, at the seventh-grader's school, St. Thomas of Canterbury.

"So, my barrier has been to recover from the grief at the death of my brother," Tesfai wrote in her essay. "I am tired of being sad and angry."

Her essay expresses her determination to overcome tragedy.

"I wanted people to feel that racism still exists. A lot of people think that it's over. But it's not," Tesfai said.

The story won first place honors in a national essay contest, Breaking Barriers- In Sports, In Life. With her classmates looking on, the St. Thomas of Canterbury seventh-grader received her prize of laptops for herself and her teacher.

"In many ways, not only is this her day, but we're also celebrating his life," Christine Boyd, principal at St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Almost 19,000 essays were submitted from around the United States this year. The essay contest was started 17 years ago by Sharon Robinson. Her father broke the color barrier in baseball.

"Arsema's essay showed that confidence. They've have a really difficult barrier, One that is not resolved," Robinson said.

Arsema's family emigrated from the State of Eritrea, a small African country north of Ethiopia. Her brother, Filmon, was shot to death before he was supposed to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign on a scholarship.

"We lost a great son in 2003," Zerai Tesfai, Arsema's father, said.

The crime remains unsolved. In her essay, Just Another Black Boy, Arsema wrote, "Even though Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, racism still exists. Sometimes when I walk in an elevator with my dad, women move to the corner and clutch their purses."

Arsema wants to fight against injustice by being a lawyer one day.

"Race is not something that puts us in different groups but something that makes every person different and unique. Filmon, you are not just another black boy. You are my hero," Arsema said.

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