Amina Smajlovic has big plans. Real big.
“I love being active and I want to change the world,” Smajlovic said after participating in a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Forest Park Public Library. “I want to have an impact.”
The 14-year-old freshman at Proviso Math and Science Academy was chosen as one of three winners for a library contest used to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In front of her parents and other participants, Smajlovic spoke of how King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech resonates with her. In part, because of King’s efforts to change the world, Smajlovic said she sees no reason why she can’t do the same.
Smajlovic herself is the daughter of Bosnian immigrants who, she said, have likely benefited from King’s push for equality. Theirs is a middle class family despite a language barrier that her father still struggles with. In many ways, she said, the promises of the civil rights era have been fulfilled, but inequalities still exist.
More than 80 students and adults answered the library’s call to recognize King’s legacy with poems, essays and artwork. Most of the pieces came in written form, but Smajlovic turned in a collage after learning of the celebration through teachers at the magnet school on Roosevelt Road.
“They took all forms,” library Director Rodger Brayden said. “I was gratified by the participation level, to be quite honest with you. Sometimes you put something out there and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
The library remained open for the Jan. 21 federal holiday with the intent, said Brayden, of making a gesture in King’s memory. Area schools were closed for the day and Brayden’s staff decided to take advantage of a potential learning opportunity. Roughly a week before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the library announced it would host a small reception and display any work that tied into the theme of Dr. King’s stirring speech delivered in Washington D.C.
“We thought that rather than close up, it would be worth our being here to make a special effort to acknowledge Dr. King,” Brayden said.
Twelve-year-old Alantra Wilson attended the event in support of her younger sister whose writing was selected as one of the stronger entries. Too few people take the time to think about the importance of what Dr. King did, said Wilson, and she appreciated being able to help her sister with her project.
“I recognize [the holiday] because he changed the world,” Wilson said. “If it wasn’t for him I don’t think the world would be the way it is today.”