FIRST PLACE “Nettie Asberry, My Hero” by Vivian MacBain

Hi. My name is Josephine, but everybody calls me Josie. I am 11 years old and my favorite color is royal purple. We just got a new puppy named Spot. I know. Not very original, but he is a Dalmatian! I couldn’t help it! Anyway, my daddy told me that I had to train him to “go” outside. So, I did some research in the library and found out that if you use old newspapers to train your dog to “go” on them, you can then put the newspapers outside and get your dog used to that environment. Then you can take the newspapers away altogether and boom (that is a phrase I use – it means “and then suddenly”) you have a trained dog! But it turns out that dogs cannot read the dates on the newspapers after they have been trained to “go” on them. So, guess what Spot did? He did what he was trained to do and “went” on the wrong newspaper. I told him after that the newspaper he “went” on said August 16th, 1916, and that the one he was supposed to go on says August 15th, 1916. I think he took my lesson to heart (or he is just your average, run-of-the-mill dog who can’t read or understand English). But either way, Daddy asked me to get him a new, clean newspaper to read. So I set off for the corner to get a newspaper for Daddy (and a few for Spot).

My good friend Billy was selling the newspapers down at the corner. I gave him 2 cents for the current newspaper and he gave me a few old unsold newspapers from the day before for Spot. As I walked home from the corner, an editorial about Nettie Asberry caught my eye, so I started to read it. The editorial starts talking about the film coming out called Birth of a Nation. My daddy says that film is supposed to be really good. But from what the article states, the film seems very racist. My daddy would probably be appalled by it, really. But I kept reading to find more out about this Nettie Asberry.  Turns out, she was one of the founders of a club called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP). Nettie Asberry is against the film Birth of a Nation because it portrays her people as mean and dangerous. And I agree with her! I mean, we just got past one of the hardest times in our nation! We had just eliminated SLAVERY! We had just made amends with members of the Black community. We had just agreed that everyone is equal. If the film gets out, we might have to start all over! Nettie was chosen to write a letter to the press to make sure the film does not get out. The letter, unfortunately, was not enough to stop the film from showing. But, it was enough to bring attention to the NAACP and, most importantly, caused a debate. An important debate. A debate that both Mayor Fawcett and the Tacoma City Council had to get involved with. Nettie and a few other NAACP members made a wonderful argument. They talked about how it badly portrayed Black people and how it was untrue to history. After about an hour, the debate was declared a draw.

As soon as I finished the editorial, I ran home to tell my daddy about it (And to make sure Spot had enough newspapers) I told my daddy and my mommy about the editorial. I really hope that Nettie wins the debate after all and that Birth of a Nation never gets shown. I also hope that we keep moving forwards on treating everyone as equals. Maybe we will even go to school together one day! My only question is, will Tacoma be ready? I know I am, but is everyone else?


Vivian’s MacBain’s entry, Nettie Asberry, My Hero is about Nettie Asberry’s letter to the press in August, 1916. Vivian MacBain is 11 years old and in 5th grade at Geiger Montessori. She has lived in Tacoma her whole life.