Last year Sandra Parks wrote, "Sometimes, I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day."
It was the opening line in the essay she entered in Milwaukee's Martin Luther King Jr. annual essay contest. The theme was "We Shall Overcome" and Sandra wrote about overcoming the violence in her neighborhood.
Sandra Parks. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday night, Sandra,13, became a victim of that violence when shots were fired into her Milwaukee home. It's unclear if her home was targeted.
In her 2016 essay, she wrote, "We are in a state of chaos. In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost every day. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence."
Authorities said Sandra was sitting inside the home with family members around 8 p.m. Monday when the shooting happened. No other family members were hurt.
Police said Tuesday that a 26-year-old Milwaukee man has been taken into custody.
Sandra’s mother, Bernice Parks, said her daughter "was everything this world is not," and that her daughter was not violent and did not like violence.
Sandra shared her Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired essay as a guest on WPR’s "The Kathleen Dunn Show" in January 2017.
Listen to Sandra read her essay on WPR’s "The Kathleen Dunn Show" in January 2017.
She said she chose violence as the focus of her essay because "all you hear about is somebody dying or somebody getting shot and people do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson who it was that was just killed."
In a excerpt from her essay she read on air, Sandra said part of the solution was empathy.
"We shall overcome when we begin to understand and accept others," she wrote. "We shall overcome when we eliminate the negative and nasty comments people make about each other. We shall overcome when we love each other and people around us."
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called Sandra's death "part of the insanity" of gun violence in Milwaukee and elsewhere.
When Dunn asked Sandra and the other students on the show that day how they planned to address the problems identified in their essays when they became professionals or civic leaders themselves, Sandra stated a broad goal: "I would like to stop all of the violence and negativity that’s going on in the world," she said.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association co-sponsor the annual essay contest.
Tuesday, the newspaper reported at least three children have been fatally shot in the city in recent years by bullets fired from outside their homes, including a 5-year-old girl who was sitting on her grandfather's lap at the time.