Remembering MLK Through the Next Generation

January 20th, 2023

Category: News

I was honored last Sunday to serve as a judge for the latest installment of the MLK Voice4Youth program, a spoken-word competition for middle and high school students. Their charge was to follow the trail blazed by Dr. King by speaking up for change through their performances.

An eighth-grader named Ayomikum Adeojo from Newark Charter Junior High took this year’s competition by storm, winning the middle school competition and the overall competition.

All seven finalists were amazing. Some used soaring rhetoric, others rap. All of them involved a deep analysis of King’s life and work. They had clearly studied his speeches well beyond his more well-known, letter from Birmingham Jail or the “I Have a Dream” speech, and not only interpreted them, but brought personal reflections on how his words impacted their lives and are still relevant today. We in the nonprofit/advocacy space can do more to uplift the voices of our students when it comes to making policy and shaping our shared priorities.

Check out all the 2023 finalists’ speeches here. Ayomikum’s comments begin at about minute 54, he was announced as Contestant Four, but I recommend you taking a look at all seven. They are only about five minutes each. As we move into 2023, I hope it renews your faith in the power of the next generation. It did for me.

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Paul Herdman



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