Three Keeper of the Dream winners – all students – plus three Freedom Award honorees – seasoned champions of growth and development – equal six more stalwarts the National Civil Rights Museum has saluted in its twenty-two-year journey to build upon the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Wednesday, the Temple of Deliverance COGIC sanctuary was the perfect positive-energy chamber for the vibes generated by the 2013 National Civil Rights Museum's Freedom Award Public Forum.
Students roared their excitement as emcee Lamman Rucker of Tyler Perry's series "Meet The Browns" took the stage. He masterly worked the crowd, demonstrating that acting and looks are not the only assets of this education advocate and son of an educator, entrepreneur and athlete.
The forum's printed program told the stories of the big-name honorees: President Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland (1990-97), International Freedom Award; Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children's Zone, National Freedom Award; and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Earl G. Graves Sr. founder of Black Enterprise Magazine.
It also detailed the exemplary leadership, tenacity, sacrifices and chutzpah of the Keeper of the Dream winners: seventh-grader Iyonia Boyce of Collierville Middle School, sixth-grader Jack Dougherty of Schilling Farms Middle School, and M'Lea Scott, a ninth grader from White Station Middle School.
Robinson, now the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, credited Dr. King for being the reason she earned a law degree at Harvard School of Law.
"I was always interested in social injustice, but when I heard that speech (the 1963 "I Have A Dream Speech") I knew why I wanted to study law," she said.
"He had a great influence on my life and I was devastated by Dr. King's assassination."
When cutting edge work in inner city youth development comes up, Canada's name is often called. Lovingly dubbed "the street smart superman," he was featured in the educational documentary, "Waiting for Superman."
"Education is the most powerfullest thing to change the world...with the assistance of parents and family," said Canada. "I couldn't have done none of this work without the support of my family."
Canada paid homage to Dr. King, noting that the civil rights icon and "so many others died so that our young people could get an education."
Reflecting on the start of his mission, Canada recalled this: "I said to my people, we're going to have a new set of values – to value education."
Adults, he said, must standing up for young people. Then he spoke directly to the youth.
"Some of what's missing is on us and some of it is on you young people. You must be and do your best job."
Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Graves has 45-plus years of experience in the media industry and quite a bit of wisdom that he learned along the way.
"Struggles are the same regardless of the generation. My generation had struggles of racism. We had Emmett Till. You have Trayvon Martin," he said.
"We're now looking to you to be the examples. Do your best and be your best."
It's important, Graves told the students, "for you to know the stories and legacies of the civil rights recipients. So you can remember, be inspired and step up."