Congressman Lewis motivates Miami black youth in MLK address
One of the features on Martin Luther King Day observed last Monday, January 16, was the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project scholarship breakfast held in Miami. The event attended by over 500 high school students and community leaders was addressed by a number of speakers, including civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
The annual event seeks to raise funds to assist recent graduates of local high schools to receive scholarships to attend colleges in the US.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project is the brainchild of US Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, who started the program during her tenure as a Miami-Dade School Board member in 1993. The objectives of the program is to provide mentorship to at risk African-American male youth to get them to stay in high school, while interacting with community, business and academic leaders. Since its inception 95 percent of the over 8,000 youth that has participated in the program has graduated from high school.
In 2015 Keiron Clarke, Caribbean-American, student at a North Miami high school, son of a single mother with five children, participated in the project after serving a night in juvenile detention for a legal misdemeanor. “I was definitely on the wrong path, and fortunately for the 5000 Role Model mentorship project I settled in and with the help of really good mentors graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I later received a college scholarship through which I am pursuing a veterinary medicine course.”
Through the annual MLK breakfast and other efforts, funds are raised to provide scholarships to several high school graduates. Through these fundraising efforts 81 students will receive scholarships to attend colleges this year.
Congressman Lewis’ speech was highly anticipated at Monday’s breakfast in light of the controversy surrounding him and President-Elect Donald Trump after Lewis criticized him in a radio interview as “not being a legitimate president.”
However, Lewis in his speech made no direct reference to the controversy. Rather he used it as an attempt to motivate the youth present.
In his speech, Congressman Lewis reiterated the benefits of non-violence, central to the Civil-Rights Movement lead by the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Among a background of repeated gun violence affecting South Florida youth Lewis told the audience, “The way of love is a better way, the way of peace is a better way.” With obvious emotion, he implored the youth and others present to “Never give up, never give in. Stand up, speak up. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something, to say something and not be quiet.” He also cautioned that, “The scars and stains of racism are deeply embedded in American society.”
Clarke said he found the speech “very motivational, and it further embolden him to succeed in his career goals, and not be hindered by any acts of injustice from peers or those in authority.”