You are young, gifted and black.
The title of a song written by Nina Simone in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. just four days after his death. I chose “Young, Gifted and Black” as the theme for this essay because I believe Dr. King’s dream in 2011 would be especially, but not exclusively, directed to the young, gifted and black.
In 2011, Dr. King would lament the increasing number of African-American males between the ages of 18-22 who are in jail rather than college. Dr. King would emphasize taking advantage of educational opportunities because an “educated man or woman is not likely to be sold a bill of goods.”
In 2011, Dr. King would find it necessary to talk about the epidemic rise in young gang members and young prostitutes. Dr. King would explain to these troubled youth that even if you are a gangbanger, a prostitute or even just a known trouble maker in your high school, “Life’s most important question is, ‘What you are doing for others?’ ” showing them that with a strong character and an honest heart anything can be achieved.
A wise man once said that the way you dress won’t necessarily help you make it to the top. But the way you dress can definitely keep you from making it to the top. In 2011, Dr. King would dream we stop limiting our opportunities by the way we dress, the words we use, and the addictions we are enslaved to. We are too gifted to wear our pants on our knees. We are too beautiful to refer to our sisters as dogs and our brothers as pimps.
We must end the infatuation with Snooky and Nicky Minaj, and begin to take notes on the overwhelming grace of Michelle Obama and the admirable charisma of Barack Obama. We must strive for a higher level of education which will only appear if we work hard. And we must love those who surround us because “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
Dr. King would tell all of you here today, that regardless of age and regardless of your past you still have time to change your life around, and grab hold of any opportunity you missed. He would say this because you are all young gifted and black, and that’s a fact.
Asia Alman is a sophomore at Medgar Evers Preparatory HS. She placed first in the Zeta Phi Beta oratory contest. This is an edited version of that essay.