GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- The highlights of this year's Black
History program at Green Cove Springs Middle School was a
speaker who touched on the pitfalls of racism and a
fourth-grader who impressively delivered Martin Luther King
Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
It was the second annual Black History Month observation at the
school, with the student body singing Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Written by Jacksonville native James Weldon Johnson, the song is
reaching a similar status during Black History celebrations as
One of the day's highlights was Robert Smith Jr.'s youthful
rendering of King's "I Have a Dream" address.
Tall, easy-going and confident, 10-year-old Robert exhibited
little nervousness while recounting one of the major civil
rights addresses of the 1960s.
When he finished, 600 middle schoolers gave him a standing
ovation in acknowledgement of his age [most of the students at
the school are older], his performance and King's aspirations
for the United States.
"I think it teaches a lot of kids a lot of stuff," Nicole Mainer
said about the speech and hour-long assembly on Feb. 23.
"Anyone can be a leader," said the seventh-grader. "No matter
what color you are."
"It gives a bigger respect for people in the past," said
Samantha Justice, 13.
"It was cool," said Angela Weisheim, 13, a seventh-grader.
Robert's parents, both Clay County educators, are pleased with
the progress of their son, who is a fourth-grader at Lake Asbury
"He's chosen a great role model," said his mother, Belinda
Smith, who teaches at Ridgeview Junior High.
Her son has been giving the speech for a few years in churches,
schools and other public forums.
"It's not [just] the school that's doing it," she said about her
son's maturing speaking skills. "It's really our church," which
is New Hope Baptist Church in Penney Farms. …