Black History Assembly Recaps Civil Rights Legacy

Article excerpt

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

King's speech.

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

Elementary.

"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. …