Harambee Students Honor MLK By Sharing Their Dreams

It’s one thing to quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech” on your Twitter account once a year. It’s another to vulnerably share your own hopes and dreams in front of an audience of close family and peers.

But this is just what Harambee middle school students did at the first ever Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner, held the evening before his celebrated holiday.

How did students take to such a noble yet daunting task? According to Brandon Grant, Youth Ministry Director, ” Several of our students were nervous about sharing the things they are passionate about with their closest loved ones present. They shared a side of themselves that others might not see every day. They confronted their fears, and every one of them smiled at the applause they received – it felt good to them.”

A Parent’s Inspiration

Harambee parent, Quintessa Atchley, who attended the event after a long day hadn’t expected that she’d need a Kleenex by the end of the first speech. “Once the first student hit the podium and began to recite the words he prepared, the tears started flowing.”

The students and their speeches made a profound impact on her: “That night I gained perspective. These children are not blind to the adversity that ails their parents, their peers, their society, and ultimately tries to derail their aspirations. These students are equipped and aware of the fight that they face. And from that night, from my son’s speech, and from the words spoken by his peers, I learned that they will need each other, and they need adults willing and prepared to pour into their lives so that they can execute the powerful dreams spoken of. I left the event with enough energy to run a marathon, although I would never run a marathon…maybe if I dream it.”

Ms. Quintessa and Rayquan

Ms. Quintessa and Rayquan

A Student’s Preparation

It takes a lot of courage and preparation to share your dreams. Ms. Atchley worked with her son, Rayquan, to make the most of the experience. She helped him look for inspiration and prepare by listening to what other students his age had to say about Dr. King while watching YouTube videos.

The finished result was powerful and moving. In her own words, “To know that our children are not oblivious to what is going on around them is huge. It tells the story of a seed being planted and sprouting inside of them. ”

The Impact of Sharing 

Contemplating the impact preparing and delivering these speeches has had on the students, Brandon shares, “This experience has given them confidence in sharing their innermost thoughts with others. It made me realize that it’s important to give our youth more opportunities to share what they are thinking and to lead in these ways.”

Mr. B and the Speech Writers

Mr. B and the Speech Writers

What kind of impact has Ms. Quintessa noticed from her son beginning to develop his dreams for the future while attending Harambee? “Attending Harambee and having male teachers and administrators that model the walk of Christ is making all the difference. Some I see here and there, but like the planting of any seed, we see the fruit in its season. I am confident that he is growing – that he is making a difference in his friends life just as they are making a difference in his. As long as he continues this trajectory he and his peers are going to yield good fruit.”

A Student’s Dream

Excerpts from an I Have A Dream Speech
by Londale, Harambee 8th grade

I have a dream.
I want to be known as the man of God who spreads life.
Not a man with children without a wife.
God lives in me.
God talks through me.
As the Bible said God is with thee.
God is almighty.
God is powerful.
At the blink of an eye he can make a tower fall.
When I die I want my family to know,
My expectations for me were high.
When He was crucified He said, “Father forgive them.”
So now when I spread the Word,
I spread Him.

Michael Larson