The Third Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Competition sponsored by the Macon-Bibb County MLK Commission was held on Saturday, February 17, 2018 mid-day at the Memorial Gym.

“The Macon-Bibb County Recreation is proud to present students sharing their voice and vision as it relatives to their future,” says Dominique Lewis, MBC Recreation Programmer.  “These students have shown vital leadership in their schools by taking initiative to write essays.”

The competition is a vital element of the MLK Commission’s mission to celebrate the legacy and work of Dr. King, throughout the year in Macon-Bibb County; NOT, just during the national holiday.  The oratory competition consisted of contestants presenting their individually written speeches centered on their thoughts on Martin Luther King, Jr.

While most would expect the topics to highlight how MLK Jr. would handle the country’s current issues; however, the winning contestant, identified herself as a “rebel.”

First Place winner Edna Rutland (Junior at Central High School) performed her oratory piece “My Right, My Role, Our Liberty.”  In her words, “Was Martin Luther King right?  Are we in a burning house? Is the roof on fire?  Look around us.  What is going on in our community? Our Nation? Our World?  There are lots of fires burning.  Regardless of what your answer may be to those questions, what is more clear, is that it is our job, no our duty, to not just be ‘drum majors’, but a firefighters for justice, by putting those fires out!  How do we do that?  By staying informed and making our own choices about who we are and what we believe in.  How do I do that? By rebelling, The fact that I am a carefree black girl is an act of rebellion. My very existence makes a statement.”

“We all know that our youth are exceptional, but to hear the passion delivered in their addresses was truly moving,” said MLK Commission Chair Elaine Lucas. “It is inspiring to know that our students are socially conscious and considerate at such a young age, and I am proud that Macon-Bibb County is providing these young people with the tools to continue their intellectual growth.”

Second Place winner Keylem Collier (Junior at Rutland High School) addressed “individual freedom and self-determination” in his MLK Oration.  In his words, “The Constitution is what separates the U.S. from all other nations on this planet. Former President Barack Obama said, ‘We the people tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us.’  An idea that America’s most inspirational leaders have used in protest and support of the Constitution. Like in Martin Luther King’s mention of the Constitution in his I Have a Dream Speech… ; ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, [and] live out the true meaning of its creed… that all men are created equal.’  Equality is what brings us all together as a people, something that the Constitution revolves around, and what our great nation is founded on.”

Reaching to the young grades, two middle school students, Kamari Lewis and Harmony Aaron were allowed to read their MLK Tribute and received Honorary Mention awards.  The Recreation Department is most appreciative of the Judges:  Jennifer Alvarez, Laura Lease, and Joshua Dean.

The Macon-Bibb County Recreation Department is making strides in order to bridge gaps between traditional and non-traditional recreational activities.  It is their hope that the community continues to support the mission, “Building healthy communities through people, parks, and programs.”

Both Edna and Keylem are members of the Macon-Bibb County Georgia Civic Program for Students (GCAPS) Youth Commission.  Their biographical sketches are below:

Edna Rutland

Junior at Central High School where she is an Honor Student, Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America, and the International Thespian Honor Society. She volunteers as a tutor Alexander II Magnet School, serves meals to the homeless, and prepares snacks and refreshments for youth soccer practices.  Edna believes, “If today’s youth are to become good and responsible citizens in the future, [they] must be informed and knowledgeable of current events at all levels of government.”

Keylem Collier

Junior at Rutland High School having recently moved to Macon.  As a part of the military community, Keylem has traveled the globe and in the Army JROTC and qualified for their summer program JCLC.  He placed in multiple leader positions, and was taught on the Army Values of Leadership. His volunteer hours celebrates him for good manners and selflessness.  Keylem believes, “Civic education is important for today’s youth because it is needed to have a smoothly running government system where everyone understands what’s expected of them from them as a citizen.”

The Macon-Bibb County Youth Commission is a locally administered cohort of the Georgia Civic Awareness Program for Students (GCAPS) developed by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) staff and county officials to address the need for increased civic involvement and awareness among our state’s youth. The Bibb County Board of Commissioners established its program in 2012 with a $3,750 grant from ACCG. The 2014-2015 cohort was the first under the newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County government. We look forward to even more progress with the 2017-2018 cohort. To date, over 100 students have participated in the program. Youth gain knowledge about their local governments through hands-on learning experiences and witness firsthand the decision making process. The objective of GCAPS is simple: to educate young citizens about the importance of being actively conscious of their local government environment and the opportunities available in the public sector. GCAPS provides civic education by exposing high school students to the role that local government plays and by introducing them to the leaders who make local governments work. As a result of GCAPS, youth become engaged in their communities and become better informed citizens, they also learn valuable leadership skills and have the opportunity to create and implement civic awareness projects. Macon-Bibb County’s cohort is administered by Assistant County Manager Charles Coney with Commissioner Bert Bivins as its Ambassador.