Youth activists reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12
Published: Apr. 3, 2018 at 10:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2018 at 11:50 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech, entitled, "I've been to the Mountaintop."

It's a speech 14-year-old Elijah Coles-Brown has studied. He recites an excerpt of it with conviction and passion, inspired by Dr. King's legacy.

"We're not trying to go backwards, we're trying to go forwards and get to the promised land like Dr. King said before he was assassinated," he said.

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Coles-Brown is a social justice activist and motivational speaker, who is among an even larger group of young people in the Richmond pushing for changes, inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. King.

"I've been politically active. Everything I've done has made a difference I know," said Patrick Healy. "And I know other people have made a difference. If you get involved, you're going to make a difference."

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Healy, a senior at Freeman High School, has been at the forefront of the March For Our Lives movement in Richmond, organizing his peers to plan Town Halls with legislators and the student walkouts in different counties in the greater Richmond area.

"It makes me have more faith in the future, because we are in tough and tumultuous times right now, but to see out generation standing up and say 'we're not going to be complacent to this' is inspiring," Healy explained. "We want to reach across both sides of the aisle and say we are scared of our lives in some cases, we want change, and we want change now, and we're not going to wait for it."

India Williams, a 15-year-old in the Armstrong High School leadership program, has worked with Healy, speaking against gun violence. Williams hopes through her work, she can give a voice to marginalized communities and motivate her peers to find causes they care about.

Williams has spent most of her years in school learning about Dr. King  and says the same things he fought for decades before, are many of the same things a new wave of activists continue to fight for.

"Seeing this black man on a poster in my third grade classroom, just looking at him and learning his legacy, what he fought for and what black people had to go through, that really started me on my journey," she explained.

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She was at the forefront of the March For Our Lives rally in Richmond that attracted 5,000 people to make their voices heard.

Coles-Brown, the Vice President of the Richmond Chapter of the National Action Network, has stood with some of the country's most revered leaders for peaceful rallies and marches. He says taking the time to show up and be active is what it will take to continue Dr. King's dream and making a positive impact on the history of the nation.

"It is imperative that we as youth and as adults create change, start movements like the March For Our Lives movement, to be able to move a generation to get up and say 'we're not going to take anymore injustices,'" said Coles-Brown.

The students say they hope Dr. King would be proud of the work their generation is doing, as none of them plan to stop any time soon. Instead, they say their work has to continue to build a future for a generation still to come.

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