KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Fifty years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, but his civil rights legacy lives on in the metro. dozens of high school seniors accepted scholarships at a prayer breakfast in Dr. King's honor this morning. Many of them aspire to deal with the racial struggles of today in a way that would make Dr. King proud.
A half century ago, Dr. King may not have realized that this generation of black and white children would still be learning from his words and striving to follow his example.
Raytown senior Imani Battles says, "He helped me stand up for what I believed in and helped me speak my mind because he stood up for what he believed in then."
She is one of 23 students in the metro awarded scholarships for their essays about King's impact on them. The scholarships are funded by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose late Kansas City founder Rev. "Fuzzy" Nelson Thompson marched with Dr. King.
"Don't forget the history. Don't forget the sacrifices people have made. Realize whose shoulders they stand on and they can make a difference, " says Rev. Gina Houston, a friend of Thompson's and member of SCLC.
The essays from young metro scholars reveal that the fight for economic and racial equality is far from over.
According to Rev. Houston, "Some of the students talk about how they still face some of the challenges of overcoming being disadvantaged. It's apparent there are still some missing pieces as it relates to race relations."
Scholarship recipients have big aspirations.
Datara Lee plans to major in engineering with a minor in pharmaceuticals. Battles will go pre med with goals of becoming an anesthesiologist. And they realize, if it weren't for Dr. King's lofty dreams, theirs might go unfulfilled.
Lee says, "I will already be a double minority, being a female and being African American. For him to allow me to be able to break that color barrier and go into something and be a little bit more accepted now, I wouldn't be able to do it without him."
And the scholarship money from SCLC helps too.
Rev. Houston says, "It’s a privilege and an honor to help students to fulfill the dream, much like Martin had. Its still a demonstration in helping our community and our youth."
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is rounding out two weeks of celebrations honoring Dr. King. A community Forum and Mass Celebration are planned for Monday at the Palestine Missionary Baptist Church. All are welcome.