Scholarship winner says ‘remember, celebrate and act'

Jennifer Kizza gives her speech during the King holiday program before the march.

ERICA BROUGH/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.

Eastside High School senior Jennifer Kizza, the recipient of the 2012 Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Award, has been influenced and inspired by the works of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and she want others to join her in keeping the slain civil rights icon's legacy alive.

Jennifer, 17, was the featured speaker at the King Celebration 2012 Holiday Kick-Off Program Monday afternoon at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza, which annually precedes the King Celebration Commemorative March.

Jennifer, the daughter of Peter and Rosie Kizza, has a 4.0 unweighted and 5.0 weighted GPA in the International Baccalaureate Program at Eastside, wants to attend Stanford University in California and become a pediatric oncologist.

As the scholarship winner, she will receive $7,500 in equal installments over the next four years.

Jennifer used the theme of this year's King Celebration, "Civil Rights 50 Years Later: Remember, Celebrate, Act," as the focal point of her speech. She asked the hundreds of people in attendance to join her in remembering the brutality of the African slave trade before telling them that racism and the cruelty with which whites treated blacks didn't end when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery on Jan. 1 1863 or did it end with the passing of the 14th amendment in 1868 to the U.S. Constitution, which requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions.

She asked those in attendance to join her in celebrating the contributions blacks such as Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. DuBois, Rosa Parks and countless others made so that a black man could become president of the U.S.

She ended her speech by urging people to act and to become engaged in making the community better. She said more role models are needed in the black community to help increase the academic performance of black students and to decrease the dropout rate of black students, which she described as "unacceptable."

"Every small action can make a difference," Jennifer said.

Taonga Leslie, who was awarded the scholarship last year, presided over the program.

"I hope you all are enjoying this bright sunny summer day in January," said Leslie, a 2011 Eastside graduate who now attends Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "I can tell you the sun doesn't shine like this in Boston."

At the end of the program, Long said he would like to see the media in Gainesville focus more on the outstanding achievements of black youth in the area, and while looking at Leslie, said, "I always wanted to meet a Harvard man."

Other former Hart scholarship recipients attended the program, too. Thashea Miles (2009) gave the welcome and Adrian Green (2004) introduced Jennifer. Andranique Boone of the King Commission Youth Council gave an update on past Hart scholarship award recipients.

The program also included Brendien Mitchell, a senior at West Port High School in Ocala, who recited a part of King's "I Have A Dream Speech" and there was a performance by 12-year-old Malik Moore, winner of the 2012 King Celebration Youth Talent Extravaganza held last Thursday night at the King Center.

Malik wowed the crowd with "Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water."

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