Austin ISD honored the legacy and leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. at the district’s annual celebration this morning.
The event opened with a performance from the Covington Middle School Jazz Band that included a rendition of Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call."
Spoken word performances followed from Barbara Jordan Elementary School students Bri'Asia Perkins and Efrain Gorostieta, and Artist Tyson from the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy.
Bri'Asia also served as the event's student host, and introduced Superintendent Paul Cruz, who praised the students.
"Wow. Just wow. I am just so proud of all of you," Cruz said.
The student orators recited their imagined conversations with King, touching on the current complex state of race relations.
"We have to own it," Cruz said of that complexity. "There's still more to do, and the only ones who can change it are the people in this room and in our schools."
Keynote speaker Peniel Joseph, UT professor and founder of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at LBJ School of Public Affairs, reminded attendees that King's legacy is not an easy one.
"The greatness of Martin Luther King Jr. was in his ideas," Joseph said detailing the tense and often violent nature of the Civil Rights Era.
King's ideas, he said, are what will motivate students and young people today to take action and bring about change.
"We have to transform the situation right here, right now," Joseph said. "What King was talking about in 1968, we have to talk about more forcefully in 2017."
The event concluded with a performance from the Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy choir.