Martin Luther King Jr. Day looked a little different in the Savannah area this year. Typically, a day for parades celebrating the Civil Rights leader, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works. Most of the usual parades and gatherings were cancelled out of an abundance of caution, but MLK's legacy was celebrated still — just virtually and outdoors.
Banners bearing King's face, provided by the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change have been placed along U.S. 80 on Tybee Island. This year marks the eighth year for Tybee Island's celebration hosted by Tybee MLK. Tybee MLK Parade Coordinator Julia Pearce said this year marks a difficult, but important time to bring together the community, and the organization has strived to find safe ways to do it.
Ben and Donna Goggins handle the speech-writing portion of the event. Ben Goggins said the prompt this year was open-ended: students were asked to write about a social cause they were passionate about. Entries included racial justice, climate change, women's rights and a wide range of other causes. The theme for Tybee's celebration this year is "The Urgency of Now," an excerpt from King's 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This year, 28 students from area middle and high schools entered the competition, and the six winners will read their essays during the program.
This year's high school winners include Nijma Lara, Woodville Tompkins; Bryanna Miles, Savannah Early College, and Sheila Nguyen, Savannah Arts Academy.
The middle school student winners are YoseLynn Hawk, Mercer Middle; Kiyonna Hopkins, Myers Middle, and Cora Treadaway, Savannah-Chatham eLearning Academy.
Each student winner will be featured reading their speech on the video. The winners received $100 each and a certificate suitable for framing. The Speech Competition prize was sponsored Tybee Beach Vacation Rental/Keith Gay
Here's the virtual MLK Day Celebration that includes the speakers.