Oakland students part of Martin Luther King HBO documentary

More than 1,000 people attended the premiere on Tuesday for “We Are The Dream: The Kids of the Oakland Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Fest," which will air on HBO.

Actor and two-time Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali is an executive producer of the film.  He was born in Oakland and grew up in Hayward.

It’s a documentary about Oakland students participating in the annual public speaking competition in which they perform poetry and speeches, both published and original, inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I want them to see that although I’m a young kid, I can still use my voice, “ said Ruth Chew who’s 14 years old. 

Ali said that's the whole point. 

“I saw a little bit of myself in the kids from the standpoint that of being a little bit shy,” he said. "I think you'll recognize some of yourself in each of these kids.” 

Mahershala Ali stands with Oakland students who will be in an HBO film about the Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Fest. Feb. 11, 2020

The one hour-film captures the journeys of students in the Oakland United School Distrct as they prepared and rehearsed for the competition. .

Ten-year-old Lovely Hudson recited an example of her spoken word performance from a poem she wrote:” Racism and hate. Killing and the war. This  isn't the world I want to see.”

She and other students say they draw from their own lives when writing their original poems and speeches. 

“Sometimes,  I’ll  hear gunshots at night and it really makes me think that we need to make a difference about this,” said Donovan Edwards, 12.

Adults say the program means so much to the  youth.

 “This is a rise up moment for kids. There  are a lot of problems in this world. These  kids are sharing both their sense of the future, what needs fixing and what they're hopeful about.,” said Amy Schwartz, director of We Are The Dream. 

 The children say the ability to express themselves publicly is empowering , helping them see that they can make a difference.  . 

 “I really  like the fact that participating in this makes me see the world differently,” said Donovan. 

“We Are The Dream” will debut on HBO Feb. 18. The film will become available online for free at a later date yet to be announced.