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I watched as my group members began to wrap up the last of their presentations. I would be giving the oral presentation about the influence that Medgar Evers had on black history. His wife, Myrlie Evers, his children, and over 50 of my peers sat in the audience. My audience. I could see my heart pound against my chest through my shirt. My time had come.

As I approached the microphone I felt my hand begin to sweat like those of the men and women who worked in the factories that melt down old scrap metal. I stood on a narrow, wooden stage. No curtains or backgrounds. Just me and the mic. My mouth became dry and eyes widened as if I had seen a ghost. I stared solemnly at the face of Mrs. Evers, and I could see a light of encouragement in her eyes.

She sat there, blissfully, totally aware of the fear that beamed prominently from my pupils to hers. That dark black hair and long grey streaks were symbols of her historical pain. I could tell that what I had to say would impact her greatly, for she sat there with such anticipation. Arms folded across her lap, seated at pleasurable ease, she longed for the testimonial that resided in the back of my mind, hidden from further exposure. It wasn’t that she didn’t have prior knowledge of the events that I would soon be explaining, but in some strange way, it seemed as if it would be satisfying to her soul. She needed it.

I began to speak, but I mumbled my words; they flowed from my mouth as slow as the hand on a clock. Here I was in front of the entire William Winter Institution, apprehensive and scared like a cornered animal. Analyzing the face of each and every individual that sat in front of me, I tried to focus on this small, plastic poster that lied in the very back of the room.

I could taste the few slices of pizza and the hand full of fries that I had consumed at lunch. I became nauseous and began fidgeting. Continuing to speak, the simplest words seemed as complex as Avagadro’s Law; but the slow and steady nods that I received from my audience helped to ease my nervousness.

Mrs. Evers was no more than six feet away from me; I continued to glance at her from time to time. She made positive gestures, smiling and raising her eyebrows, which showed me that she was interested in the way that I spoke. This urged me to go on without worrying about where I was doing well or not. I spoke with a firm, manly tone. Stating every fact, analyzing every aspect about the great Medgar Evers and his dream of equality.

Before I knew it, I was done. The audience rose from their seats and applauded me. My spirit had been lifted; a dream had been resurrected from a past rooted in pain. My initial reaction was to thank Mrs. Evers for the opportunity, but at this precise moment in time, she was thanking me. I had overcome my fear of public speaking with the use of history, in the presence of history.

Returning to my seat, I was approached by Mrs. Evers. She stared at me in awe of the presentation that I had just given and hugged me. I could tell by the glistening of her eyes that she had begun to cry. The thanks she gave were pure. Purer than the finest of gold and rarer than the finest of jewels. She stated, “You spoke with such passion… It’s rare that you find adolescents who care so much for what he did.” I smiled extremely hard, at the same time, knowing that this was one of the greatest moments in my life, and nodding my head in agreement to her statement.

That day I made a difference. I had set myself up for greatness, and I had taken on the opportunity to become apart of history. Two days later, I received the Myrlie Evers Leadership Award for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.





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