Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ)–An emotional, eight-minute speech by a rising Morgan State student is going viral on the Internet. The speech comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington next week.
Gigi Barnett has more on the lesson he wants other students to learn.
“They talked about my neighborhoods as if I was in hell,” he said.
Elijah Miles says he learned one critical lesson growing up in the Baltimore City School System: get education and get out.
“Teachers would say it’s OK because soon you’ll get out of the hood and you’ll go off to college. Think about that, you won’t have to ever come back here,” Miles said.
For Miles, it worked. But in a YouTube speech to teachers, he says it’s also the reason why so many educated young professionals don’t return to their city neighborhoods.
“It’s the reason why some won’t keep in touch with their old friends because teachers told them that their old friends are trying to hold them back, hold them down,” Miles said.
Miles is set to attend Morgan State in the fall. He says in the speech that he almost didn’t make it. At 14, his best friend was gunned down. He struggled with his mother’s drug addiction, and it was a time in his life that he wanted to be a drug dealer.
“I feel like, if you’d just change their perception, [they'll have] a better motivation to succeed,” Miles said.
So far, his impassioned speech has gone viral, receiving more than 18,000 hits.
It comes just as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Miles says his dream is that teachers will change the message.
“You can pass the torch to these kids so that they can change their communities and change the world,” he said.
After graduating from Morgan State, Miles says he plans to return to his neighborhood and help other kids.
“It’s the reason why kids are growing up with no role models right now,” he said.
Miles says he wants to be a teacher, a politician or a police officer.