Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Milwaukee children share visions for a better city

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MILWAUKEE -- Out of the mouths of babes came the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Sunday, January 17th, ahead of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- which celebrates Dr. MLK Jr.'s birthday (January 15th), Milwaukee children shared their visions for a better city, and amazed the crowd with their passionate performances.

Monday, January 18th is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On Sunday afternoon at the Marcus Center, a stage usually reserved for professional actors and musicians was filled with kids who made quite an impression.

Xavier Smith

Xavier Smith

"In 2016, we're still stuck in a mentality of bondage," Xavier Smith said.

Smith, who attends Oriole Lane Elementary School captivated the audience -- exuding the passion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a celebration of the civil rights leaders' birthday.

"I'm speaking of bondage related to education, equality and social justice. I will act now. Will you?" Smith said.

Abigail Thompson

Abigail Thompson

"We need to act now," Abigail Thompson said.

Thompson honored Dr. MLK Jr.'s legacy by advocating for the arts in schools.

"The arts give kids motivation, and they really give them a reason to keep going through their school day and keep persevering," Thompson said.

City leaders said these performances give them hope for Milwaukee's future.

"This is what we need to foster. This is what we need to support,"  Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Milwaukee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Marcus Center

Milwaukee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Marcus Center

Paul Matthews, the president of the Marcus Center, said nearly 5,000 students participated in this year's art, writing and speech contests.

Milwaukee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Marcus Center

Milwaukee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Marcus Center

"History shows us that Dr. King loved the performing arts. Young people want to keep Dr. King's legacy alive and that is very inspiring for all of us," Matthews said.

The words these kids spoke, like those of Dr. King, make us all stop and think.

"The truth is, we cannot wait on our elected officials to fix these problems. We first must change the way we think," Smith said.

The young people spoke of wanting more access to the arts and after-school programs in Milwaukee -- and neighborhoods they can live in without fear of gun violence.

Just below: Take a look at never-before-seen footage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nearly 48 years after his assassination: