Just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, PEOPLE presents the exclusive trailer for HBO’s powerful new documentary, We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest.
The film, executive produced by Oakland native and two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, follows young students (from pre-k through 12th grade) participating in the Oakland MLK Oratorical Festival, a public speaking competition in California. The event asks participants to perform poetry and speeches, both published and original, inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We Are the Dream tracks students as they prepare for the 40th annual festival, rehearsing their speeches, and dreaming for a spot in the finals to shed a light on subjects they hold dear to their hearts.
“As a Bay Area Native, it’s an honor to celebrate these extraordinary young voices and shine light on the wonderful educators and community that supports them,” says Ali.
Subjects in the film include nine-year old Gregory Payton, who delivers passages from Dr. King’s iconic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech with intensity that belies his age; Mohammed, 12, who discusses growing up Muslim in America; Karunyan Kamalraj, 9, who describes how Dr. King’s teachings helped inspire his speech about his native Sri Lanka; and 10-year-old Donovan Edwards, who talks about social media’s positive effect on society to lift people up.
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“It’s amazing what’s coming out of the hearts and minds of young people today,” says Oratorical Fest producer Awele Makeba. “They’re profound and they’re intelligent and they have a vision and given the opportunity to share and to listen, there’s so much to learn.”
We Are the Dream debuts Feb. 18 (7:00-8:10 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO in commemoration of Black History Month. The film is produced by Emmy winner Amy Schatz. It will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO and partners’ streaming platforms.