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MLK Oratorical Contest set for virtual event Jan. 27

The Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest will provide five students an opportunity to discuss what they believe King would view as today's most pressing social justice issue.

The 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest will give five students a chance to discuss what they believe King would see as today's most important social justice issues and how to address them.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be held virtually via Zoom from noon to 1 p.m. Jan. 27. Students, faculty and staff can register for the free event in UNG Connect.

"We're very proud of the students we have selected and their ideas. It's so very important for us as an institution to give students a voice," said Dr. Robert Robinson, UNG's director of Multicultural Student Affairs. "Once they have that voice, they can take it into society and grow and develop from there."

Nathalia Ingles, a sophomore from Buford, Georgia, pursuing a degree in communication with a public relations concentration, was the winner of last year's Gainesville Campus event. Though the contest traditionally is split into separate events on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses, the virtual format will bring students from all five campuses together.

In this year's contest, Ingles plans to discuss how students can expand their social justice efforts beyond simply engaging topics on social media. She said this requires a selfless approach centered on compassion.

"Every social justice issue we fight for is not a matter of minutes. It's not something that's going to go away in a few days. It's something we need to continue to fight for until we get results," Ingles said. "We should fight for what we believe is important in social justice, not just what's the major story at the time." 

Coleman James, a dual-enrolled student from Ellijay, Georgia, taking classes on UNG's Blue Ridge Campus, will talk about how to preserve the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals through voting and contacting legislators.

"I'm very passionate about this because this is my life. This is not a hashtag," James said. "This is people's lives that need to be protected. As a society, we can help people by making small changes that help in a big way."

Madison Walker, a junior from Dacula, Georgia, pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies, said COVID-19 has exposed some of the inequalities in income and health care. Walker will discuss potential ways to address these issues, which are magnified for minorities.

"The pandemic has shown who has the privilege to stay at home and who doesn't," Walker said. "Without grocery store, fast food, and health care workers, we wouldn't have much of a society left."

The Communication, Media and Journalism Department helps provide judges for the contest.

Robinson is eager to see the students present their ideas.

"We are excited to give students this platform after a summer of social awareness and awakening," he said.

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