The elementary school winner of the Miami Gardens MLK Oratorical Contest brought the crowd to their feet after his performance—which included a spoken-word poem and an a capella rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing.
This was Micah Clarke first oratorical competition and he was excited to win.
“I was shocked when they called my name,” said Micah, 8. “Actually my teacher signed me up. I didn’t know I was going to be in it. This is my first time doing an oratorical contest.”
The third grader, who attends Parkview Elementary in Miami Gardens, competed against 18 other elementary students. The competition took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Center in Miami Gardens. This was the city’s ninth year hosting the event, which is open to students who live or go to school in Miami Gardens.
Each contestant wrote an original speech centered around the theme: "What needs to change in America and/or the world in order for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to be realized?” Each student was to focus on one thing they thought should be changed and explain why and how making that change would better adopt King’s dream.
Tamilla Mullings, who works in the Miami Gardens Events and Media department, planned and organized the King day event. Mullings, who is also a Miami Gardens resident, said that seeing all the talent in the students gave her hope for the future of Miami Gardens.
“Our youth have a lot to say about our society in this day and time,” said Mullings. “The contest gives our young people a voice and platform to showcase their multitude of amazing talent.”
Germa Clarke, Micha’s mother, suggested that he sing as well as recite his speech. Clarke said that performing is what Micah loves to do, although this was his first oratorical contest.
“It was not the first time I’ve seen him perform, actually he’s involved in church. He’s preached before,” Clarke said. “His talent is singing so to incorporate that with the speech, I thought that would have been best.”
Denise McArthur, 19, a judge for the contest who is a spoken-word artist, said that originality and confidence made the winners stand out from all the rest. She said she made to that each winner effectively expressed the judging guidelines. But it was no easy feat to chose a winner.
“They were all very talented and did very well,” said McArthur. “But I looked for uniqueness. It kind of was a tough decision but the winners captured me.”
Among the elementary school finalist were second place winner Ronzell St. Louis, 10 who attends Hibiscus Elementary, and third place winner Nykalia Buddle, 8, who attends Parkview Elementary.
The high school students also brought their flair to the completion with their interpretation of continuing King’s legacy. Second place winner Crystal Richards, 17, who attends Miami Norland Senior high school explained how African Americans in Miami Gardens must break the cycle of violence in their communities to fulfill King’s dream.
Each winner earned a certificate and a $100 Visa gift card.
Samantha Bryant,16, was the high school winner for the oratorical contest. Samantha is junior who attends New World School of the Arts in Downtown Miami, and has been writing poetry since the sixth grade. She learned of the contest a week before it took place.
Her piece spoke of the little talked-about color complex in the African American community — which she called “internalized racism”. Her piece mentioned how it serves a weight that keeps blacks from lifting one another up.
“Growing up I was always the lightest, and I was always preferred” said Samantha. “But I never really understood that.”
During her oration, she told the story of her being a second grader and her grandmother telling her that she wouldn’t win a spelling bee against a white girl because she believed white people were smarter. Samantha that she remembered King’s words and that gave her the encouragement to study hard, which led her to win.
“It was a personal thing that affected me and I think it’s one of the things that affects the African American race. It causes division.” said Samantha