The Prince William County alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority hosted its annual oratorical competition Jan. 20, for middle and high school students in Prince William County, Va., as part of their celebration to pay homage to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders.

“Many believe that was successful in what he did because of his gift of speech,” said Tabatha Turman, president of the chapter said. “We are encouraging students to use their gift of speech, today, to orate the theme: ‘There is still a dream to believe in,’ so that we can continue Dr. King’s legacy.”

Six finalists—three from middle school and three from high school—delivered their speeches to family members, friends, school officials, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) at the Cecil D. Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge.

“Look at all these remarkable young people,” Warner said.

During his remarks, Warner talked about Barbara Johns, 16, a student who attended a segregated school in Prince Edward County, Va., decades ago. Johns led 450 Black students in a protest march for better school conditions. Her case became one of the five cases the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in the Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended segregation in public schools.

“To the Deltas who put this on, to the community organizers, to the parents and most importantly to the students, let us honor Dr. King’s legacy by leaving here today and going forth and continuing to move our country forward,” he said.

The Delta chapter has held the Martin Luther King oratorical competition for 24 years and has paid homage to the civil rights leader for 29 years.

The finalists’ speeches drew applause, laughter, and occasional shouts from the audience. All of the finalists received standing ovations.

“To achieve dream of equality, we can change stand your ground laws, so that our children can come home from 7-Eleven with Skittles and tea and see another day,” said Norman Jones, III, a 9th grader at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas. He won the high-school competition.

Emmanuel Murphy, an 8th grader at Parkside Middle School in Manassas, won the middle-school competition.

Other finalists included Ayesha Khursheed, a 7th grader at Graham Park Middle School in Triangle; Morgan Foster, an 8th grader at Manassas Park Middle School in Manassas Park; Isaac Mensah Yeboah, an 11th grader at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas; and Jacob Gonzalez, a 10th grader at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology in Alexandria.

According to Connolly, all of the students’ speeches will be entered into the Congressional Record.

In addition to the oratorical competition, there was also a writing competition for fourth and fifth grade students. Winners included Caroline Morrell and Preston Borden from Mountain View Elementary School in Haymarket.

Event sponsors included the AFRO-American Newspapers, Pump It Up in Waldorf, Md., Estelle Place LLC in Woodbridge and others.

LaTrina Antoine

Special to the AFRO