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Reflections on Black History Month - Cross Elementary School 2019 Oratorical Competition

Published Thursday, March 21, 2019

Cross Elem Oratory Competition


Another exciting event that took place in celebration of Black History Month was an oratorical competition held at Cross Elementary School on the evening of February 28 as part of the school’s family literacy night activity.  This event marked the second installment of this annual contest in which students were given the opportunity to put their oratorical skills on display. 

At last year’s competition, students spoke about what Oprah Winfrey would say if she were to speak at their high school commencement ceremony in the future.  At this year’s event, students were tasked with presenting speeches that described what they believed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would think about the current state of the United States if he were alive today.

Seven students representing grades 4 through 6 put their nerves aside and eloquently shared their thoughts on the topic. Participants included Ja’Kyra Imarei Beauford, A’Kyren Croker, Tatiana Jennette, Kamryn Pinckney, NyAja Tierra Shepherd, Preston Vanopdorp, and Tabatha Ann Walters. 

Students were introduced for the competition with a video in which they performed a musical routine with some of their classmates. In their speeches, participants referenced what they knew about Dr. King’s beliefs, writings, political activism, and other details from his life to support the ideas they presented. All of the speeches were informative and very persuasive. With each orator, new light was shed on what Dr. King might think about how the state of affairs in the United States today would compare to the lofty dreams he described in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Oratorical Competition Program In the weeks leading up to the competition, participants spent hours working with their oratorical coaches at the school and their parents and guardians at home. Coaches at the school included Margarita Deas, Dr. Gloria Gilliard, Cameron Owens, Carolyn Lee Smith, Luretha Sumpter, Dr. Renni Wooden, and Jennifer Wright. 

All of the orators received awards for participating in the program, and top honors were awarded to three students. The third place award went to Ja’Kyra Imarei Beauford while the second place award went to Ny’Aja Tierra Shepherd.  Kamryn Pinckney won first place in the competition, her second time winning the annual event.

Along with outstanding orations by participants, the audience at the competition was also favored with musical selections from the Cross Elementary chorus and band. Both groups demonstrated their musical talents and received extended applause from the audience.  At the end of the program, Cross Elementary principal, Dr. Carolyn Gillens, shared with the audience how proud she was of all of the students who participated in the evening’s events. 

Jesse Owens (1913 – 1980), African American track and field athlete who was known for holding several world records and winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, said, “In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”  Without a doubt, the students who participated in the oratorical contest definitely put Mr. Owens’ recipe for success into action.   

Note:  This article is the second in a series highlighting some of the programs and events that were held across the school district in honor of Black History Month (February 2019). 

The Office of Diversity will also continue to highlight staff members, events, and activities that celebrate and promote diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusion in BCSD schools and surrounding communities. 

Office of Diversity staff members:

Dr. Glenda Levine, Chief Diversity Officer


Vicki Shirar, Administrative Assistant