By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun
An anonymous donor stepped forward to “sweeten the pot” for winners and participants of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Contest this year, a surprise to all who took the time to learn and present King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Corsicana tradition has evolved over the years to include an oratory contest for students sponsored by the local chapter of NAACP on Martin Luther King Jr. day. In years past the top three winners were rewarded with a cash scholarship. This year, each participant took home $25, third place was awarded $50, second $75, and $150 went to the first place orator, who was Tamera White, in her final year to recite King’s speech, start to finish.
“Thank you to our participants as well as the young men and women who assisted with the program,” said Elmeree Burrell, event organizer. “A local anonymous Corsicanian stepped in to help with the scholarships for the winners, and the NAACP is grateful. We commit to work harder to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.”
Students are grouped in three categories: fourth through sixth grade, in which first place went to Joshua Monroy of Sam Houston Elementary; second place to Tylan Washington, and third place to Derica Pipkin, with Zachary Liggins, Tamaraye Pace and Brittany Perales also participating. The second category, seventh and eighth grade, was won by veteran speaker Aniq Chunara, formerly of Mildred Junior High but now a student of Collins Middle School, and second place went to Israel Griffin. White was alone in her age bracket, ninth through 12th grade.
The recitations were balanced with solos by Evelyn Nelson and Myeshia Ballard, and praise dancing by Arielle Lewis and Shamyron Brown. The audience sang along with “Happy Birthday” to Martin Luther King, as well as “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson. Henei cia Jackson, Miss Juneteenth 2012, served as mistress of ceremony, Kishawn Kelley led the pledge of allegiance, Tylan Washington recited The Lord’s Prayer, and Quierra Taylor and Klinton Wright presented the biography of Dr. King.
Burrell thanked the judges, who are faithful to return year after year, Molly Sparks Walker, Wyardine Waters and Thelma Thomas. She also charged the students to spread the word about the contest, so there would be more participants next year, and the program will continue to grow.
NAACP President Rowena Winfrey gave closing remarks, saying that if “you were at the rally this morning, you should be enlightened, encouraged, and ready to hit the ground running.”
“We need to support our young people,” Winfrey said. “We need to get back to the village mentality, where all children are your children.”
She stated that when she was growing up, if she was seen acting up or hanging with the wrong people, Rev. Dairy Johnson’s mother was just as apt to give her a spanking for it if she spotted it, then she’d receive another once she got home.
“Our children are not just our future — they are our present,” she said. “I want you to pray about this — we need a youth chapter of NAACP. Be praying about if you are the person to lead that group, and if God tells you to do it, show up here on Feb. 12 at the MLK Center. And if several show up, all the better. Corsicana has been a statistic on the wrong side of the fence. We need to become an example of the right side of the fence .... reach a child, embrace a child, encourage a child.”