Fourth and fifth-grade students from the Chicago metropolitan area were invited to celebrate Black History Month and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during Foley & Lardner LLP’s 3rd Annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition in Chicago this month. The competition asks elementary school-age kids to compose completely original speeches rooted in Dr. King’s teachings and present them in front of a panel of judges. Finalists are awarded a Kindle Fire, a monetary prize, and a personalized award plaque.
Representing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys & Girls Club were Club members Anyia T. (10) and Kayla C. (9), who were both excited to present their thoughts on “how Dr. King would assess our progress in achieving his vision for America,” the theme for this year’s competition.
Kayla was selected as one of 10 finalists at Foley’s MLK Jr. Oratory Competition this year. She gave her speech in front of a panel of prominent Chicago community and business leaders during the final rounds of the competition. Kayla strongly believes that Dr. King would still hope for more change, allowing everyone to be treated as equal. A member of the Club for almost three years, Kayla is a leader amongst her peers. She enjoys exploring STEM and building robots, and is always willing to help others.
Anyia has been a member of the Club for over three years and has been recognized as Member of the Month several times because of the kindness and encouragement she shows to her peers. She enjoys building Lego Towers with younger members at the Club and identifies graphic design and coding as two of her favorite programs. She enjoys coming to the Club because it gives her the opportunity to help others and discover her passions. Anyia believes that Dr. King would be proud of how much progress has been made and the opportunities that have become available to Black people.
We had a chance to reach out to these public speaking all-stars and their Club staff to ask a few questions about their experiences:
How did you prepare to speak in front of a large audience and what advice would you give to someone who might be nervous to use their voice?
Kayla C. (9): I kind of used to have stage fright because when I shared my art at the Club talent show last summer, I almost cried because I was so scared. For the competition, I practiced with my mom and the staff at my Club for a long time. I would tell someone who is nervous to use their voice to take a deep breath and just know that you can do it! And that you’re brave and empowered!
Anyia T. (10): I would say it’s okay to be shy, and that you should practice in front of your mom, or dad, or whoever. I practiced in front of my mom, and she made me feel good about it. Just practice a lot and stay positive!
What does equality mean to you? Where did you find inspiration when writing your speeches?
Kayla: As an African American, I can make things more equal if I share my voice. Equality means that I can do things that every other person can, it means being fair, and being friends with whoever I want. I wanted to do this speech because it seemed fun, but I also got to learn more about Black History and represent my Club.
Anyia: Equality means having the same amount of stuff as everyone else. Sometimes when I see someone has more than me, it makes it seem like they are more important. But everyone is important! I wanted people to know how much Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspires me, our Club, and everything that we do here.
How can kids your age help create change to make the world a better place?
Kayla: We can make the world a better place by making sure kids have books to read, so they can learn new things and be educated. Looking at our environment, keeping it clean, and donating food and supplies to shelters. We can also make sure laws are made to be fair to people of all colors.
Anyia: Starting within our own communities, making sure we are taking care of our earth, and being more kind to each other. Because if we work together, we can do a lot more together than we can separately.
Sofia Garcia, Education Coordinator at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boys & Girls Club, said that she immediately thought of Kayla C. and Anyia T. when she learned of the oratory competition. “Anyia is extremely inquisitive and dives into new challenges without fear. Her creativity is the driving force behind everything she does. Kayla is outspoken and is proud to be a member of our Club. She loves Dr. King and lives her life doing the best she can to live up to his dream. She believes in fairness and is always looking out for others,” she says. “They both worked really hard, spending most of their free time working on their speeches and drawing comparisons between our world today and the world Dr. King lived in.”
Anita Douglas, Club Director, was so excited to have two representatives from their Club participating in the competition. She says, “Not only did our Club members and staff cheer Anyia and Kayla on throughout the competition, but we all spent time applying our knowledge of MLK to what we would like to see in our community, and more importantly how we can make a positive impact on our Club and community.”
Even at their young ages, Kayla and Anyia possess so much wisdom and hope for a better, kinder tomorrow. There is no better way to honor Black History Month and the lessons that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left behind than with spoken word. Brave and bright voices like Kayla and Anyia’s inspire us all to believe that we can achieve Dr. King’s vision for America.
Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Foley & Lardner LLP is proud to support these efforts, partnering to elevate the powerful message of diversity, equity and inclusion and activate the potential of kids, Clubs and communities to build more inclusive and equitable futures.