For the first time, all seven high school finalists in a state-wide contest honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King happened to be young women.
Organizer Jane Rubini noted the connection between the finalists and current events. “Just the day before our contest, there was a march for women. Look at Congress — look at the women running for President. We had guys compete this year in the semi-finals who did really well. But the girls really brought their A-game and spoke from their hearts. They were just really impressive,” said Rubini.
The 2019 competitors were still a diverse group: two were born in India, who spoke about their lives as immigrants. Four different age groups were represented. And at the semifinal round held on Jan 11-12, a young mother from the Delaware Adolescent Program (DAPI) brought “a whole new perspective on what they were hoping for their own children,” said Rubini.
Each high school student shared their powerful and passionate messages for social change through nonviolence in a contest where they communicated their ideas using poetry, speech and/or rap. The finalists spoke their truths, provided new insights to social issues, and inspired the audience to take action.
Deborah Olatunji, a junior from the Charter School of Wilmington, took home the $2,000 first prize with her speech called, “Color-Blind,” which reflected the way she felt about her childhood. As a young girl, she remembers friends seemingly being color-blind and “prancing around with children of all colors.” But as she has grown up, she has seen things changing, including terrible violence in her neighborhood.
I’ve seen the shift from blue popsicles to bloodshed…
Terrific turn to terrifying
And adventure turn into aggravated assault…
...Color-blindness is not the lack of vision
It’s the lack of color recognition
But first I need you to recognize
The visionaries who propelled racial justice forward
Fighting in the midst of stray bullets and constant disorder
The threat of their lives as they push across the border…
First place was especially gratifying for Olatunji, who placed 3rd last year.
With growing interest in the communications contest, which now draws from high schools statewide, this year planners were able to double the cash prizes.
The second prize of $1,000 was presented to the first duo to compete in the finals: Neha Das, (’21) and Sana Nangia (’20) – also from Charter School of Wilmington – who talked about the variations of the color of their skin.
The $500 third prize went to Dha’zhea Freeman, a senior at Howard School of Technology. In addition, other finalists were presented a $50 gift card: Aniya Brown, Caravel Academy (’19); Trinity Dockery-Stone, Milford High School (’22); Nyani Scott, Dover High School (’21); and Anya Verucci, Newark Charter High School (’19).
“We have some very talented and courageous students here in Delaware,” said Rubini. “These speakers gave everyone hope – they plan to change the world.”
Rubini hopes that these students will help develop a new platform where children and adults can collaborate on new ideas to tackle a range of social issues.