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The University of Alabama’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awarded two winners and three finalists in the second annual Word from the Mountaintop Oratory Contest held Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The MLK Oratory Contest was created to recognize and give students the opportunity to reflect on the spoken words and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while connecting his message to issues facing our nation in the 21st century. The competition also provided students the opportunity to display and enhance their writing and communication skills through oration.

The contest was open to local high school and two-year and four-year college students. Participants were challenged to examine Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech and answer the question, “What would you say to encourage listeners to act to preserve the best in our U.S. democratic society?”

In the college division, UAB student Monike Titus won for the delivery of her essay titled “We Must.” Titus emphasized the importance of unity in the fight against injustices in the U.S. and abroad. Finalist Jareah Burrell, also a student at UAB, urged attendees to break their silence against injustice in her essay, “An Ode and Anchor to America.”

In the high school division, Spain Park High School senior Jada Williams took home the top prize for her essay, “And Justice for All,” beating out finalists Christopher Yancey, a student at Ramsay High School, and Thanushri Srikantha, a junior at Hoover High School. Williams spoke of King’s passion for “worldwide fellowship” and challenged those in attendance to recognize the unity in diversity. 

“We applaud the winners and finalists of this year’s oratory competition,” said Paulette Patterson Dilworth, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UAB. “In only its second year, the contest has grown, and we want to continue to encourage young people to make their voices heard, both in written form and through oration.”