Inspired by civil rights great MLK, Houston students give heartfelt speeches against hate

They may be small but the voices of some Houston students are being heard loud and clear in this year's MLK Oratory Competition.

"Because of Dr. King’s teachings, hands that once picked cotton can now pick Presidents and Vice Presidents," says 4th grader Skylar Stevenson from Law Elementary School. 

"I have a dream of breaking glass ceilings like Vice President Kamala Harris," adds 4th grader Pahy'tton Williams from Foster Elementary.


Inspired by the words of civil rights great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these HISD fourth and fifth graders have written speeches of their own for this MLK Oratory Competition.

"Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate, only love can. Today Dr. King is teaching us to love one another," says Bastian Elementary School 5th Grader, Andrianna Harden. 

"Day after day, night after night, protest after protest, it would seem like a war all across America. I was afraid. I shouldn’t feel afraid and unsafe in my own country," says Crespo Elementary 4th Grader Vivianna Serna. 

"Adults you do know we see you right?" asks Pahy'tton Williams.   

"911. What’s your emergency? Help me. Help me. It seems America has gone into cardiac arrest and needs to be resuscitated," says Pleasantville Elementary School 4th Grader Jakiyah Bickham who says the answer is CPR, which in this case stands for Compassion, Poverty and Racism. "Just remember CPR. Beep. One compression, more compassion. Beep. Two compressions, end poverty. Beep. Three compressions no more racism. Racism, much like poverty creates division and can’t be ignored. If we hope to see an end to racism, we must unite as one nation under God indivisible".  

"Things can’t change overnight but we have to start somewhere," adds 4th Grader Jason Hudson from Atherton Elementary. 

After 12 extraordinary orations, the top three winners selected are all girls, including third-place winner Jakiyah Bickham and second place winner Pahy’tton Williams. 

"This is what we call the year of the woman," laughs Interim HISD Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan. 

Then the moment everyone’s been waiting for. The winner is announced.

"This year's 2021 MLK Oratory winner from Crespo Elementary Vivianna Serna." 


"When my sister was younger, she did it as well. Even though I was only 5 years old, I knew that was going to be me up there someday. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. Dr. King always preached on the power of love. He also said the time is always right to do what is right," says Serna.   

Chances are you’ve heard the question, 'Are you smarter than a fifth grader?’ After listening to these little ones perhaps the more appropriate question is, ‘Are we smart enough to learn from a fifth-grader?’