1st place winner Kadence Smith from Law Elementary (middle) during the 27th Annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition on January 13, 2023 at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, TX. She is joined by Xavier Holmes (left, 3rd place) and Journey Sensley (right, 2nd place). (Photo by Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 13: 1st place winner Kadence Smith from Law Elementary (middle) during the 27th Annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition on January 13, 2023 at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, TX. She is joined by Xavier Holmes (left, 3rd place) and Journey Sensley (right, 2nd place). (Photo by Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender)

The 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory competition is in the books, and the winner is…

Kandence Smith from Law Elementary.

Houston Independent School District’s top 12 student finalists showcased their public speaking prowess during the competition held on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023 at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ, 500 Clay St., 77002. These fourth and fifth grades students presented their composed 3-to-5-minute speeches addressing this year’s topic “What would Dr. King say to us today about hope for tomorrow?”

All photos by Jimmie Aggison

Participants were judged on delivery, stage presence, decorum, content interpretation and memorization. The 1st place winner, Smith, received $1,000, while the runner-up, Journey Sensley (Young Elementary) received $500. Windsor Village Elementary’s Xavier Holmes took home the third-place prize of $300. All other finalists received $100 each.

Foley’s Annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition is held each year in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day to encourage people to remember and pay tribute to the late civil rights leader’s legacy. Foley established the event in 1993 to inspire students to learn more about Dr. King and help cultivate elementary school students’ writing and speaking skills.

On hand to award the winners and encourage all the finalists were HISD Superintendent Millard House II, Foley & Lardner LLP Chief Administrative Officer Claude Treece and the family and teachers of the competitors.

The 2021-2022 Finalists

Camila Alfaro, Sutton Elementary

Masyn Mourning, Burrus Elementary

Arianna Guillory, Blackshear Elementary

Joy Nsude, Valley West Elementary

Keinner De Leon, Crespo Elementary

Ellis Britton, Briarmeadow Elementary

Xavier Holmes, Jr. Windsor Village Elementary

Kowin McCormick, Pleasantville Elementary

Zaria Jones, Thompson Elementary

Marquise Ambers, Cornelius Elementary

Kandence Smith, Law Elementary

Journey Sensley, Young Elementary