Black History Oratorical winners announced


DeMarious D. Combs and Christopher M. Albright were this year’s winners of the Dr. Helen Richards-Smith Black History Oratorical Contest. 

Combs placed first with his oration of his essay “Youth: Important or Not to the Civil Rights Movement.” His essays told how “youth were the pivotal turning point of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The 16-year-old Grambling High student cited the Birmingham bombing that killed youths Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley; the nearly 100,000 students who participated in sit-ins; and young people who took part in freedom rides.

“When most people think of the Civil Rights Movement, they often think of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, but there were teenagers and children, some as young as six, who marched in Birmingham to protest segregation,” said Combs. 

It helps build vocabulary and get you ready for public speaking in college as well.  I was excited. It is a great opportunity to get used to speaking in crowds an shows. 

Would recommend to others great way to learn about our history and heritage and let people know about black history.

Albright, a sophomore at New Living Word School in Ruston, delivered his essay, “Hatred Didn’t Stop Us: How Douglass Huemann and John Perkins Succeeded.”  The essay focused on how both African Americans and whites who supported the Civil Rights Movement.

In the fall of 1969, Reverend Perkins became the leader in an economic boycott of white-owned stores in Mendenhall, Miss. On February 7, 1970, following the arrest of students who had taken part in a protest march in Mendenhall, Perkins was arrested and tortured by white police officers.

Huemann, a white man and volunteer at Perkins’ Voice of Calvary, was called a traitor, jailed and beaten severely for driving a van full of students from Tougaloo College back to campus. 

Albright said, “This story was only one of many that struck people in their hearts during the Civil Rights Movement. John Perkins was resilient and did not let hatred stop him. He loved the ones who hated him and did not respond with violence.

The Grambling Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Pinkie C. Wilkerson Life Development Center sponsored the contest, which was held on Sunday at Lewis Temple C.M.E. Church in Grambling.

After working at Grambling State University for over 50 years, Richards-Smith retired as the dean of the Earl Lester Cole Honors College. A member of the Grambling chapter, she served two non-consecutive terms as Southwest Regional Director of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.