The City of Grambling’s 2015 Juneteenth Festival began with the annual Black Poetry Contest, sponsored by the Grambling Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Pinkie C. Wilkerson Life Development Center and the City of Grambling.
The contest was held at New Rocky Valley Baptist Church of Grambling. Seventeen youths competed in the contest, which was divided into three categories: grades one through three, grades four through six and grades seven through nine.
Kim McCarter entered her two sons into the contest because she believes all children need to be exposed to the arts and such contests help to improve children’s public speaking skills.
The tops three winners in grades 1-6 received $25-$75, and grades 7-9 top winners received $50-$100.
Darius James, a third grader at Ruston’s A. E. Phillips Laboratory School, was the first place winner in his category. He recited “Mama’s Gun” by Kalen Rogers.
James said, “I practiced every day. I was excited to win. This contest helps children to read better.” He said the contest was great, and everyone did well.
The other winners for grades 1-3 were Julian P. McCarter (2nd place) and Amaya D. Major (3rd place).
For grades 4-6 the winners included Mason A. McCarter (1st), Journee J. Williams (2nd) and Leah J. Nansubuga (3rd).
Taniya A. Gahagan and Jemario Jefferson tied for first place in the grades 7–9 category. Lauren J. Washington placed second, and Devon J. Wade placed third.
Gahagan and Jefferson, ninth graders, both recited Langston Hughes’ “Negro Mother.”
Gahagan, who attends New Living Word Ministries School in Ruston, has been writing her own poetry since she was 10. She chose Hughes’ poem because she could see herself using her energy and adding things and reaching the crowd. She says the contest helps young people to use their time for something positive.
Arcadia High’s Jefferson said even though some young males may not think it is “cool” to enter a poetry contest, he did so.
He would said he would tell young black males “if it’s what makes you happy, don’t worry about what other people think. What is cool is what you think is cool.”
Gloria Moore, the chair of the contest, said, “It was awesome. We had 17 participants and great community support. We have the contest because we want to celebrate Juneteenth, and we want children to be more knowledgeable about their history and literature. Oration has become a lost art. ”