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Richmond organization hopes to inspire a new generation of orators

Posted at 1:52 AM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 06:39:39-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The world now knows one young Harvard grad who’s using her voice for change.

Poetry gave Amanda Gorman her voice.

In January, she became the youngest person in U.S. history to read at a presidential inauguration.

Her accomplishment is another boost for a Richmond public service organization pushing young people to also use the power in their voices.

“One of our objectives for the oratorical is to give young people a platform on which to stand to develop their public speaking skills. So, we have young people who recite poems written by others and then we have some gifted writers who have chosen to recite original poetry or prose,” Dr. Antionette Rogers explained.

Dr. Rogers chairs the committee bringing the 31st annual L. Rita Davis Oratorical contest to Richmond.

It’s a longstanding program of the Richmond Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Program Coordinator Leslie Lewis said they can’t let this historic moment pass without sharing with students how they too can draw inspiration from Gorman.

In 2014 she was named LA’s Youth poet laureate and in 2017 earned the National Youth Poet Laureate distinction among other achievements.

This, despite a life of dealing with hearing issues and other obstacles.

“What is more inspiring is the fact that she herself had a speech impediment. She talks in many interviews about how she had to overcome that by writing and practicing her oral skills and that is exactly what we hope to accomplish and help our young people accomplish through participating in the oratorical contest,” Rogers added.

“With Miss Gorman, it gives the students something to look up to. Something to aspire to. It brings it down to reality to say, 'wow if she can do it, so can I.' Everyone has a voice. Everyone has something to say to the world.” Lewis said.

This year’s L. Rita Davis Oratorical contest will be held virtually on Feb. 6 for area students k-12.

The theme is Power in our Virtual Voices.

Students who missed out on this year’s event can start planning for next year’s oratorical contest.