Dr. King would be proud!
Montoia Murray is a fourth grader at Houston Independent School District’s (ISD) Blackshear Elementary, the Houston Chronicle reports. While many in her city celebrated MLK day as just another holiday, 9-year-old Montoia prepared for weeks to honor the late civil rights icon. Working with her school librarian, Montoia prepared a five-minute and 20-second speech for the 28th annual MLK Jr. oratory competition. The speech was a reimagining, focusing on what Dr. King would say almost 60 years after his historic address during the March on Washington.
For weeks, Montoia practiced the speech over and over, focusing on her stance, hand gestures, and even posture. During the finals, she finally got to give her speech in front of an audience, delivering a powerful performance that was truly memorable.
“Dr. King’s last words would be to you…He would say, ‘My life was worth sacrificing because I was fighting for you. You deserve the right to a free public education,’” she said during her speech.
The crowd and panel of judges at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church erupted in applause, and Montoia won first place in the competition, as well as a $1,000 prize. The moment was emotional as she burst into tears, shocked that all of her hard work had paid off. Montoia was one of 12 fourth and fifth graders within Houston ISD who participated in the event, answering the question” “How Would Dr. King Reflect on the 60 Years Since his ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech?”
Montoia’s mom, ChaDanet Murray, was also in tears, proud that her daughter had won, shouting her praise from the audience.
“Whatever role that you give her, she’s just willing to take that challenge, and she’s not afraid of it. Whatever you dish out to her, she’s good. She is a singer, so she’s not afraid of the stage at all. She actually comes alive on the stage. That’s her domain. That’s where she shines,” said Murray.
The annual event, sponsored by the Foley & Lardner law firm, is a way to honor Dr. King and ensure his legacy is passed down to the next generation. Claude Treece, chair of the competition, said he hopes the speeches remind the community of Dr. King’s work and legacy and leave them inspired. The student speeches touched on an array of topics from racial discrimination to gun violence, one fifth-grader even using football metaphors, calling the country’s journey “a series of first downs…for equality and justice.” She took home the second-place prize of $500.
Watch Montoia win the 28th annual MLK Jr. oratory competition below!
Cover photo: Watch This Houston 4th Grader Win the 28th Annual Mlk Jr. Oratory Competition/9-year-old Montoia Murray competes in the MLK Jr. Oratory Competition at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Houston/Photo by Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle