Fifth-grader Gets Her Chance to ‘spread With Word' About MLK, Soars to Win in Young Orator Event

Two years ago when she was a third-grader, Sierra Davis approached Charles Rice Learning Center principal Alpher Garrett-Jones and longtime teacher Irene Redmond, wanting to take part in the Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition.Wait your turn, she was told. Only fourth- and fifth-graders are eligible.Last year, a fellow classmate, Lyriq Turner, was Charles Rice's representative - and went on to win the event.This year, it was Sierra's turn, and her voice rang clear and loud.The fifth-grader won first place in the 25th annual event, in front of a crowd of around 300 at downtown Dallas' Majestic Theatre.When asked why she was so eager to compete, Sierra said she wanted "to spread the word about Martin Luther King, Jr. about how he felt about segregation and everything.""I had to share it with other people."A record 25 Dallas ISD schools participated in this year's contest, with 165 students taking part, the most in event's history.This year's topic was what King would say about Muhammad Ali's contribution to society. Sierra, taking the voice of King, drew parallels between Ali's actions protesting against the Vietnam War and King's fight for civil rights.She finished strong, with her closing remarks punctuated with dramatic pauses and sweeping gestures."So I would say fight when you are tired, fight for what you believe, fight like my friend Muhammad Ali, fight until you can't fight any more," Sierra implored. "This is something I, too, learned. And if I had to take a line from him, I would say 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,' I will be great because of a man like Muhammad Ali."Her family and friends, sitting in the second row, beamed when emcee Clarice Tinsley announced the winner; her father, Elmo, fought back tears."We prayed about it this morning," Elmo Davis said. "We told her just to be calm, relaxed, don't freak out - and she did it."Sierra practiced the speech twice a day since the contest started in September, and it showed. Her comfort with the material allowed her personality to shine through."She has a big personality," mother Salina McGee-Jones said of her daughter, the middle of nine siblings. "Sierra likes to stand out."Sierra is the third student in the past decade from Charles Rice Learning Center to win the event. All three have been tutored by Redmond, who has taught for 41 years at the same elementary school she attended. Her first winner, Dalton Sherman, became a speaking sensation, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Ellen DeGeneres Show and NBC's Today Show. He graduated in 2016 as valedictorian of DISD's Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy.Sierra took home $1,000 for the win. Jace Roberson, a fifth-grader from J.P. Starks Math, Science and Technology Vanguard, took second place, receiving $500. Fourth-grader Asad King, from William Brown Miller Elementary, finished third and was awarded $200. The other finalists - Andrea Botho, Taneka Ervin, Jordan Mays, Ashley Patterson and Lola West - were awarded $100. Every finalist was also given a plaque, a book about MLK Jr. and an Amazon Fire tablet.  Continue reading...

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