News and Publications

Students Reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy through Communications Contest

Back to Archive
2nd place winner Deborah Olatunji, Charter School of Wilmington (Grade 10), 3rd place winner Lester Fair, Lake Forest High School (Grade 12); and 1st place winner Kemuel Harding, Early College High School (Grade 12)

“I once feared failure… when really I needed to fail. I needed to fall to get up,” said Kemuel Harding in the speech that won the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Communications Contest. “I needed my heart broken to know how to put my brain together.”

Kemuel, a senior at the Early College High School at Delaware State University, was one of seven high school students to participate in the finals of this year’s contest, which was supported in part by a grant from the Quintin Primo, Jr. Fund for Racial Justice at the Delaware Community Foundation.

Launched in 2015, the contest includes students speaking, rapping, singing and more – whatever they find most effective to communicate how King’s legacy has affected their lives.

“This contest is one of the most important things to happen in this community in a long time,” said Rev. Lloyd Casson, rector emeritus at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew. “The younger people really got it as far as Martin Luther King Jr. is concerned. What are the implications of what they’re saying for how we govern, for how we do church and have school?”

The contest, held Sunday, Jan. 14 at the Baby Grand, was founded by Jane Rubini of Christ Church Christiana Hundred and is now presented in partnership with the YWCA Delaware. This year, which marks the 50th anniversary of King’s death, more than 70 students from more than 20 high schools participated.

“The Martin Luther King contest has changed my life,” 2016 winner Kaamilah Diabate said. “It’s helped me gain confidence. It helped me find my passion. It opened other doors for me, like TED talks, banquets and breakfasts.”

Students from high schools throughout the state participated in this year’s contest, which awards a $1,000 grand prize, $500 second prize, and $250 third prize. Finalists also received a personalized one-hour coaching session.

DCF fundholder Cynthia Primo Martin, daughter of the late Quintin Primo, for whom the fund was named, said she is proud to support the contest each year.

“It creates an opportunity for the current generation of young people who did not live during the MLK era to express their understanding of the need for racial justice locally, nationally and globally to keep Dr. King’s dream alive,” Martin said. “My father would be pleased at such an effort to reach out to youth in this way.”

For more information about the Martin Luther King Jr. Communications Contest, visit the contest page on the YWCA Delaware website.