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Students compete in MLK Jr. Oratorical Festival for 38th year

on March 7, 2017

Over 1,000 students from 44 elementary, middle and high schools across Oakland competed in the Oakland Unified School District’s 38th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Festival, which runs from October through February. At the finals on February 26 at Castlemont High School’s Reeder Performing Arts Center, competitors took the stage, performing a range of poems, speeches and dramatic scenes dealing with social justice, politics and other topics.

“It has been a labor of love to work on the oratorical festival,” said director Awele Makeba, “but because there’s this institutional memory and 38 years of legacy, there are people who love and cherish it.”

The auditorium was standing room only, filled with family members and friends who grew up either performing in or going to the festival themselves. It was founded in 1978 by Donald Oliver, a former Oakland school principal who passed away in 2010.

The festival culminates on the night of March 7 at City Hall, with an award ceremony for the first through third place winners from each category and each grade level.

Click the player below the photographs to hear the students at the oratorical festival.

Sound Editing: Ryan Lindsay | Sound Engineer: Rachel Loyd


  1. Atlantis clay on March 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Correction: Atlantis clay is a 10th grader.

    • Ryan Lindsay on March 8, 2017 at 7:32 am

      Thanks for that correction Atlantis, we’ve fixed the error.

  2. Shauna Fithian on March 7, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks so much for highlighting the young talent at the recent OUSD MLK Oratorical Fest. I wanted to let you know that the first photo is mislabeled. The girls are 5th graders from Thornhill Elementary – they performed an adaptation of Stevie Wonder’s Black Man. Thanks so much!

    • Ryan Lindsay on March 8, 2017 at 7:32 am

      Thanks for catching that error Shauna, we’ve fixed it.

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