SOUTHWEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --The words of prominent black artists, scientists and historical figures rang out Friday morning, voiced through students at Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School in Southwest Philadelphia.
"I kept reading til I memorized it. I kept practicing everyday," said third-grader Christian Karnga.
"I practiced really good and I'm just a little bit nervous," said first-grader Sahid Kourouma.
The annual oratorical contest serves as the grand finale of the school's Black History Month celebration.
"Everything that they've been preparing for, they know history of it as well as the relevance of what they're saying and significance of it as well," said Jennifer Beatty, contest director.
This year's theme: Because of Them We Can. Younger students wowed the audience with poems, lyrics and speeches. For the first time, older students performed original works.
"I talked about our boys and our girls and the struggles that we go through growing up," said eighth-grader Amostine Karnga.
"Today I'm sharing a personal struggle about when my uncle died," said eighth-grader David Lewis. "I hope it will move some of the people in the same place of sorrow."
The winner of the older students competition receives a $250 stipend for high school or college. While it's exciting to win the prize, students and teachers say it's about more than just the money.
"Even if I don't get the scholarship, I'll still be glad I had the opportunity to do this," said Karnga.
"Seeing how they begin to interpret what they're saying and what that means has been the best manifestation, I think, of how they're related to it," said Beatty.