When Kassandra Santos began her oration, impassioned attention fell within the audience. Listeners leaned forward, experiencing a passionate presentation, which ambitiously discussed and challenged an uneasy issue: immigration.
D’Angelo Taylor, the assistant director of the multicultural center, hosted The Annual Black History Month Oratorical Competition Feb. 11 at the Reeder Traditions Lounge. Seven students made their voices heard in the ongoing civil-rights discussion. The top three finalists won $50, $100 and $200. This year’s theme was “Illuminating the Voices of Freedom.”
Santos, a junior communications major and a second-year competitor at the oratorical competition, came in first place. She said students should come together, communicate and listen to each other more, especially in a time of political division, and the oratorical competition offers students an ideal setting to do just that. Santos said the student community at USI possesses an ongoing need for civil rights discussions.
Santos advocated for groups without voting rights through an unorthodox empowerment poem. Following this year’s theme, her speech, “Overcoming Borders,” brought current legal interpretations of immigration under new, honest and emotional light.
“You can take the dreamers away, but the dream will stay,” Santos said.
Third place finalist Anna Ardelean, a sophomore political science major, dared her listeners to courageous action and to uphold justice and pursue freedom, especially when it’s least comfortable.
“Leading is easy,” she said. “All you need is the audacity to begin.”
Hamaad Khan, a sophomore Spanish major, said topics addressed at The Annual BHM Oratorical Competition were important and worthy of being heard since many students have not been exposed to this type of content at their high school.
Khan found time to write and practice his oration between traveling for basketball and keeping up with his regular academic responsibilities.
“Our voices are powerful only if we use them,” he said.