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Harford County

Sixth annual Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical Contest held in Havre de Grace

The sixth annual Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical Contest was held Feb. 5 at the Cultural Center at the Opera House in Havre de Grace.

The program celebrates the Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center’s historic connections to famous African American writer Langston Hughes, and honors the legacy of those who advocated for equitable access to education for African American students in Harford County.


The youth orators presented four- to five-minute speeches they wrote, based on this year’s contest theme, “Let life be like music.” A video of the presentations can be viewed on the museum’s website at

Patricia Cole, president of the board of directors for the museum, said in a statement that the students “are a shining representation of what is good about our community and a testament to our extraordinary educational system here in Harford County.”


Contestants were: Devin Casey, 8th grade, Patterson Mill Middle School; Elizabeth Thompson, 7th grade, Swan Creek School; Anthony Wilder III, 8th grade, Swan Creek School; Jennifer Levy, 10th grade, Bel Air High School; Kayla Reynolds, 9th grade, Joppatowne High School; Destiny Walters, 9th grade, Edgewood High School.

Walters won first place in the high school group and Casey placed first in the middle school group. Each won a $500 scholarship.

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Reynolds placed second in the high school category, as did Wilder in the middle school category. They won $300 scholarships.

Levy and Thompson were third in their respective high school and middle school categories, with $200 scholarship prizes.

The runners-up were: Destiny Boyd, 12th grade, Harford Technical High School; Folashewa Olaniyi, 10th grade, Edgewood High School; Shivani Pandya, 10th grade, Edgewood High School; Solika Phann, 10th grade, Edgewood High School; Jiarui Alice Xie, 7th grade, Patterson Mill Middle School. Each runner-up won $100.

Oratory judges were Barbara Payne, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Xi Delta Omega Chapter; Jessica Cleaver, coordinator, Harford County Cultural Arts Board; and Warline Bryant, president of the board of directors for the CHOSEN Community Development Corp. Students were mentored by author Peter Byrd.

“We are extremely proud and pleased that this oratorical competition allows us to celebrate and honor the men and women who advocated for better educational opportunities for African American students,” Cole said in a statement. “These men and women knew that the best way to improve social issues and economic barriers is through education. This contest symbolizes their spirit of optimism for a better tomorrow.”


On the program book was a photo of the Havre de Grace Colored School’s Class of 1949, in which Cole’s late father, Bernard J. Cole, was a graduate.

In addition to the speeches, the program included musical selections by The Young Chosen and pianist Kain Felix-Marinero, a 7th grade student at Aberdeen Middle School. A reception followed the program at the Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center.