National Public Radio today marked the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth with a story about elementary school students in Houston competing in a speech contest honoring King--this year, nine of the 10 entrants were girls, according to the story, which you can listen to here. One of the 10-year-old girl orators, born three decades after King's death roused the crowd with this line: "I am opportunity, you are opportunity, we are all opportunity....I am opportunity, and I'm not knocking, I'm coming on through!" And Miss Perry Jones, who won first place, told the crowd after her victory: "There's no stopping me now--with my eyes, I see it; with my mind, I believe it, and with my hands, I will one day achieve it."
If you're looking for more inspiring words from black women speakers, check out our posts on Henrietta Bell Wells, the inspiration for the female character in the current film, The Great Debaters, and look for speeches collected in the book Say It Plain: A Century of Great African American Speeches. Women represented in the collection include Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, and Mary McLeod Bethune. You also can get another version of the book with a CD of live recordings of speeches, titled Say It Plain: Live Recordings of the 20th Century's Great African-American Speeches: A Book-and-CD Set -- the latter version includes 2 80-minute CDs with an expanded range of speeches. Or check out the Say It Plain website, where you can listen to an hour-long documentary, as well as read transcripts and hear audio of several of the speeches, including those by Bethune, Chisholm, Jordan, and civil rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer.
Buy Say It Plain: A Century of Great African American Speeches
Buy Say It Plain: Live Recordings of the 20th Century's Great African-American Speeches: A Book-and-CD Set