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2023 MLK Oratorical Fest

2023 Theme

Please choose from one of the following three themes. Resource links are provided below each theme for further information.

Purpose in Life & How I Want to Be Remembered

 Dr. MLK, Jr.

  1. “I’d like for someone to say, Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others…I’d like for someone to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to love somebody…I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185–186).
  1. “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” (King, “The Drum Major,” 185–186)

How I Would Like to Be Remembered

Prompt: In Dr. King’s Drum Major Instinct 1968 sermon he reflects on his sense of purpose and how he wanted to be remembered after he died.How would you like to be remembered right now, 5 or 10 years from now? How would you like to be remembered for making a difference in other people’s lives?

The Drum Major Instinct – (5 min excerpt)

The Drum Major Instinct , 2/4/1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church recording

Dr MLK, Jr Research & Education Institute – Drum Major Instinct

About the MLK Oratorical

More than four decades ago, the Founder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oratorical Fest, Donald Oliver had a vision. He wanted to showcase students' oratorical skills and he wanted to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He felt that the testing/reading score data did not truly lift students’ comprehension and fluency skills and abilities, but he knew that delivering an oration was an academic exercise that required students to read and comprehend complex text in order to analyze, synthesize, interpret, critique, and present or perform that text (creating a new form through performance) in a competition in public speaking.

This brings us to 2023 and the 44th Annual OUSD Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Festival in which schools at all grade levels across Oakland have an opportunity to bring Donald Oliver's vision to their students. Below you find information about grade level divisions and the oratorical festival categories. 

Grade Level Divisions:

  • Pre-Kindergarten-2nd grade
  • 3rd-5th grade
  • 6th-8th grade
  • 9th-12th grade


  • Individual Performer – 1 Performer on Stage
    • Monologue - original or published in a script (3 min)
    • Poetry - published poetry (3 min)
    • Poetry - original poetry (poet performing poem they wrote, 3 min)
    • Speech - famous & not so famous – (3 min)
  • Two or More Performers on Stage Groups/Scenes
    • Poetry – published (up to 5 min)
    • Poetry - original (written by the performing poets, (up to 5 min)
    • Speech - famous & not so famous (up to 5 min)
    • Scene - published & devised (up to 5 min)

Please see Divisions and Categories Information Details for number of entries allowed per school.

2023 Timeline


Ribbons & Medals Pick-up

Saturday, May 6, 8:00am - 12:00pm

17th St. @ Lakeside (X from Lake Merritt)

Awele will hand Medals bag to teachers/principals

Text: (510) 601-0178

School Oratorical

January 17, 2023 – February 9, 2023
School Choice: Live or Virtual

District-Wide Registration

February 6, 2023 – February 10, 2023 (hard deadline)
MLK District-Wide School Registration for Video Editing Post Production
DISTRICT-WIDE Competition Registration Survey

*SPECIAL NOTE - VIDEO CLIPS: Submit ONLY 1 per performance category entry

Do not submit all school performances in 1 video.

Virtual District-Wide Competition

*Video - Memorized Performances

*SPECIAL NOTE - VIDEO CLIPS: Submit ONLY 1 per performance category entry  (this should appear her and above)

Do not submit all school performances in 1 video.



All 1st place performers will perform by category/grade levels:

  • Speeches
  • Poetry
  • Monologues
  • Scenes

Skyline High School

Sunday, April 23, 2023
1:00pm - 5:30pm

Doors open at 12:15pm

HBO, EMMY, Outstanding Children's Program
WE ARE THE DREAM: The Kids of the MLK Oratorical Fest
Streaming Now: HBOMax and Amazon Prime


We Are The Dream video thumbnail


2022 MLK Oratorical

For Decades, an Annual Competition Has Challenged Students to Deliver Speeches Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Here's Why It's Still Going Strong - >>Read More

Useful Documents and Links

Judges Score Sheet

2023 Registration

Divisions & Categories

Film Inspiration & Resources: FREE virtual 1/13-16 Dr. MLK, Jr. Film Fest - Stanford: World House Project


2023 World House Documentary Film Festival


Free Registration: Register Here

Contact Information


Awele (ah WAY lay) Makeba

Producer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Fest

Cell | 510-601-0178 cell

Skyline | 510-482-7109, Ext. 204