On Saturday, January 14, 2023, the Alpha Alpha Lambda Scholarship and Educational Foundation of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. commemorated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the 25th Anniversary of the Belford V. Lawson Oratorical Competition at Seton Hall University. Six young men, 7th & 8th grade students in Essex County, took to the stage as finalists delivering exceptional speeches on “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Perspectives on the World Today”. For the past 25 years, this program has lifted the confidence, oratory skills, and passion of Essex County young men while ensuring the next generation never forgets the sacrifice and impact of civil rights icon and man of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Representing the best and brightest of Essex County, this year’s finalists were:
- Kevin Flores – Louise A. Spencer School (8th Grade) | Newark, NJ
- Dante Folson – Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts (8th Grade) | East Orange, NJ
- Luis Franco – Louise A. Spencer School (8th Grade) | Newark, NJ
- Amadu Musa – Louise A. Spencer School (8th Grade) | Newark, NJ
- Zachary Richardson- Far Brook School (8th Grade) | South Orange, NJ
- Mickerson Volcy – Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts (8th Grade) | East Orange, NJ
This year’s 1st place winner is Amadu Musa of Newark. Amadu is a member of the National Honor Society at Louise A. Spencer School in Newark and a participant in Project Alpha, a national program of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. that provides ongoing mentorship for young men.
“My experience participating in this competition was amazing! The new opportunities that the Alphas have opened up for me will really benefit me along the way,” said Amadu Musa. “Like always, it feels amazing to win. I can’t thank the Alphas more for this opportunity.”
The remaining phenomenal awardees this year are as follows: 2nd place Zachary Richardson (South Orange) and 3rd Place Dante Folson (East Orange). Honorable Mentions went to Kevin Flores (Newark), Mickerson Volcy (East Orange), and Luis Franco (Newark).
“We are extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of these six exceptional young men. From the inception, our goal has been ensuring the next generation understands the sacrifices made by Dr. King and igniting the spark that empowers our youth to maintain the legacy of civil rights activism for generations to come.” said Mark Hassell, Alpha Alpha Lambda Scholarship and Educational Foundation Chairman.
With ABC News Anchor and National Correspondent, Derricke Dennis serving as Master of Ceremony, participants were given an allotted amount of time to present their speech at a luncheon during MLK weekend before an audience and judges. The participants were judged on 10 criteria, including oratorical skills, content, time management, presentation, along with other criteria. Through community contributions, ticket sales, and sponsorships, the Foundation provides monetary awards to the winners in addition to coaching, new suits, and continued mentoring to help further fuel their academic endeavors.
“For 25 years, this event has highlighted the best our young men have to offer in Essex County, New Jersey”, said Dr. Brian Agnew, Chairman of the 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Competition. “Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. prepares future leaders, like these young men, through programs that empower confidence, encourage academic excellence, and provide service and advocacy to our communities.”
Through the generosity of sponsors like LAZ Parking, Mitchell Titus, QPWB Attorneys, Gene’s Driving School, and Sphinx Minerva Group, over $5,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to participants with each finalist receiving an Acer Chromebook, a medal, and cash award with the encouragement of opening a savings account at a local bank.
“This competition provides an opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate the bravery of exceptional young men. We applaud each of them for having the courage to take control of their destiny, ultimately changing the course of their lives through hard work, stretching boundaries, and stepping up,” said Dele Oladapo, President of the Alpha Alpha Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.