Lorna C. Hill Speaking Contest
The Lorna C. Hill Speaking Contest honors one of Buffalo’s own. Lorna C. Hill was an actor, director, and producer from the Buffalo area. She was also the founder and Artistic Director of the Ujima Theatre Company, Inc. and a true trailblazer for Black women in this field. Ms. Hill was among the first women accepted at Dartmouth College, and in spring of 1973 became one of the first Black women to graduate from the College; she held a B.A. in American Intellectual History. She also received an M.A. in Theatre in 1978 at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2014, she retired from the Buffalo Public Schools, where she taught theatre at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts. She was a recipient of a plethora of local and national recognitions. Most importantly, she served as a community resource for organizations that prioritized women’s empowerment, arts and culture, children's rights, and building community. In addition to being a teacher at Performing Arts High school and a renowned actress and theater director, Lorna C. Hill has provided support to the Buffalo Public Schools Theatre programs, including training students and teachers in the MBK, August Wilson monologues and Our Story Project instructional programs. Given her passion for drama, public speaking, historical accuracy through performance, her love for students, and her many years of service and longstanding friendship with the Buffalo Public Schools, we have bestowed the honor of naming this high school speaking contest in the legacy and artistic genius of the late, Ms. Lorna C. Hill.
The Lorna C. Hill Speaking Contest is an exciting opportunity for students to showcase and hone their public speaking and performance talents, as well as edify their voices by performing text excerpts, poems, prose, or monologues. Students use a wide selection of Black and African American authors from the Canon of Black Literature to perform on stage. High school students are invited to join this fun and exciting contest annually. Scholars who place in the school-based preliminary contest compete in the Lorna C. Hill Speaking Contest Finals at the Ujima Theatre Company each February.
Throughout this year's experience participants developed a community of support, made lasting friendships, and enhanced their self-confidence while making poignant personal, historical, and cultural connections to a wide array of Black literature. The scholars culminated their hard work and dedication at the District Finals, held on February 8, 2023. In the weeks following the finals, our remarkably talented winners went on to perform their pieces at the February Board of Education meeting and continued to develop their leadership skills and edify their voices at the 8th annual Urban Forum where they facilitated a session titled “Spoken Word: A Spotlight on the Lorna C. Hill Speaking Contest Winners”. Scholar facilitators provided district stakeholders with a brief history of Lorna C. Hill’s legacy, delighted them with a performance of their monologues, and led an engaging and insightful panel discussion aimed at making connections to the elevation of student voice and culturally responsive educational practices.
Congratulations to all!
First Place: Khadija Mberwa – School 192
Second Place (tie): Joy Perry – School 192 & Echo Martinez Perez – School 207
Third Place: Trinity Smith- School 302
Fourth Place: Tamarii Sharpe – School 156
Neshita Debi – School 156
Immaculate Irakoze – School 207
Jala Mack – School 302
Kevin Manzi – School 192
Anood F Mohamed – School 207