Speaking of Black History Month: Tennessee High students take first, runner-up slots in Eastman Oratorical Contest

2020 Eastman Oratorical Contest finalists: Sonali Poobalasiham, third place; Sidney Smith, runner up; Madison Wilson, winner; Jacqueline Byers, fourth place; and Allie Ford, fifth place.

Written by Rick Wagner.
Posted on Kingsport Times-News, Jan 23,2020.

KINGSPORT — Tennessee High students took the top two spots in the Black History Month-focused 2020 Eastman Oratorical Contest Wednesday.

Fourth place finisher Jacqueline Byers of D-B presented “Eulogy for Dr. Patricia Bath,” the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology and the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. Bath, who invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986, died last year.

RICK WAGNER • JAN 23, 2020 AT 8:30 AM

Winner Madison Wilson and runner-up Sydney Smith were among 170 entrants in the contest, which included three other finalists and 10 honorable mentions. Eastman Chemical Company sponsored the event, with the five finalists reading their essays at the Eastman Lodge near Bays Mountain Park. The contest was open to high school students from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

She received a $1,000 cash prize and will present her essay at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the free Symphony of the Mountains Black History Month event, “Our Voices Rise Together,” at Eastman’s Toy F. Reid Employee Center.

Wilson’s speech, titled “Toni Morrison,” focused on the African American writer she said helped shape American literature. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, becoming the first African American woman to do so. The novelist, essayist, book editor and college professor also won a Pulitzer Prize. She died last year.

More than 200 attended the luncheon event, which also recognized African Americans with 31 to 35 years of service to Eastman and the retirement of Cari Parker, a vice president and leader of efforts to attract more black employees to the company.

“I wasn’t expecting it because I thought everyone’s essays were good and the way they presented,” Wilson said, adding that she plans to seek a degree in either writing or psychology at Middle Tennessee State University or the University of Tennessee.

Full article here.