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PUSH Excel Oratorical Society stands on shoulders of legends

PUSH Excel Oratorical Society stands of shoulders of legends
PUSH Excel Oratorical Society stands of shoulders of legends 04:04

Before men like King spoke of a Dream or Jackson stood before the masses imploring them to keep hope alive, these titans of oratory honed their craft in near-empty auditoriums.

Before reaching the highest stage, they practiced their persuasive speech skills on their high school debate teams.

Some young, aspiring orators are doing the same thing today in Chicago as part of the PUSH Excel Oratorical Society.

The practice is precise, and no detail is ignored.

It starts with vocal warmups; they treat their voice like any athlete preparing the body for competition.

For them, appearing on the stage symbolizes standing on the shoulders of great orators like Martin Luther King Jr., who came before them.

"He was able to persuade people because he knew the power of persuasive speech," said Oliva Porter, director of PUSH Excel.

That is what Porter teaches her students: to perfect speeches and poems, stick every word and syllable, and understand the power of words.

"Not only do I want you to memorize what you're going to say, but know why you're saying it," said Porter.

Christiana Gray knows why.

"I get to speak on history," she said. "Things are not being talked about in history books.

"I constantly ask my history teacher, 'What about African Americans? What role did they play in this?' I had to make a petition at my school for us to talk about African American history."

Christiana was asked what it is like to be a Black girl in this world.

"It's tough," she said. "I get emotional at the thought. Every time when I make it home, it's a blessing. I could get killed right now because someone sees my skin color."

Porter said it's essential "to see how children today, or the youth today, interpret heavy events, historical events. They're interpreting it through the eyes of the 13-year-old, and as adults, that's something we should probably listen to."

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