An asian girl, black boy, latino boy and black girl on a stage. The latino boy appears to be in grade school and the others to be teens.

Pittsburg High Hosts Talent Competition Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King

An asian girl, black boy, latino boy and black girl on a stage. The latino boy appears to be in grade school and the others to be teens.

Jenesis Dejesus, clockwise from left, Antwan Saece, Juwel Lawson and Giovanni Martinez placed first through fourth, respectively, at the he Dr. Martin Luther King talent show at Pittsburg High on Jan. 11.

Story and photos by Joe Porrello


A talent competition honoring Dr. Martin Luther King took place Jan. 11 at Pittsburg High’s Little Theater. It was open to all students in the Pittsburg Unified School District.


Six contestants took the microphone, with five giving spoken-word performances and one singing a song. 

Souljahs, a group that joins forces with local schools to educate the community through initiatives like its literacy program, hosted the show.

Performers all related their spoken words to King.

“Dr. King may have helped us gain the lives we live today, but we need to continue to fight to keep it,” said Jenesis Dejesus, who won $350 for first place. “To create a just and equal society that Dr. King dreamed and advocated for, we need to have our own dream.”


The eldest of three Lawson sisters performing in the competition won third place for her spoken word, earning her $100.

“Why must our brothers and sisters holler to be heard? Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat, George Floyd when he said he could not breathe. Why must we fight so hard — be so strong — to prove ourselves to a country that we built with our own two hands and feet?” said Juwel Lawson in her performance.

Juwel — who is also in the final stages of writing a book — said she wants to participate in more similar events after seeing what it was like.

“I feel amazing…I was kind of nervous, very nervous, but it felt good,” she said.


Antwan Saece said he is familiar with comparable competitions through the Pittsburg Prodigies Poetry Club at Pittsburg High but had had a small hiatus from performing before Jan. 11.

“I forgot how thrilling it is just to get up there and speak your mind,” he said.

Saece said he is preparing for the Youth Speaks teen poetry slam Friday in San Francisco.


All participants were awarded at least $75 for performing in Thursday’s event.

“There are no losers,” Souljahs member Clexton Ward said. “This shows them, hey, we’re here, and don’t think you did this for nothing because you’re touching our hearts with what you’re giving us.”

Ward said it was extremely difficult for him and the four other judges to decide on the order of winners because they all put on a great show.

“It was crazy back there… we were all conflicting,” he said.

All of the participants were set to be back at Pittsburg High on Monday for a repeat performance at the 23rd annual MLK Day festivities hosted by Souljahs that began with a rally at City Hall and a march.

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