Marika Baptiste of the St. Vincent Girls’ High School won the top prize at the U.S. Embassy’s Fourth Annual Black History Month Secondary School Speech Competition. The competition is held each February in recognition of Black History Month. This year secondary school students from across Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean were invited to give outstanding speeches on leadership and how women of color have broken through barriers to achieve success. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s competition expanded the field of participants beyond Barbados to the Eastern Caribbean and featured the submission of recorded videos.
From a competitive pool of entries from seven countries, 15-year-old Marika Baptiste’s speech shined brightly. She gave a passionate explanation of the importance of the role of women in politics, challenging the women of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to “not just blindly follow the rules, but to be involved in making them.” Tahirah Mann from Harrison College in Barbados won second place, while Asaiah Yankey of the Portsmouth Secondary School in Dominica and Dejonte Stephen of Presentation Brothers College in Grenada tied for third place. Marika took home a prize package valued at USD$1,000 comprising a tech suite including a laptop, printer, Bluetooth speaker, wireless mouse and 64GB flash drive, along with a trophy and books. She also won a desktop computer for her school. The contest honored Black History Month and supported the Embassy’s commitment to education to drive sustainable economic growth, foster innovation, and empower youth.