Woodbury teenager wins national speech contest by defying standards
Anneteke Adoga criticized the exploitation of black pain, offering a more positive alternative. The judges took note.
WOODBURY, Minnesota – A 16-year-old Woodbury student just won a nationwide speech contest, in which she competed alongside more than 1,300 students from 300 schools.
But for Anneteke Adoga, a junior at Woodbury High School, she was very proud of how she won.
“I was shaking when I found out, because winning a tournament is amazing in any situation, but to Winning a tournament with a speech that highlighted the benefits of being a black person is an incomparable feeling. I was like so happy, ”Adoga said.
Her first place oratory was a criticism of the excessive emphasis on black grief in news, television, and movies. To make her point, she began with a gripping review of the movie “The Help,” which was among the best streaming movies on Netflix in the days following George Floyd’s death last year.
“That’s when it hit me, what a terrible time for Netflix to release The Help.” Said Adoga. “On June 1, 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic and national race relations crisis, Netflix purchased the rights to one of the most problematic race films made in the modern era.”
In an interview with KARE11 News, Adoga described his problem with the film, which helped inspire the theme of his speech.
“It showcases black people in a way that we’re still struggling and all of our wellness stories come from a place of struggle,” Adoga said. “It’s like we can’t have times when we just live without this burden of pain.”
But the 2011 film is just the starting point. His speech explains why movies, shows, and even news programs that rely on graphic scenes of slavery, black pain, or videos of police violence can end up doing more harm than helping.
“These videos aren’t new to us, and seeing them over and over again only reminds us of our trauma,” Adoga said. “When your identity is tied to something like this, it is impossible to find your true worth.”
Make no mistake, she doesn’t shy away from the current fight for social justice. Adoga was among the students who staged a statewide strike to protest racial injustice several weeks ago, but she says she was intentional about her goal.
“We tried to humanize the people whose lives were taken, instead of just focusing on their deaths,” she said. “I think, again, that was a prospect that not many people had seen before.
“I think it’s important for everyone to keep in mind that while black people are still fighting for change, we have so many other qualities about us that are so positive.”
And these positive qualities are also what led her to take a risk, defying the standards of a typical oratory.
“Normally there is a part of the speech where you share a very traumatic story that happened to you, about why you chose this topic,” Adoga said. “I kind of did a 180 and I thought I’m not going to do that.”
Instead, she shared that two months ago she was elected Lieutenant Governor of Youth and State Government of Minnesota.
“I am the first black woman to hold this position,” Adoga said. “This story has nothing to do with trauma and that is the point.”
Even though she knew this kind of story wasn’t typical, she’s glad she took the risk.
“I guess it paid off,” she laughs.
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