Anniston’s Black Heritage Festival returns for its 39th year Saturday at Longleaf Botanical Gardens.

More than 50 children, from kindergartners to high school seniors, will recite poetry in an oration contest, using material written by themselves or vy established black authors. Contest winners receive cash prizes, but every participant earns $10 and a pass to the museum. The event is from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and free to attend. The gardens are located at 920 Museum Drive in Anniston.  

Georgia Calhoun, who founded the festival in 1980, said she wants to help children develop their skill in public speaking and learn to appreciate “beautiful language.” She said this year’s theme, “Poetry: the Pulse of a New Day,” reflects that effort.

“Poetry should send a throbbing sensation within you,” said Calhoun. “People use songs for different occasions, like when they’re lonely or happy. You ought to have a poem too.”

She said the first festival was Carribean-themed and held in May, complete with a steel drum band from Jackson, Miss. There weren’t as many children involved as she’d have liked, though, so the next year she tied the event to Black History Month and included an oratory contest, she said.

“If you give the children a platform to display their talents, it helps develop their speech. One day they’re going to have to interview for a job, and these are steps in the right direction,” she said. “I want them to do their best and know that every day is a day to shine.”

The festival includes vendors selling goods including jewelry, clothing and books, while Baby Boy’s BBQ will sell lunch. The Talladega College choir performs at 1 p.m. Wristbands from the festival grant complimentary admission to the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum throughout the day.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.