On the lower floor, 15-year-old Ricardo Brown explained the function and workings of nuclear power plants. On the main floor hung Tonya Jeffries' untitled paintings of teen-age isolation. On the third floor, Dunbar High School's Anthony Reddix was knocking them dead performing his original poem, "The Devil and a Drummer Named Tony." The Devil was walking around one day, Until he came to Bryant Street. He was walking kind of slow, Then he heard this heavenly beat.
For five minutes, Reddix acted out an enraged devil trying to nab the soul of a drummer named Tony during a competition with the "golden sticks." Tony won "when a group of the Lord's angels came down to watch him jam."
Anthony Reddix won, too, by copping first place in the poetry competition.
The competition was part of the inaugural festivities staged last week by the D.C. chapter of the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) at the Ellington School of Arts, 35th and R streets NW. Nearly 100 city high school students competed in 18 categories, including architecture, chemistry, dance, electronics, mathematics, photography, play writing and sculpture.
The 18 first place winners will move on to the national competition in August, when young people from 70 cities will vie for metals and cash prizes in ACT-SO's Olympics of the Mind. The local winners will be feted at a special award ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 23rd, in City Council chambers.
"Well, we did it," said Shelia High King, cochairman of the local ACT-SO task force. King, along with school board member Barbara Lett Simmons and 78 other parents and concerned volunteers, organized in three months what it took groups in other cities more than a year to accomplish.
"We needed this program to acclaim and recognize the talents of our city's young people. This program was a must," said ACT-SO organizer Lawrence Guyot. Guyot, King and the other organizers worked as if possessed to line up businesses to underwrite expenses, to recruit competitors, and to attend to such details as the selection of judges, areas of competition and evaluation procedures.
It was all volunteer work; there was no budget. Finally, it was done.
Since the ACT-SO program was begun four years ago in Chicago, it has received seed money from the NAACP, which sponsors the national competition. But the grass-roots organizations must, in effect, hustle on their own.
Kinks in the D.C. program still are being ironed out: Some letters weren't mailed on time, some parents received contradictory information. "We know the mistakes we've made," said King. "We won't repeat them."
The founding concept for ACT-SO was stated recently by NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks: "A scholar, too, is a hero." Chicago newspaper columnist Vernon Jarrett, who started ACT-SO, sums it up: "Black people need role models other than football and basketball players."
The D.C. task force, with typical zeal, is now hoping to make ACT-SO a year-round program involving noncompetitive activities.
"We want to establish widespread community support involving young people and parents from all sections of the city," said King as she outlined proposed summer activities at area churches and playgrounds. "We plan to keep this spirit and enthusiasm to develop seminars and workshops that will give our kids the support and fellowship they need to pursue their interests."
With obvious pride, Guyot said that "young black people have been brought into this program and they're making it work."
The drummer named Tony said he'd never recited before. "My first time -- and I liked it." With a clash of cymbals, A group of the Lord's Angels Came down to watch him jam.
ACT-SO/NAACP Olympics of the Mind winners will receive simulated gold, silver, and bronze medals at the Awards Ceremony. Awards in Energy, Electronics, Playwriting, and Original Essay will be announced later this week. DRAMATICS 1st Prize -- Alake Abubakar (Springbrook) 2nd Prize -- Belinda Carter (McKinley) 3rd Prize -- Tracey Wellington (Ellington) PHOTOGRAPHY 1st Prize -- Kimberly Kellogg (Ballou) 2nd Prize -- Loraine Crawford (St. Cecilia's Academy) 3rd Prize -- Wendy Minor (St. Cecilia's Academy) PAINTING 1st Prize -- Garey Bostik (Eastern) 2nd Prize -- Michael Monroe (Spingarn) 3rd Prize -- Kim Woolfolk (St. Cecilia's Academy) SCULPTURE 1st Prize -- Michael Monroe (Spingarn) DRAWING 1st Prize -- David Peterson (Dunbar) 2nd Prize -- Eugene Tillman (Dunbar) 3rd Prize -- Janieni Ariel Arisbrooks (Georgetown Vistation) ARCHITECTURE 1st Prize -- Gregory Collins (Eastern) 2nd Prize -- Andre Vincent (Eastern) 3rd Prize -- Michael McCalvin (Eastern) CHEMISTRY 1st Prize -- Rhonda Washington (Ballou) 2nd Prize -- Marshall Jackson (Jefferson) 3rd Prize -- Theresa Thompson (Ballou) BIOLOGY 1st Prize -- Capricus Wynn (Dunbar) 2nd Prize -- Valerie Douglas (Dunbar) 3rd Prize -- Victor Thornton (Paul) MUSIC (INSTRUMENTAL-SOLO) 1st Prize -- Leona Lowery (McKinley) 2nd Prize -- Marvin Ford (Woodson) 3rd Prize -- Nazeeha Howard (Wilson) ORATORY 1st Prize -- LaNeysa Harris (Potomac) 2nd Prize -- Lorise White (Dunbar) 3rd Prize -- Pamela Brown (Backus) POETRY 1st Prize -- Anthony Reddix (Dunbar) 2nd Prize -- Glaceria Brown (Dunbar) 3rd Prize -- Cheryl Jackson (Langley) DANCE 1st Prize -- Paulette Whalen (Notre Dame Academy) 2nd Prize -- Miriam Austin (Notre Dame Academy) 3rd Prize -- Wanda D. Roberts (Dunbar) MATHEMATICS 1st Prize -- not awarded 2nd Prize -- Desta Daggett (Dunbar) 3rd Prize -- Karen Witcher (Ballou) MUSIC 1st Prize -- Daphne Dunston (McKinley) 2nd Prize -- Linda Tait (Riverdale) 3rd Prize -- Andre Proctor (Ellington) SPECIAL AWARD (ARTWORK) Terry Lamont Townsend (Anacostia)