She spoke with a booming voice, and sang with perfect pitch.
And the crowd could not stand fast enough to applause.
Thornton, a third-grader from Randolph Park Elementary, was one of dozens of students from the Anniston school system to perform in the 34th Black Heritage Festival at the Anniston Museum of Natural History Saturday. Around 100 people attended the event to hear the students — ranging from pre-schoolers to high school seniors — recite poetry celebrating black history and culture. The all-day event also featured vendors who sold African jewelry, clothing and artwork.
Each child participant received a small cash prize and a free, one-year membership to the museum for his or her efforts.
While most participants recited poems from noted black authors, Thornton performed a piece she had written with help from her grandmother. It was entitled, “A Little Black Girl.”
"Malcolm X said sometimes we should fight because freedom isn't free," Thornton said to an enthralled crowd. "I strive to be all I can be to bring forth my own form of change."
Thornton ended the poem by singing lyrics from “Oh Lord, I Want You to Help Me,” prompting several audience members to join in.
Barbara Mack, Thornton's teacher at Randolph Park, who attended the event, said she was impressed with her student's performance.
"She's very intelligent and very gifted," Mack said.
Ava Smith, 8, of Jacksonville Christian Academy, also sang after reciting the poem, “The Color Black,” by Magdala Compere. Also like Thornton, she received a standing ovation for her efforts.
"Black is the color of coal, a substance worth as much as gold," Smith said while wearing a bright pink headband. "Black is the color of power, black is the color of my desire."
Smith's mother, Tiannia Smith, said her daughter only practiced the poem and song two weeks before the event.
"She was prepared this year," Tiannia Smith.
A student who has performed at various other events, Ava would not say she was possibly nervous before reciting her poem Saturday.
"I'm not allowed to say that word," she said as her mother grinned.
Also a crowd pleaser at the event was Taliyah Pyles, 4, from Little Angel Preschool. Wearing traditional African clothes, Pyles recited “Life is Fine” by Langston Hughes.
"I'm fine, fine like wine," Pyles said with her hands on her hips.
Her mother, Christina Bagley, said Saturday was the first time Pyles had participated in the event.
"She did really good ... she should be participating next year," Bagley said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.