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MarQuis F. Harris will have a chance to sing and meet his fans in Emporia on Saturday, July 25, when there will be a “Parade of Congratulations” in his honor through Main Street, starting at 5 p.m.

When MarQuis F. Harris first stepped onto the stage of BET’s “Sunday Best” gospel singing competition, he felt like he was “walking straight into a dream,” he said.

“It was like no other feeling in the world,” Harris, 25, said during an interview the morning after he made it into the competition’s top 9 finalists for Season 10. “This is something I have dreamed about from a very young age — to sing in front of great artists and be able to really showcase what I can do.”

Harris is a lifelong resident of Emporia, attended Greensville County High School and is a member of the Berean Light Ministries church. Before entering the competition, he most recently worked as a substitute teacher in the Greensville school system.

But these days his time is spent preparing and performing as part of BET Network’s national gospel music competition, “Sunday Best.”

Harris said that he has been singing “since the time I could talk” and refined his skills in the church choir, during school music classes and at local events, but never had any real formal training — “it truly was a gift from God.”

As time went on and people complimented him on his singing, “I started to think that I could really work with this craft and step into the field with this professionally.”

“I love singing so much, I love learning more, I try to be a sponge and absorb as much as I can so I can perfect my craft,” he said. “I just feel freedom when I sing. It’s like all the cares of the world are just gone.”

Harris said his commitment to God and ministry has always been an integral part of his love of music. He named gospel artist Maranda Curtis as a big influence. “I love her passion, her message,” he said. “She shows that she takes the focus off of herself and directs it toward God and what he can do for others.”

The road to the national stage wasn’t always smooth, Harris said. He tried out for “Sunday Best” in 2014, when he was right out of high school, but “I didn’t make it.”

“It stung a little bit,” he said. “I thought, maybe this isn’t for me, maybe I’m not good enough.” But his friends and family said that the setback was just one “no” and to keep going. “My mom, my stepdad, my brother, my church family, they all encouraged me.”

He is optimistic about his chances to win the BET competition: “I think I have what it takes to go all the way.” The winner will receive a recording contract with RCA Inspiration and a cash prize of $50,000.

Winning would mean that “all the hardships, the pain, the bullying, everything I endured has not been in vain.”

But Harris, who also is an aspiring clothing designer, said that regardless of the outcome, “I know I will be traveling the world, reaching people as a gospel artist.”

Harris said he has been overjoyed at the community’s response to his appearance on “Sunday Best.” “It has been such a great surprise, all the support and love I’ve received from Emporia, the whole city,” he said. “I’ve cried tears of joy.”

Harris will have a chance to sing and meet his fans in Emporia on Saturday, July 25, when there will be a “Parade of Congratulations” in his honor through Main Street, starting at 5 p.m.

“Sunday Best” airs on BET on Sundays at 8 p.m. EDT.

For more information on Harris, visit Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/royaltee.harris or on Twitter at @Worshipper_MFH.