Students in grades 2 – 11 are invited to participate in ABENY’s annual Black History Month Essay Contest. The topic this year is “African American Artists and Social Activism.” The deadline for entries is Friday, January 3. Twenty students from around the city will be chosen as the winners, and they will be honored at our program known as the “Bridge from Africa”, on Saturday, February 1, 1:00 – 2:30 PM, at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Topic: “African-American Artists and Social Activism” Throughout American history, African American visual and performing artists have created work that intersects with political activism and social justice causes. In particular, these artists have used their craft to highlight the inequities in our society which Blacks and other minorities have experienced. An example is singer Billie Holiday’s rendition of the immortal “Strange Fruit.” Holiday first sang and performed the song in 1939. The song had been written by teacher Abel Meeropol as a protest poem, exposing racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans in the South and other areas of the U.S. The song was based on the actual lynching of two African Americans in Indiana, and moved to tears many who heard it. This song was so socially important, that Holiday’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. “Strange Fruit” was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment of the Arts. For the 2020 ABENY Black History Month Essay Contest, the topic is: “African American Artists and Social Activism.” Students are asked to research an African-American visual or performing artist who used his/her craft to inspire dialogue and action regarding issues of social injustice and inequity. Some examples, both past and present, are, as follows: Visual Artists: Jacob Lawrence, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Faith Ringgold, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Alma Thomas, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Kadir Nelson. Performing Artists: Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Josephine Baker, Common, John Legend, Akon, Kendrick Lamar, Public Enemy, Alvin Ailey, Misty Copeland. Several helpful websites to begin search/research are below: • • • (list of activists; additional research required). • • (African American Song) • • 2 Be sure to include in your essay: • Important facts about the artist’s early life and influences. • How this artist used his/her craft to further social justice and equity. • How this artist worked to improve the educational outcomes for Blacks in the diaspora. (e.g., providing scholarships and other educational opportunities for youth). • What you have learned from doing the research on this topic. • How reading about this topic has influenced you. • A list of references. Guidelines: Students in the NYC Public Schools are invited to participate, as follows: • Students in Grades 2 and 3 should write 300 words or more. • Students in Grades 4 and 5 should write 350 words or more. • Students in grades 6, 7 and 8 should write 400 words or more. • Students in Grades 9, 10 and 11 should write 500 words or more. Essays will be judged based on the following criteria: accuracy of content, presentation, originality, neatness, quality of research, adherence to topic, proper use of language conventions, proper use of punctuation and grammar. (See the attached rubric). In addition, all entries must: be typed or neatly written using dark blue or black ink on 8 ½ x 11 paper with margins; have a cover sheet that includes: the title or topic of the essay, school, district, borough, student’s first and last name, grade, class; the teacher’s first and last name and email address, the principal’s first and last name and email address, and parent’s full name, home address, and email address. Important: Provide citations of references. A bibliography must be included. Essays which do not include references will not be considered. Essays written in pencil will not be considered. Only three (3) entries per school will be accepted. Entries will not be returned. DEADLINE: All entries must be postmarked by Friday, January 3, 2020. PRIZES: • Each winner will receive a certificate of achievement and a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card at the ABENY “Bridge from Africa” ceremony during Black History Month, Saturday, February 1, 2020, at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. • Principals or their designees will be notified by email of the winners. If there are questions, contact Dr. Sheilah Bobo at,, or call her at 917-412-9099. Please mail essay entries to: Dr. Sheilah Bobo ABENY Education Chair 306 Gold Street, #3H Brooklyn, NY 11201

Assoc of Black Educators of NY Essay Contest