15th annual Black History Month essay contest is back

Separate cash prizes for middle, high school, and college

Robert Smalls Historical Foundation
Robert Smalls went from slavery to being a ship’s captain in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. He convinced President Abraham Lincoln to allow blacks to join the Union Army, forming the South Carolina 1st and 2nd Regiments.
National Park Service
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. He became famous for his oratory and antislavery writings.

■ By Dennis Fletcher / Contributed

The Human Relations Council for Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee is sponsoring the annual Black History Month Essay Contest for the 15th year. Six different awards will be granted for three different classes of entrants: middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students. It is co-sponsored by the MSJC Diversity Committee.
The annual contest is open to all middle school, high school, and college students in the San Jacinto and Menifee valleys.
This event ties to the celebration and recognition of black history in the United States, which began in 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard PhD, initiated “Negro History Week.” Woodson, a historian, chose the second week in February because it included the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
In 1976, during the Bicentennial (200th birthday) of the U.S.A., the week‐long observance of black heritage was extended by Congress to the entire month of February in order to accommodate the numerous celebratory programs and activities.
As the United States celebrates National Black History Month in February, students in this contest choose a person of color who illustrates the triumph of the human spirit over circumstances and prejudice in order to build a life of accomplishment.
Many black Americans have added to our country’s illustrious history. There’s a fascinating story about Robert Small (1839–1915), a slave that ended up commanding U.S. naval vessels during the Civil War and later represented South Carolina in Congress for five terms. You can read more about him online at: http://civilwar.wikia.com/wiki/Robert_Smalls.
Contestants select a historical African American who they feel illustrates the triumph of the human spirit over circumstances and prejudice in order to build a life of accomplishment.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for saying, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” And, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Mary Morse, of the local Human Relations Council, is in charge of this annual essay project focusing on famous Black Americans. She told The Valley Chronicle, “It is a pleasure to showcase the talent of our students and, at the same time, educate the community about the valuable contributions of persons of color throughout history. In the words of Carter G. Woodson, the originator of Black History Month, ‘Truth comes to us from the past, then, like gold washed down from the mountains.’ For 15 years, we have been able to bring those truths from the past to our beloved community.”
Penelope Engard, recently elected board member at the Human Relations Council, who has been working on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest, said, “This annual essay contest represents an opportunity for all students to learn about someone new, and the chance to win cash prizes. It is also a great reference on college applications.”

Charla Hazen
Born in 1845, Mary Mahoney was the first African-American woman to be professionally trained as a nurse.

The rules
To be accepted for judging, student submissions must carefully follow a set of rules:
Write your essay as historical fiction: Imagine yourself living in the time of your chosen person and that you are acquainted with him or her. You might be his/her child, parent, friend, boss or even an adversary. Write about him/her from your unique point of view.
Make sure that your essay includes the answers to the following questions:
1. Who is the person about whom you want to write?
2. When did he/she live?
3. What did your chosen person do to “triumph over circumstances and prejudices to build a life of accomplishment”?
The length of the essay must fall between these ranges:
Middle School (grades 6 through 8) 300 – 500 words
High School (grades 9 through 12) 500 – 1,000 words
College (undergraduate only) 1,000 – 2,000 words
Home‐schooled and charter-schooled students are also encouraged to enter.
Plagiarism (copying from the Internet or someone else’s essay) is strictly forbidden. Essays found to contain plagiarized copy will disqualify the contestant. Small quotes from another’s work are permitted, but you must document who said it and where you found it.

The deadline for submission of essays is 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8. Submit essays by email to marymorse@humanrelationscouncil.com. Do not include the essay in the body of the email; instead attach them to the email as a document. If it is not possible for you to to submit it by email, contact Mary Morse at (951) 634-4048 for an alternate submission method.
All entries will become the property of the Human Relations Council of the Greater Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee Regions. Entry into the contest grants permission for Human Relations Council to release any essay to the press or on social media for publication.

Contest judging
The judges will not know any of the students’ names or schools while they are judging. Students will be judged on their ability to address the topic, to demonstrate original, creative thinking, and to express their ideas in a clear, articulate manner. There is also an award for the best presentation which will be judged at the awards ceremony.
The judges’ panel will be comprised of Human Relations Council members and other community members who are experts in Black History, long‐time participants in the Civil Rights movement, sociologists, and/or educators.

Prizes and awards
Every student who submits an essay will receive a Certificate of Participation the night of the awards ceremony, or will receive it by mail. Only winning students will be asked to present their essays at the awards dinner.
Cash prizes totaling 18 different awards will be granted:
High School
1 best high-school essay – $150
1 runner‐up high-school essay – $75
3 honorable mentions – $25 each
1 best presentation – $100

Middle School
1 best middle school essay – $150
1 runner‐up middle school essay – $75
3 honorable mentions – $25 each
1 best presentation – $100
1 best college essay – $150
1 runner‐up college essay – $75
3 honorable mentions – $25 each
1 best presentation – $100

The Best-Promotion awards will go to the students who perform the best when reading their winning essays.

The rules
Essays should be submitted using MS Word, Notepad or WordPerfect. Text should use the Arial font in 12-point type double-spaced. Each essay should include the name of the student, home telephone number, student phone number, and email address. Also include school name, teacher/counselor, and teacher/counselor phone number and email address. All rules are posted at www.humanrelationscouncil.com.

Awards ceremony
The awards ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the MSJC College Library on the San Jacinto Campus. All contestants are invited to attend, along with teachers, counselors, administrators and families. Those planning to attend should RSVP to marymorse@humanrelationscouncil.com.
Human Relations
The Human Relations Council of the Greater Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee Regions was founded in 1998. It is a California nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting respect and positive human relations in our communities. Tax ID # 33-0803034. Email: hrcinfo@humanrelationscouncil.com. Websites: www.facebook.com/human.relations.council, www.humanrelationscouncil.com. Phone: 951-634-4048.

Questions should be directed to Human Relations Council President Mary Morse, marymorse@humanrelationscouncil.com, (951) 634-4048.

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