Racial Justice Essay Contest

Chatham’s Community Remembrance Coalition (CRC-C) formed two years ago to “seek the whole truth about Black history in Chatham County, justice based on that truth, and reconciliation to move from forward with better race relations in the county for the benefit of all. Now, the organization is sponsoring an essay contest for local high school students on the topic of racial justice.

This week we speak with Mary Harris of the CRC-C about the contest. A semi-retired educator with more than 30 years of experience in the field, Harris has served Chatham County schools as a teacher and as a central employment and human relations services coordinator, among other positions. . A Certified Diversity Trainer and Certified Teacher Mentor, Harris is also a Fellow of the West Chatham NAACP and Vice President of the Chatham High School Alumni Association.

Her role in CRC-C is to help plan, organize and meet with key members of the community, churches and education community to develop action plans to mobilize people to bring about changes for the betterment of the county and the country for all. .

Tell us about the contest…

The Racial Justice Essay Contest is presented by CRC-C and Chatham NAACP Branches 5377 & 5378 in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama.

The topic of the essay contest is telling the truth about our country’s history of racial injustice. The prizes will total $5,000, divided among the winners. The length of the essay is between 800 and 1000 words. The competition is open to students in grades 9-12 attending public secondary schools in Chatham County.

The competition is open now and entries are due by April 20, 2022. EJI representatives will read, evaluate and choose the essay winners.

The CRC-C Education Committee worked closely with Chatham County Schools staff to develop the contest and communicate with students and teachers. Interested students should go to the CRC-C.org website to see the instructions for the interest form and the address to submit the form. The form must be signed by the parents or guardians. Essays will be submitted through a process identified by the headteachers (director or delegate).

How did the idea for the essay contest come about?

The mission of Community Remembrance Coalition-Chatham is to improve race relations and build civility, empathy and understanding between and within races, faiths and communities in Chatham County. CRC-C works closely with EJI to promote a new era of truth and justice that begins with confronting our history of racial injustice. This essay contest was born out of a conversation between EJI staff and members of the CRC-C. EJI has sponsored similar contests in other cities and states.

The subject is “racial justice”. How was this topic chosen and how do you envision participating students approaching this topic?

The dehumanizing myth of a racial hierarchy persists today because it is not talked about. Students are encouraged to examine the history of a subject of racial injustice and discuss its legacy today. Essays should explain the chosen topic using one or more specific historical events, explore how injustice persists, and imagine solutions for a future free of racial injustice. Students are encouraged to reflect on the impact of the topic on their own life and community.

How are you going to get students interested in getting in?

Chatham County Central Services is helping CRC-C identify social studies, English, history and other teachers and teams to disseminate information about the essay contest to their students. They worked closely with CRC-C Chatham to create guidelines and requirements for the competition.

At CRC-C, we will provide tutorials, help identify resources, and offer support as needed. Students are seekers of “greater truths” about social concerns. Most students will have heard of “dividing lines” such as black/white, rich/poor, and the social injustices of people of color as they navigate their schools and communities. The exciting subject matter and substantial prizes should pique student interest.

What will you be looking for in the submitted entries and how will the judging work?

Judging will take place as stated in the trial announcement. EJI notes that winning essays typically include the following features:

• A captivating and creative introduction

• Supporting paragraphs that use clear examples and various sources

• Personal reflections related to the topics and revealing how past and current issues relate to racial injustice in America

• A strong conclusion that connects the main ideas and introduces a meaningful idea or call to action

• Properly gives credit to source materials to avoid plagiarism

• Has been carefully edited for spelling and grammar

Students selected as winners will be invited to read or share their stories at a public recognition event with the Chatham County School Board or the Community Remembrance Coalition-Chatham on a date to be announced later.

Do you envision this as an annual competition?

We will assess participation and level of interest to determine if the contest is a one-time or annual event. This essay contest is an attempt to give students a platform to express their thoughts, feelings, and conscience on the topic of “racial justice.”

Jessica C. Bell