Martin Luther King essay contest calls for submissions

Jessica Yang, Social Media Editor

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Baker Nord Center for Humanities and the Kelvin Smith Library have come together to sponsor the 6th-annual essay contest celebrating Dr. King’s values and vision.

There will be a $500 prize in each category—staff, undergraduate student, graduate student and faculty. The essay prompt, which asks writers to respond to one out of three quotes, can be found online.

“Every year, there is a theme that Dr. Marilyn Sanders Mobley, Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and her team come up with,” said Dr. Lisa Nielson, who is on the committee in charge of the essay contest. “What from Dr. King’s life and works do we want to focus on? They take into consideration what is going on politically, and they try to keep it hopeful instead of dreary. What can be a take away? The prompt tries to give people a quote from Dr. King’s works so they can explore where can we go. Where’s the next step? It gives people the chance to ask themselves, ‘What can we do to affect change?’”

With the essay deadline extension, the essay committee is now able to announce the winner to coincide with Black History Month, which is in February.

Although the prize money may be an incentive to enter the contest, Nielson says that the goal of the contest is “to get people thinking about whether or not we can start change.”

“Also, people on faculty and staff—we want to give them an outlet for conversation,” she added. “It gives them a platform to be creative but also share and collect ideas about social justice. It’s a really good way for people to think and react to what is going on around campus and the community.”

As much as King is associated with racism, on a greater scale, his legacy is in the struggle against social justice. Nielson said that she hopes to see entries covering a broad range of experiences and backgrounds, be it LGBTQ, minorities or anything else.

“Where else can we take the ideas of Martin Luther King?” Nielson said. “He was not just concerned with racism. The way people present their interpretations is really neat. Everyone takes it in a different way. What’s great about the contest is the ability to have this framework, and everyone grapples with it in his or her own perspective.”

Essays should be emailed to, and in the subject line, the applicable category (undergraduate student, faculty, etc.) should be included. Essays should be at least three pages, with a maximum of seven pages, all double-spaced. The deadline is Jan. 30 at 5 p.m.