Carnegie Mellon’s 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Depict Students’ Struggles With Race, Discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – PITTSBURGH, PA – For the 14th consecutive year, Carnegie Mellon University invited Pittsburgh-area high school and college students to compete in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards. The contest, which encourages students to explore personal experiences with race and discrimination through poetry and prose, attracted nearly 200 entries from public and private high schools across western Pennsylvania as well as several colleges and universities.

Created by Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English, the awards program prompts students to think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and race in the context of their everyday lives. The 21 winners – in the categories of college poetry, high school poetry, college prose and high school prose – will read their pieces as part of CMU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at 1:30 p.m., Jan. 21, in the University Center, Rangos 3.

“The intense emotion that many of the pieces evoked was very moving to me,” Daniels said. “To see these young people struggling to deal with the complexities of race and difference was heartening.”

CMU’s Department of English, Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the President sponsored the awards. Cash prizes will be presented to the student winters.

2013 Carnegie Mellon University Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Winners:

College Poetry
First Place: Kristen Swanson, “One Shade Too Many”
Second Place: Iman Mazloum, “Those Known Present and Past”
Third Place: Kellie Brickner, “Children’s Crusade”

High School Poetry
First Place: Alexis Payne, “Maggi Cubes with My Stepfather”
Second Place: Leo Johnson, “Letters”
Third Place: Laura Condon, “Star”
Honorable Mention:
Maya Best, “Stranger”
Josie Griffith, “We Are Still Fighting”
Chantell Taliaferro, “Does Blackness Kill Beauty?”
Tyra Jamison, “Tight Lips”

College Prose
First Place: Laura Stiles, “True Love”
Second Place: Paul Victor Nunez, “White”
Third Place: Connie Chan, “American Jeans”
Honorable Mention:
Laurnie Wilson, “More Than That”

High School Prose
First Place: Kyle Droppa, “What Will Be Done When the Sun Sets Red” and Sarah Ryan, “My Soul and I”
Second Place: Elijah Dumaine-Schutz, “Living the Dream”
Third Place: Nathaniel Brodsky, “I Had a Nightmare”
Honorable Mention:
Madeline Schmiedeknecht, “Assumptions”
Bill Fox, “Ending Hatred: My Struggle with ‘Reverse Racism'”
Naeem Davis, “Discrimination in a Changing World”

For more information and to read the 2013 winning entries, visit

To learn more about the humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, watch this video:

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