Black history month essay winners announced

Marshall University’s Carter G. Woodson Lyceum congratulated five high schoolers during the 2020 Carter G. Woodson Essay Competition, in which Cabell County students wrote essays regarding the 2020 Black History Month Theme, “African Americans and the Vote.”

“This is a program where we’re celebrating the youth and what they did,” said Corey Cunningham, who created the essay contest and member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “It’s pretty much celebrating young youth to probably go on and make history instead of just celebrating people’s past lives, but it’s also to show people of the community that we all come together.”

The Lyceum recognized 10th graders Claire Burbery, Taylor Nunley and Blaise Schray, 11th grader Tim’Mara Wagoner and 12th grader Ian Tsai.  Cunningham said he thought of the idea for an essay contest in order to reach back to the community, rather than just giving back.

“A lot of times people give back to the community, but they aren’t actually reaching back,” he said. “For reaching back, you see the people that are causing the action. You’re seeing students and young scholars and environments where they see you and rewarding them.”

The event featured speakers such as Kenneth Hale, who spoke of Woodson’s impact on Omega Psi Phi, the Father of Black History’s fraternity, and former Marshall staff member David Harris who spoke of the importance of voting. Harris cited how multiple major changes in the world were decided by one vote, and people should keep that in mind when thinking about voting.

“Each of our votes count and are important, and I want y’all to remember that,” Harris said. “I want all of you, if you haven’t yet, register to vote. Because you know, if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Director of the Lyceum Burnis Morris said the competition included submissions from more than 140 high schoolers, then teachers narrowed down the submissions to 32, and those were sent to a panel of judges to choose the finalist. Morris said there was a turn of events when the judges were deciding the winners.

“We were supposed to have one winner for 10th grade, one for 11th and one for 12,” Morris said. “But the judges decided the essays were so good that we should have five winners instead.”

Cunningham recognized the winners by reminding them the attendees at the event were all supporting them.

“We are all here for you,” he said. “We all came to celebrate you, and we still will in the future.”

The event also featured singing from Andrea Bowman from Salt of the World Ministries, a Greek “roll call” of all of Marshall’s National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities and invocation and benediction from Anthony Stradwick, a pastor at Salt of the World Ministries.

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected].