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Black History Contest Entries On Banning The "N" Word Break Records

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A capacity crowd was in attendance when the Minorities in the Profession Section honored the top three winners in its annual Black History Month Contest during a Feb. 20 reception at the New Jersey Law Center. Wilson Keng of New Providence High School, Kirstin Evans of Cherokee High School in Marlton and Lesley Pairol of Memorial High School in West New York placed first, second and third in the annual MIPS contest and came out on top in a competition where the number of entries broke all previous records. “With over 200 entries, the high school essay contest exceeded everyone’s expectations and the winning essays were nothing short of extraordinary,” said Tracy M. Thompson, chair of the Minorities in the Profession Section.

In addition, Jared Khan of Immaculate Conception High School in Somerville was on hand to accept an honorable mention for his essay.

“The entries in this competition were so well done that we wanted to award a fourth and fifth place, and so presented those students with an honorable mention,” Thompson said.

The second honorable mention was awarded to Rachael Kenney of Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls.

High school students were asked to write an essay on banning the use of the “n” word as a hypothetical candidate for Student Government Association president at Richard Pryor High School in Freedomville, New Jersey. While some student organizations supported the school policy to ban use of the word, others opposed it and the candidates were to address the ban as their key platform in running for SGA president.

In his essay, first place winner and New Providence High School sophomore Keng told his fellow students, “we must nip this trouble in the bud not by banning this word, but by uniting our organizations together into a common cause against racial discrimination not only against African Americans, but other races as well.”

Keng proposed the formation of a new student organization called FREE, Free Rights of Equal Expression. The charge for this group would be to “work together and form new organizations or school-wide activities or lessons” to raise awareness. “We rarely come across such passion for a goal, and instead of squandering this in conflict, let us channel it towards a better future,” he wrote.

In her argument in support of the ban, second place winner and Cherokee High School sophomore Evans declared use of the “n” word a black-on-black crime and armed robbery. “Armed with the history of slavery, oppression and segregation, we steal from ourselves priceless gifts that can never be replaced. Using the ‘n’ word is like selling an illegal drug, which causes its users to be forever addicted to ignorance and self-hate.” Evans encouraged her fellow students to use their voices “to speak words of hope, speak words of dignity and speak words of power.”

Third place went to Memorial High School senior Pairol who supported the ban on the “n” word, because “even though it might seem a violation of freedom of speech, this policy respects those students who feel offended by this word, while keeping our school safe from encouraging racism.”

The keynote speaker for the event, Rev. William Rutherford of New Point Baptist Church in Irvington, “concluded our meeting with soul stirring remarks,” said Thompson. The reception also featured an art installation by Thom Reaves, a young emerging African-American artist from Trenton. The installation was brought to the Law Center by J&W Gallery of Fine Art in New Hope, PA. The MIPS event also featured the unveiling of a bronze bust of Billy Lee, the errand boy or slave of General George Washington. Completed by artist George McManus, the J&W Gallery is searching for a suitable museum to house the bust.

The Black History Month committee included Marsetta Lee, Nina Bonner, Deirdre Webster Cobb, William Rogers III, Denelle Waynick and Lori Caughman.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the association’s website at www.njsba.com.

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