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Black History Month Contest Winner Prevails Over 200 Student Entires

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Providence High School student Wilson F. Keng was awarded first place on Feb. 20 for his essay on banning the use of the “n” word in the 2007 Black History Month Contest for New Jersey High School Students sponsored by the Minorities in the Profession Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Contest officials received over 200 essays in this contest that involved New Jersey high school students and gave them a forum on a current, controversial topic. The awards were presented at a reception at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.

“This is the most entries that we have received for our annual Black History Month essay contest,” said Minorities in the Profession Section Chair Tracy M. Thompson. “The entries were so good, that we wanted to give a fourth and fifth place, and so awarded those students with an Honorable Mention.”

In his essay, as a hypothetical candidate for Student Government Association president at Richard Pryor High School in Freedomville, New Jersey, sophomore Keng told his fellow students that “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, through education and awareness.”

In the hypothetical situation described in contest rules, Richard Pryor High School recently implemented a new policy banning the use of the “n” word. Some student organizations support the policy while others oppose it. In their essay, students were to place themselves in the hypothetical, and write an essay as a candidate for the Student Government Association (SGA) that made the ban a key platform for SGA president.

In his essay, Keng discussed the views of both sides — that the word is a painful reminder of discrimination and is viewed as unadulterated racism, but it is also used between friends to “show affection and rebelliousness against prejudice.” Keng wrote “By disallowing complete use of these words, we risk invading privacy and the freedom of speech. On the other hand, I do not condone their derogatory uses.”

In his conclusion, Keng offered a possible solution for all sides, as opposed to supporting only one side. He 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.

For first place, Keng received a $250 American Express Gift Cheque and a plaque. Second place was awarded to Kirstin Evans of Cherokee High School in Marlton. Third place was awarded to Lesley Pairol of Memorial High School in West New York.

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