May 1, 2009
Young Poets Win Prizes in Second Annual Competition

Students from Camden County schools read their winning poems and received plaques, books and cash prizes at the sixth Annual Jessie Redmon Fauset Day in Lawnside on April 25.

The winners, competing in the second Spirit of the Renaissance Poetry Competition, wrote on the theme "The American Dreamers."

A total of $625 in prizes were awarded; the top five winners also received plaques. They are:

  • First place - Maryam Aziz, senior, Haddon Heights High School, Poem - Untitled
    Maryam Aziz accepts her award from Linda Shockley Photo: Raymond L. Fussell
  • Second place - Devon Sanford, sophomore, Haddon Township High School, Poem - We are the American Dreamers
  • Third Place - Sharee Bookman, junior, Creative Arts High School, Camden, Poem - The American Dreamers
  • Fourth Place - Francesca Collins, eighth grader, Haddonfield Middle School, Poem - Flowing Light
  • Fifth Place - Jameil Herder, freshman, Timber Creek High School, Erial, Poem - American Dream: Promise
  • Honorable mention was awarded to sophomores Tyler Stosny and Shawn Kennedy of Triton High School, Runnemede, freshmen Charlotte Montague and Shadera Payne and sophomore Zahir Diggs, all of Timber Creek High School, Erial.

    Special recognition went to the youngest contestants -- fifth graders Jaiya Webbs and Rashaan High of DUE Season Charter School, Camden, who received certificates and copies of Nikki Giovanni's latest book and CD project, "Hip Hop Speaks to Children."

    Spoken Word artist Napalm reads from his book. Photo: Raymond L. FussellKate Rushin makes a point about writing and research. Photo: Raymond L. Fussell

    The keynote speaker was Kate Rushin, a poet and educator, and former Lawnside resident. Her 1993 book The Black Back-Ups featured several poems about her family and community life in Lawnside. Ms. Rushin holds an MFA from Brown University and a bachelor's from Oberlin College. She talked about the importance of family history -- hers is rooted in ancestors who escaped to Lawnside -- and for youth to find their voice and write. An instructor at The Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts, she is a former associate professor and poet-in-residence at Wesleyan University. Middletown, Conn. She has been a judge for the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Outloud competition and a Cave Canem Foundation fellow.

    Jessie Redmon Fauset was a Harlem Renaissance novelist, poet and literary editor for the NAACP's Crisis magazine. She was a protégé of the legendary editor, activist and intellectual W.E.B. DuBois. Miss Fauset was born in Lawnside in 1882 when her father was pastor of Mount Pisgah A.M.E. Church. The historical society began honoring Miss Fauset in 2004.

    Nasir Dickerson, on saxophone, leads the Renaissance Messengers in performance at Jessie Redmon Fauset Day. Photo: Raymond L. Fussell

    Nasir Dickerson and the Renaissance Messengers played music from the Renaissance era and his own compositions. Napalm, who judged the competition and conducted poetry workshops for the Society, performed his own works and those of others. Sandra Turner-Barnes, executive director of the Cultural and Heritage Commission, was also a judge. The Society plans to publish the winning poems from the first two competitions later this year.

    The Spirit of the Renaissance Poetry competition and Jessie Redmon Fauset Day were funded by a grant from the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission through the local regrant program of the New Jersey Council for the Arts. The Lawnside Historical Society is a qualified organization of the New Jersey Cultural Trust and recipient of a general operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission.

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