Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and issues he confronted still resonate with younger generations. The personal struggle many students face is at the heart of an annual writing contest featured in “Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards at Carnegie Mellon University” (CMU Press; $19.95).
The anthology features 91 pieces on topics ranging from racial and cultural stereotypes and school bullying to homophobia and identity questions. Of the 83 contributors, approximately 40 are graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and about 30 are CMU alumni.
“The mission of the MLK Day Writing Awards is to create a space for daring, eloquent and inventive work, in the belief that the process of writing itself can help young people explore and break down issues of difference in their lives,” said Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English who founded and directs the awards program.
According to a CMU press release, Jonathan deVries received his bachelor’s degree in Hispanic studies in 2005 and tied for first place in college poetry that year for “My Father Tries to Bond with Me.”
“It is flattering and surprising to see something I wrote 13 years ago resurface in this book. The surprise comes from seeing that, while my craft may have changed over the years, the underlying emotions driving the process haven’t. More broadly, the awards program has shown me how subtle racism can be and how many people it has impacted. In this way, it is important to conduct yourself properly, not just hold opinions about racism,” said deVries, who now works as an urban planner in New York City.
Since its inception, CMU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards have received more than 2,000 entries. Students are invited to enter this year’s contest by Friday, Nov. 24 at https://cmuenglish.submittable.com/submit.