Ten undergraduates in the senior colleges of the City University of New York have won prizes for Making Work Visible, the 2012 Labor Arts/CUNY Contest, held annually to celebrate the achievements of the U.S. labor movement.
Jointly sponsored by Labor Arts and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, prizes are awarded for entries in three categories — essays, fiction/narrative nonfiction, and poetry — that showcase the author’s creativity, imagination and analytical ability. Entries are judged according to originality, content and style.
The purpose of the contest is to revitalize the study of labor history at CUNY, particularly the artwork produce by the labor movement, including photographs, murals and political cartoons, which present powerful images that encourage understanding and appreciation of the often- overlooked contributions working people make to our society. (Examples from each medium are on display at the Labor Arts Web museum www.laborarts.org.)
First place prizes of $1500 were awarded to: Emma Rock from Brooklyn College for her essay, “Zora Neale Hurston: Her Work, Politics, and Life View”; Laquann Jenkins of Lehman College for her poem, “Bitter Chocolate,” that deals with the plight of child laborers; and Zachary Amendt, from CUNY ‘s Online program for his nonfiction narrative piece “Remington Silent,” about college students laboring on a California farm).
“I was totally surprised,” says Jenkins, who graduated in May with a B.A. in English. She was inspired to write her poem after finding a picture of a child laborer toiling the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast, performing physically back-breaking work that is not supposed to be a part of anyone’s childhood.
Monetary prizes of $750 were awarded to three Second Place winners, $300 was awarded to three Third Place winners, and $100 was awarded to those receiving Honorable Mention. Winning essays and photos may be viewed online at http://www.laborarts.org/exhibits/essaycontest2012/ together with details of the 2013 competition.
Judging this year’s competition were CUNY Professors Salita Bryant (English, Lehman College), Nicole Cooley (English, Queens College) and Vincent DiGirolamo (History, Baruch College). Professors Timothy Alborn and Terrence Cheng, the dean and associate dean respectively of Lehman’s School of Arts and Humanities, served as contest administrators.
“It is an incredible opportunity for our students to be able to submit their work and win such substantial prizes,” said Dean Alborn. “The work we received this year was as diverse in theme as it was exquisitely detailed and well-executed in craft. We are proud of our students, and equally thankful to the Rubin Foundation for its incredible generosity in making this opportunity possible.”
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Donald Rubin, co-founder and co-chair of the Rubin Museum of Art, both attended the award ceremony, held on May 8 at the CUNY Graduate Center.