Two Lehman Students Win Top Prizes in CUNY-wide Labor Arts Contest

April 18, 2013 10:18 am English Dept, Lehman College Art Gallery, Macaulay Honors College, School of Arts and Humanities

Two Lehman College students have been named first- and second-prize winners in a CUNY-wide contest designed to celebrate labor arts by using creative works to honor working people. Ariella Michal Medows, a Macaulay Honors College student who attends Lehman College, claimed the first place prize, while Samontha Forbes, took home the second-place prize.

The contest, funded by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Doundation, aims at promoting labor history in the student community. “I am truly humbled that my piece was selected. I’m still processing it,” said Medows. “This achievement speaks on a visceral level to the experiences of my family and families like mine, no matter their nationalities, who believe in the power of labor to
improve their lives.”

Medows, a forensic anthropology student, won the first place in the Fiction/Nonfiction Narrative category—including $1000—for “Bubby’s Blood,” a piece about her maternal grandmother who worked hard for most of her life in a sewing factory. When comparing her grandmother story to her own, Medows wrote at the end of her piece, “I have the agency to write my own future because of the past that she has shared with me, complete with blood, sweat, and the absence of tears.”

Forbes, an English major, won for her poem “Lace Work.” In the poem, she writes from the perspective of a child worker producing hand-made lace in a workshop where “the bobbins were stained from runny red nose and weeping cracked lips.” Forbes said that although she is very critical of her own, her poetry professor at Lehman, Salita Bryant, encouraged her to submit her work to the contest. “I’ve always loved reading fiction and I just enjoyed developing it and capturing the picture with words,” Forbes said.

The contest, judged by a panel of CUNY faculty, is open to all CUNY undergraduate students and offers cash prizes for poetry, essay, fiction, nonfiction, and art projects. Medows and Forbes will both be awarded their prizes—worth $1,000 and $500, respectively—at an award ceremony held on Thursday, April 18 in the Lehman Art Gallery.

“Ms. Forbes’s poem is rich with history, striking imagery, and elegance. Just as moving is Ms. Medows’ nonfiction narrative about her grandmother, a personal story filled with rich detail, compassion, and empathy. Both works rose to the top in extremely competitive categories,” said Lehman College Associate Dean Terrence Cheng, who served as the contest’s coordinator. “These students and their work are a testament to their talent as well as their commitment to craft.”