Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”
For this year’s annual MLK Poetry Competition, students are being asked to submit up to two poems that reflect on this notion of forgiveness.
The competition, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Life, is designed to recognize and encourage student writing of multicultural poetry.
Ishmael Solomon, director of Multicultural Life at Saint Vincent College, elaborated on this year’s theme.
“The fire has been lit again with the whole racial tensions in this country,” Solomon said. “When I heard ‘forgiveness,’ […] I said ‘this is perfect.’”
Solomon mentioned the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 people were killed and how forgiveness is a topic that has not been discussed.
“You listen to the news […] you get all these reports and you don’t hear the forgiving part,” Solomon stated. “No one is talking about forgiveness nowadays.”
Solomon said that this year’s theme was proposed by Michelle Gil-Montero, associate professor of English and the judge for the competition.
Last year, Tyrique Anderson, sophomore psychology major, won first place in the MLK Poetry Competition. His poem “Being Mixed” explored the topic of identity and how it plays a role in his life.
“[Anderson] definitely put his heart into that. And you got a good sense of ‘this is how I feel,’” Solomon said.
Anderson reflected on why he chose identity as the topic of “Being Mixed.”
“[Identity] was always important to me while I was a child […] people were pointing me different ways and society was saying different things,” Anderson said.
Anderson stated that he recognized this to be a common problem with most people in the African American community.
“[…] There is pressure on identity and people view it and want people to fit in a box,” Anderson explained. “And that’s not always true. People don’t fit into boxes.”
The MLK Poetry Competition is a longstanding tradition at Saint Vincent College.
Anderson stated that it is important that Saint Vincent hosts the competition every year because it shows the college’s appreciation towards MLK, African Americans, other students and everybody.
“It’s saying […] ‘these are issue
s that we need to confront and it’s good to talk about,” Anderson said. “So, let’s talk about them and actually work through them.’”
Anderson also commented on the theme of forgiveness and its significance given the recent events in Pittsburgh, citing the quote “Dream a better dream” from one of his favorite movies, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.
“I’ve always taken that [quote] to heart. Even in our real world today, we can dream a better dream about how society can be,” Anderson said, adding that people can learn how to forgive and to learn how to work through obstacles, including spreading love instead of hate.
The deadline for competition entries is 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 19. The winner will be announced at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration dinner in the Fred Rogers Center on Jan. 22.
First place will receive a $100 SVC Bookstore shopping spree. Second and third place will receive $50 and $25, respectively.
Additionally, throughout the month of January, the Office of Multicultural Life will sponsor various events including a Dream Center in the Carey Center on Jan. 14.