2018 MLK Reflection Competition Guidelines

This year the MLK Reflection Competition seeks poetry, short stories, art, photography, music, and media as well as essays. The contest is open to staff, students, and faculty/administrators from Case Western Reserve University and Cuyahoga Community College. First and Second place winners will be chosen from the categories of Written and Non-Written expression, and the awarding of Honorable Mentions will be at the discretion of the judges. All winners will be invited to read from and discuss their work at the reception and celebration at Kelvin Smith Library on the Case Western Reserve University campus, which is tentatively scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 22nd from 4:00-6:00pm. The reception and celebration are open to the community, so please come support our artists.
If you are interested in participating but do not have time to submit work for the competition, please consider volunteering to help at the reception or serve as a judge! We will need student, staff, and faculty/administrators from both CWRU and Tri-C to help judge, along with volunteers to help set up displays and chairs for the reception and to take things down after. Please send a note indicating your interest in judging or volunteering to MLK-Contest@case.edu by January 15, 2018.
For questions, please contact:


Guidelines for Written Reflections:

For ALL written submissions, please use a readable 12pt font in either Word (.doc or .docx) or .pdf format. Essays should be double-spaced with 1″ margins. With all submissions, please include:

  • your name
  • which prompt you used
  • your institution (CWRU or Tri-C+campus)
  • whether you are a student, faculty/administrator, or staff.

All submissions must be emailed to MLK-Contest@case.edu by February 1, 2018 at 5pm.
Essays, interviews, and short stories:

  • Essays, interviews, and short stories (including flash fiction) can be from 500–1,500 words, not to exceed six (6) pages in length.


  • All forms of poetry are welcome, including slam and choreopoems. For the latter, you may submit a video or audio recording of your performance, although a text needs to be submitted as well. Poetry submissions may include one to three poems, with no more than two pages per poem or 60 lines in total. For slam and choreopoems, video submissions may not exceed five minutes in duration and/or five pages in written length. Single poems and short forms such as haiku are welcome.
  • All work will remain the sole property of the artist.


Guidelines for Non-Written Reflections:

For ALL non-written submissions, please include a brief text that states:

  • your name
  • the title of the work
  • which prompt you used
  • your institution (CWRU or Tri-C+campus)
  • whether you are a student, faculty/administrator or staff.

You are welcome to include a short description of the work and your intent, although it is not required. All submissions must be emailed to MLK-Contest@case.edu by February 1, 2018 at 5pm.
Art and photography:

  • Artists and photographers may submit up to three pieces, which may be three individual images or part of a series. All submissions for art and photography must be digital to facilitate judging. Submissions should be in .jpg or .tiff format of a minimum 300dpi/1800px wide each, not to exceed 25MB in size. We will display the original for paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other non-digital art forms, and contribute to having prints made for photography.
  • All work will remain the sole property of the artist.


  • Video submissions may include narrative film, interviews, montages, mashups, and music videos of original material. Videos should be no more than three to five minutes in length and must include a brief text describing the project.
  • All work will remain the sole property of the artist.


2018 MLK Reflection Competition Prompts

Using one of the prompts below, please reflect on how messages from Dr. King, Shirley Anita Chisholm, and Marian Wright Edelman continue to impact our current movements towards civil rights. You may focus on how those movements and issues relate specifically to Cleveland, the nation, or the world. Submissions are also encouraged to consider how these ideas and messages can be extended to all aspects of human diversity and identity, including LGBTQIA+, ability, socioeconomic class, gender, and particularly how those identities intersect.


Prompt #1:

    As a college student at Morehouse College, King wrote “The Purpose of Education” (Jan/Feb 1947), in which he considered the purposes of education, questioning whether education at the time was fulfilling those purposes.

      King writes,

      “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
      The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society.”

    His critique is relevant to contemporary conversations about the value of higher education, what role education plays in individual lives, and the value of education in our society. How does King’s view of education here inform your own experience with learning and participating in society? How do his words inform our current debates about the value of the college experience?


Prompt #2:

    Listen to (or read the transcript of) Dr. King’s speech to the students of Glenville High School, Cleveland, Ohio, April 26,1967, titled “Rise Up and Say, I am Somebody.” The audio runs 21:02 minutes, and you might respond to any quote from the speech that inspires you.

   You might also find cause for reflection in these words, with which he introduces the subject of his remarks:

    “Now the first thing that we must do is to develop within ourselves a deep sense of somebodyness. Don’t let anybody make you feel that you are nobody because the minute one feels that way he is incapable of rising to his full maturity as a person” (3:17-3:45).

The audio and transcript are also available on this Cleveland.com blog.


Prompt #3:

    The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced to Congress in 1923; it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later, in 1972, that the ERA passed in the House and Senate. However, after the ERA was sent to the individual states for ratification, it was unable to secure the necessary majority of states’ approvals and still remains in limbo today.

    One of the ERA’s strongest supporters was Shirley Anita (St. Hill) Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to Congress as a representative of New York in 1968. Chisholm’s speech, “For the Equal Rights Amendment” (August 10, 1970), is particularly timely today, 45 years after the ERA passed the House and Senate and nearly 100 years after its initial submission to Congress in 1923. Read through Chisholm’s speech, and respond to any quote that stands out to you. Passages of interest may include:

    “Discrimination against women, solely on the basis of their sex, is so widespread that [it] seems to many persons normal, natural and right. Legal expression of prejudice on the grounds of religious or political belief has become a minor problem in our society. Prejudice on the basis of race is, at least, under systematic attack. There is reason for optimism that it will start to die with the present older generation. It is time we act to assure full equality of opportunity to those citizens who, although in a majority, suffer the restrictions that are commonly imposed on minorities, to women.”

    “The argument that this amendment will not solve the problem of sex discrimination is not relevant. If the argument were used against a civil rights bill, as it has been used in the past, the prejudice that lies behind it would be embarrassing. Of course laws will not eliminate prejudice from the hearts of human beings. But that is no reason to allow prejudice to continue to be enshrined in our laws – to perpetuate injustice through inaction.”


Prompt #4:

    Marian Wright Edelman served as legal counsel for Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that he began in 1967, shortly before his assassination. The Poor People’s Campaign sought economic justice for the nation’s poor through reforms of minimum wage, unemployment, and education. Edelman continued her own work by establishing the Children’s Defense Fund, an organization that advocates for economic and educational justice for children. This year, the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University honored Edelman for her ethical leadership and advocacy. In her 2017 commencement speech at Stanford, Edelman called upon her audience to speak out in the name of justice on behalf of the nation’s children. Reflect on how Edelman’s call to action echoes the sentiments of Dr. King’s message, and how education and agency can create social change. Some passages for reflection include:


    “The greatest threat to America’s security does not come from any enemy without but from our enemy within, and our failure to protect and invest in all of our children. We can change that, and we must change that, and we need your voice.”


    “What I hope is you will stand up when children are mistreated. I hope you will stand up when you see unequal opportunities for children in your communities and in your nation. And when you see unjust policies, stand up and fight back. They need to hear from you.”


    “I want to end with a prayer to the God of children:

    O God of the children of Syria and Sudan, of Iraq, Iran and Israel, of Nigeria, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and of the West Bank and Gaza, because we believe in the God of all children, wherever they are,
    Of Chicago, Cleveland, Darfur and Detroit and Ferguson,
    Help us to step up to the plate and make sure that they are safe and protected,
    Of Libya, Yemen and Ukraine, England and Turkey,

    Help us to love and respect and protect them all.