U.S. Embassy Honours 2014 Black History Month Essay Contest Winners

Harare, February 28, 2014 – The United States Embassy announced five winners of the 4th annual Black History Month Essay Contest. The national winners are 1st – Zibusiso Mtunzi from John Tallach High (Bulawayo); 2nd – Rutendo Madziwo, from Monte Cassino Girl’s High (Macheke); 3rd – Ruvimbo Dzurumi from Hellenic High (Harare); 4th – Amanda Machingura from Guinea Fowl High (Gweru); and 5th – Ennie Soromei from Kyle College (Masvingo). 

The five ranked top out of roughly 60 finalist essays submitted from over 30 schools from all 10 Provinces in Zimbabwe.  Each school submitted the top two essays from among all Upper 6 students who entered.

The students, parents and representatives from their schools were honored at a ceremony hosted by the United States Counselor for Public Affairs, Karen Kelley, at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence on Monday. The students received certificates signed by Ambassador D. Bruce Wharton, African American literature and history books, as well as gift bags of prizes.  Each school received sets of Zimbabwean English and vernacular literature published by Weaver Press.

An independent panel of five judges selected the winners who were required to write an essay of up to 500 words in response to this question: “President Obama stated at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service that Mandela inspired him to activism. To what extent do you agree? Discuss the power of ideas to make change in one’s community or nation. Who or what inspires you?”

The annual competition is held in honor of Black History Month, celebrated every February in the United States.  It provides an opportunity for students to showcase their writing skills as well as their understanding of the significant people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.

Congratulating the winners, Kelley said she hoped the meeting with the students was a beginning of new relationships between the U.S. and Zimbabwean youth. “We hope the initiative you took by entering this contest will lead you to study and learn more about how our two histories are linked together, and to work hard to expand opportunities in your communities as so many before you have done in theirs.”  

In their essays, the students showed a profound understanding of the power of ideas and how activism can lead to change in their communities. Zibusiso Mtunzi wrote in his winning essay: “Activism is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and it needs people with strength, intelligence, passion and endurance.”

“To us as Zimbabweans, Black History Month means we celebrate our second day of independence, and people recognizing more of what people went through for us to be living in the world we are living in now,” said Amanda Machingura, an Upper Six Sciences student in Gweru.  Amanda bemoaned the fact that most high school students do not focus on history but when her peers go through newspapers they focus mostly on entertainment instead of other critical social and political issues.

Rutendo Madziwo said she is motivated by iconic Africans as well as the less celebrated people in her community. “As a proud African, icons like (Nelson) Mandela and Strive Masiyiwa inspire me,” Madziwo said in her essay. “At the same time, I am also inspired by simple people like my grandmother, who have managed to make a change in their communities and in most cases, are not even recognized.”

Two of the winners from previous competitions are now studying in the United States. Sibusisiwe Mukwakwami, who won the competition in 2012, received a MasterCard Scholarship and is now studying at the University of California – Berkeley, and Julia Jenjezwa, the 2011 winner, was awarded a scholarship to study at Yale University. – ZimPAS