By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia branch of the NAACP and the antiviolence initiave “Hands Across Philadelphia” are teaming up with the Philadelphia school district to launch a new essay contest focused on black history.

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The Black History Month Essay Contest is open to all Philadelphia high school students, grades 9 to 12.

“What better way to educate our people than about the accomplishments and history of African-Americans,” says Philadelphia NAACP president Jerry Mondesire (in photo).

Mondesire says students can submit essays on the impact of gun violence, on how black Americans have influenced entertainment, sports, business, and religion, or a before-and-after comparison of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools.

The school district and teachers’ union will work together to promote the contest to students, says Yvette T. Jones of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

“We will push them as strong or as hard as necessary to ensure that our students participate in this,” she said today.

The contest is the brainchild of Philadelphia radio personality “Lady B,” as part of her efforts with Hands Across Philadelphia, an initiative founded this summer to stop violence across the city.

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“We don’t encourage our kids enough, we don’t lift them up enough,” she said today.  “We are so busy telling them what they’re doing wrong, and very seldom do we tell them what they are doing right.”

Philadelphia public schools’ superintendent William Hite says he supports the effort.

“Anytime we can highlight the thoughts and opinions of our young people, I think it’s important,” he said.

Winners will get $100 cash, as well as other prizes.  Submissions can be e-mailed, by February 7th, to  Twenty-five winners will be announced at an awards ceremony and reception at Mother Bethel AME Church on February 17th.


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