2024 Poetry Contest Winners

Many thanks again to our Poetry Contest Chair, Maureen McGerty, and our esteemed judge, Kathleen Ripley Leo. She is a poet, novelist, professor of creative writing, memoirist, author of books of poems, a novel, and editor of teaching the art of creative writing. Read more about Leo and her advice on the power of words (PDF).

First Place

Elizabeth Timmerman, winner of $75

Nothing Left to Lose

Inspired by the life story of Mother Jones (1837-1930)

No one chooses to lose it all
But if fate happens to make that call
And you find yourself the last one standing,
You might as well stand for something.

The holy water of your trailing tears
Can wash away what remains of your fears.
You are invincible – can you feel that power
When consequences no longer matter?

Finding the silver lining of tragedy
Is not something that comes easily.
But your broken heart is still pumping,
And you might as well stand for something.

Let what leaves your lips be a song
A bittersweet requiem for what is gone.
It can become your battle cry - to expose a lie
Or help people see the world through new eyes.

You are fearless now, but not hopeless -
There is nothing to keep you from the fight for justice.
Your empty hands are perfecting for raising
So you might as well stand for something.

Second Place

Given Mukelabai Kolomu, winner of $50

Songs of Africa

History like a song
Singing stories reaching the sky
As our voices rise from dust and sand

We are as beautiful as the black soil
We shine like a black star with our soul

Roots run deep in a sacred sites
Where lies the essence of human rites
It’s the key to who we are and more
Seeing through eyes of those before
We’ve learn what life was and how to live it

African culture is a forest of diversity
Cultural heritage is bright
A mountain of resilience
We are Africans
Our seeds of identity is unity
We flow like a river of wisdom
Our legacy shines like a sunset of liberation

Third Place

Anna J. Small Roseboro, winner of $25

Now They Know Better!

They told him his folks had no history.
He spent years proving them wrong.
He collected books and arts and letters
Proving contributions to culture and song.

He immigrated to the USA and joined the band,
not as a musician but as an archiving man.
During the years of the Harlem Renaissance
This Afro-Puerto Rican man took a stand.

Schomburg joined intellectuals there.
They had done so much and had so much to say
about their participation in progress of this nation.
Inventors and educators skilled in business and science
records collected and preserved for all who would question.

Because of his passion and knowledge,
He was successful working at Fisk college.
He used what he learned, misinformation he spurned
When the library he built these rumors he kil’t.
and now you can visit yourself.
Check the art on the wall and the books on the shelf.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a meticulous historian and important Harlem Renaissance figure. During his career, he was referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes of Black History” due to his exhaustive research on Africa and the diaspora. Schomburg was born Jan. 24, 1874 to a Black mother from the Virgin Islands and a German father who lived in Puerto Rico. As a boy, Schomburg was told by a teacher that Black history was a farce, which set him on a path early on to prove that doubter wrong. (from rebrand.ly/pvtf4hq) Photo from public domain.