Press release Sept. 7, 2023
SYMPOSIUM COMMEMORATION OF 125th ANNIVERSARY of 1898 MASSACRE
Begins with Sept.9th 1898 Student Essay Competition
[WILMINGTON, NC] The Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club (WJBC), a community service group in association with the Wilmington Journal newspaper, announced during a press conference at Gregory Congregational Church UCC on Thursday, Sept. 7th, that in association with the R.S and T.C. Jervay Foundation, it is sponsoring a symposium commemorating the 125th anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.
And, as part of that symposium commemoration, starting Sept. 9th, the WJBC is sponsoring the first Mary Alice Jervay Thatch Memorial 1898 Student Essay Competition, where New Hanover County students, grades 8 - 12, are challenged to write a 500-word essay about the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, and why learning about it is important to the community today.
The competition is named after the late publisher/editor of The Wilmington Journal newspaper, Ms. Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, who died in December 2021.
Veteran New Hanover County educator, and former co-chair of the 1898 Centennial Foundation, Dr. Bertha Boykin Todd, shared why she feels the student essay competition is an important part of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre 125th anniversary commemoration.
“For 39 years, I served as an educator in the New Hanover County Public School System,” Dr. Todd said in a statement. “During my tenure, nothing was ever mentioned regarding the atrocity of the massacre and coup that occurred in Wilmington, NC in 1898. Years later white and black students who graduated from Williston, Hoggard and New Hanover High Schools have questions regarding the reasons why educators did not teach them about the violence and successful coup. “My best wishes to you as your “Essay Competition” [will] aid in creating a greater awareness regarding this tragedy. “
Student participants can go to the website “1898symposium.org” to click the link for the entry rules, guidelines and application. There is no entry fee. Parental permission is required.
Students who compete will have the extra incentive of winning a $500.00 grand prize for the best 1898 essay. The prizes also include $300.00 for the second place essay, and $200.00 for the third place essay about 1898.
The student competition will officially begin on Saturday. Sept. 9th, and end on Saturday, Oct. 21st, 2023. The student winners will be determined by a panel of educators who will judge submitted essays based on an established scoring rubric for how comprehensive their submissions are. The three student winners will be awarded on Nov. 11th during the symposium.
“While this year’s event commemorates 125 years of deferred justice, it also offers hope for a new lens perspective on how we might create divergent justice pathways,” says Christina Davis McCoy, of Blueprint NC and WJBC. “The Mary Alice Jervay Thatch Memorial 1898 Student Essay Competition will invite and engage voices of young people for whom Wilmington’s past intrinsically defines and informs their future. We are significantly excited to read their perspectives of the November 10, 1898, Wilmington events.”
The 1898 symposium, the second in a series, will feature both nationally known and local panelists discussing how the community goes forward from the legacy of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre today. Those panelists include Bishop William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-convener of the national Poor People’s Campaign; Dr. Bertha B. Todd, retired educator and author of the book, Reflections on a Massacre and a Coup; atty. Irving L. Joyner, vice chairman of the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre Commission; Ms. Inez Campbell-Eason, descendant of an 1898 Black family; Dr. Timothy Tyson, Duke University History professor and author of the book, The Blood of Emmitt Till; and Rev. Robert Parrish, pastor of Gregory Congregational Church UCC.
The 1898 symposium will be held Saturday, November 11th, 1 to 4 p.m. at Williston Middle School, 401 South 10th Street. This community event is free and open to the public.
The goal of the1898 symposium, according to WJBC President Paul Jervay, is to “Bring the 1898 Assessment Alive” through the District, consisting of Gregory Congregational Church, the Wilmington Journal, and the surrounding neighborhood; through restoring Gregory Church, and the Wilmington Journal buildings; through acting on the recommendations of the 1898 Commission to facilitate economic and social justice solutions; through revisiting 7-Solution Action Points recommended by Bishop William Barber II in 1998, and through reuniting dispersed people, resulting from the 1898 Massacre, with a new mission of Restoration, Reparation, and Repair.
For more information, contact Paul Jervay, Jr. at email@example.com, or Cash Michaels at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Alice Thatch Memorial Essay, 2023, Scoring Rubric STUDENT NAME________________________________ SCORE _______/80
Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club announces 1898 massacre memorial student essay competition
Thursday morning, members of the Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club announced plans for the 125th anniversary of the 1898 massacre, including a contest geared at students.Members of the Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club, a non profit, announcing the symposium.Camille Mojica/WHQR
The Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club is partnering with the R.S. and T.V. Jervay Foundation, to sponsor a symposium commemorating the 125th anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.
Spokesperson Cash Michaels announced that starting September 9, they would be sponsoring the first inaugural Mary Alice Jervay Thatch Memorial 1898 Student Essay. The goal? For students to learn about the history of 1898 in full, without any outside influence.
Michaels referenced the recent temporary removal of the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by the New Hanover County school board:
“You know, we were all so concerned about who's going to teach our children what and so forth and so on. We're not doing that. We're letting our children teach us, Hey, man, we're letting them do the research," he said.
The five-hundred-word essays will be reviewed by three educators, and first, second, and third-prize winners will be chosen and awarded $500, $300, and $200 respectively.
Activist Sonya Patrick-AmenRa said the contest will teach students how the events of 1898 still affect the Wilmington community today. And, she noted that while money isn’t the main purpose, it’s not insignificant, and can be used for scholarships.
“We hope this essay contest will inspire future leaders, future journalists, future editors, and public officials of tomorrow," she said.
The Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club works in tandem with The Wilmington Journal, the oldest newspaper Black-owned newspaper for the Black community in North Carolina. The Journal is seen by many as a successor to The Daily Record, the Black-owned paper that was attacked and burnt to the ground during the 1898 massacre.
Patrick-AmenRa spoke on the history of Black news in the region:
"The Journal was bombed by white supremacists in 1973. And The Daily Record was burned by white supremacists in 1898 ... We lost the Black press in '98. It would be a disservice to our community and to humanity to lose it again in 2023," she said.
Any student in grades 8-12 residing in New Hanover County can participate, including private, charter, and homeschooled students. Applications must be submitted with a parent or guardian’s permission and be found here.