ADETILORO IBITOYE, a Fort Greene resident and Benjamin Banneker Academy graduate is our 2019 winner. Besides winning the Mohbat Prize, Ade was awarded top speaker for the NYC Urban Debate League. For her persuasive essay about her experience with bullying, Ade received a check for $2,000 at her graduation on June 26.
She took advantage of the one-on-one writing mentorship offered to this year’s winner. Ade is majoring in economics and honing her writing skills with a minor in journalism. After that, perhaps law school and one day becoming a published author.
AMANDA MORRISON received a check for $500.
AMIR BASIC is now attending Baruch College.
WIRDAH KHAN, is a resident of Clinton Hill and recent graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academy. Her family is originally from Pakistan.
Wirdah’s compelling essay on the #MeToo movement earned her 2018’s award, which included a $1,500 check presented to her at her graduation. Her powerful essay, entitled “Did You Hear That? Good. I Won’t Ever Be Silent Again”, was published in the Brooklyn Reader. You can read her piece here.
What inspired Wirdah to apply for the Mohbat Prize award was the essay topic. #MeToo made her realize that she had a lot to say. She credits her love of reading for her natural inclination towards writing. The written word, she explains, allows a profound freedom to express herself.
Wirdah is majoring in Biology at Brooklyn College. A career in Medicine may be in her future.
ZARIA HARRELL, also a Banneker graduate, is studying psychology at Kean University in New Jersey.
Zaria spent the summer after her graduation working for NYS Assemblymember Diana Richardson. She took advantage of the one-on-one writing coach provided by the Mohbat Prize during her first semester at Kean. The coaching, the equivalent of a mini college course, resulted in an article published under her own byline titled “For Some Teens, Social Pressure, Political Climate Fuel Rising Depression and Anxiety.”
CASEY PEREZ was our winner for the 2017 Mohbat Prize.
Casey’s compelling essay on the theme “What is special to me about Brooklyn?” earned him the award and a $1500 check. Casey, the first male recipient of the Prize, is in the Natural Resource Management program at SUNY ESF in Syracuse.
SAMANTHA KING has gone on to study journalism at SUNY New Paltz.
KEITHA-CLEMON DUHANEY, a Benjamin Banneker Academy graduate, received the 2016 award and a $1500 check.
Keitha, a passionate writer, says that writing “has always been an escape,” and when she writes, “all the things that stress and depress” her just melt away. She took advantage of the writing internship offered by the Mohbat Prize through the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative. During the internship, she received ongoing mentorship, thanks to the Harnisch Journalism Projects at Baruch College, and developed her own story.
A student at Penn State University, Keitha is majoring in psychology and minoring in English, with a focus in Law. Her long term goal is to become the first African-American, female Supreme Court Justice.
NAHIAN CHOWDHURY graduated from Midwood High School where she was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. She is now attending Barnard College in New York City, majoring in English with a pre-med track.
Nahian also earned the Banyan Scholarship for South Asian Scholars, an award that recognizes South Asian students who demonstrate a commitment to making a difference in the lives of those around them.
KETURAH RAYMOND, is an enthusiastic proponent of all things literary. A resident of the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, Keturah is a graduate from Midwood High School. While at Midwood, she wrote for the school newspaper. Keturah has gone on to earn a degree from Syracuse University where she double majored in newspaper and online journalism and information technology (IT). Noticing her interest in writing, Keturah’s journalism teacher, Catherine Kaczmarek, was instrumental in encouraging her to pursue this award.
“I’m really passionate about journalism… because I want to use my abilities as a writer to give back to my parents’ home country of Haiti… I want to become a well-known journalist… and tell the stories that are unheard of in mainstream media and give [a] voice to the voiceless.”
One of Prize judges, Matt Schudel, a journalist for The Washington Post, had this to say to say about Keturah’s essay:
“This essay actually took us outside of the writer’s head and down the block to the wider world of Brooklyn. The writer then turned inward, showing how her family arrived in Brooklyn and made a fresh start and found stability, which the writer understands and appreciates. I think this is probably the best written essay… showing a real flair and understanding of English prose as it should be written…”
- First Place
SAMUEL WILLIAMS (Cornell)
- Second Place (tied) –
ABIODUN AKINROSOYE (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
- Second Place (tied) –
NICOLE GUZMAN (College of Staten Island)
- Third Place –
ALYSHA MCKENZIE (Vassar)
A resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, KAFILAH ALI MUHAMMAD graduated from Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, where she was a top student. Kafilah went on to earn a degree from Wesleyan University where she attended on substantial scholarship. At Wesleyan, Kafilah was active on a student newspaper called the Ankh, helped run their blog, and was an active participant in the Eclectic Society, which is an organization devoted to promoting creative expression, including through writing, among students of color. In addition to writing, Kafilah is especially interested in computer science.
AISSATOU DIALLO, from East New York, has now graduated from Hunter College where she attended on full scholarship. Aissatou volunteered as communications intern for the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW), where she helped draft their summer newsletter. She also crafted a theme for the newsletter and worked to propose possible stories. After writing for two Hunter publications, she decided to pursue volunteer activities, that included Project Sunshine, an effort to support sick children who are hospitalized.
Aissatou’s winning Mohbat Prize essay expressed her special feeling for Brooklyn through the imagery of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank clock tower. One judge had this to say, “I was particularly impressed by Aissatou Diallo… I liked Diallo’s narrative and the anecdotes pulled together to shape it. The story was evocative and used one of Brooklyn’s iconic structures to set it up. There was a sweet, nostalgic tone to the tale that that kept the story breezy and detailed.”
Following her high school graduation, a newspaper internship made possible by the Mohbat Prize led to two of her articles being published in Our Time Press, a Brooklyn newspaper.
A resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, SASHA FLETCHER was the first winner of the Mohbat Prize. Sasha graduated from SUNY Albany majoring in Globalization with three minors, one of which was journalism. Following a summer in Brazil where she studied at McKenzie University in Sao Paulo and explored the country, Sasha graduated a semester early cum laude.
In college, she was involved in an array of activities including serving as fundraising chair of the Pan Caribbean Association, staying connected to her Trinidad roots. Volunteer work included serving as a peer mentor for students on campus. As part of her journalism minor, Sasha wrote stories regularly on a variety of subjects. The Mohbat Prize’s accompanying writing workshop helped her focus on the elements of good writing and introduced her to the power of journalism.