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RBG essay deadline changed to Oct. 23, essay eligibility extended

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
LeAnne Henry Wright

Following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Shawnee artist LeAnne Henry Wright was inspired to both honor the justice and empower young women through an essay contest and art show. 

Henry Wright said the essay contest is for young women fifth through twelfth grade and the deadline has been changed from Oct. 16 to Oct. 23. 

Originally, the artist said young women from Shawnee Public Schools were eligible but after consideration and speaking with Community Renewal, a sponsor of the event, that eligibility has been extended to other districts in Shawnee. 

“Girls in fifth through twelfth grade from Shawnee, Grove, South Rock Creek, North Rock Creek and Dale can send in essays,” Henry Wright said. 

Henry Wright said various people have helped make her idea a reality including Sherri Tompson with Community Renewal and attorney at Stuart and Clover  Breanne Gordon.

According to Thompson, the essay contest will be divided into two categories. 

“We have an older category and a younger category,” Thompson said. 

The younger category, Thompson said will be fifth through eighth grade and the older will be ninth through twelfth grade.

According to Gordon, she and a panel of judges including County Judges Tracy McDaniel and Emily Mueller and other female legal professionals will determine the top 20 Outstanding Essays.

Henry Wright said the top 20 winners will then be invited to a special ceremony on Election Day Nov. 3 where they will be paired with 20 female legal professionals from across the state.

“(We’ll) connect them with 20 attorneys, judges who are women in our state and try to bond that relationship,” Henry Wright said. 

According to Thompson, the top essays in each category will be read aloud at the luncheon by the young women who wrote them. 

Thompson said the luncheon will be sponsored by Emmanuel Episcopal Church and COVID-19 friendly.

The first part of the ceremony, Henry Wright said, will take place in the nave of Emmanuel Episcopal Church where the top two winners will read their essays. 

Henry Wright said the event is limited to 60 people, masks will be required and following the 30 minute ceremony, there will be a luncheon for attendees in the church parking lot. 

“I have a guest speaker Erin Bailey Jones who is a childhood friend. She graduated here in Oklahoma but she went on to the Naval Academy where she went on to serve our country, work in the Pentagon and (with) some of the top ranks in the Navy,” she said. 

Henry Wright said Jones retired and returned to Oklahoma to run her family’s ranch.

“Not only has she personally met RBG. She has also sat with Maya Angelou

before speaking at the Capitol,” she said. “I feel like to hear a young Oklahoma girl went out and literally circled the globe doing great things (is inspirational).” 

Following the luncheon, Henry Wright said any one is welcome to join the group for a walk from Emmanuel to the Pottawatomie County Courthouse for photos before ending at the artist’s galley where she will debut several pieces from her “I Dissent, Art Show of Gratitude.” 

“This part will be open to all citizens both men and women, to make the three block walk down Broadway,” she said.

The artist said in addition to the essay contest, she was inspired to create various art pieces reflecting Ginsburg’s famous “dissent collar” which Henry Wright said is a symbol of all the injustices Ginsburg stood against. 

“That specific collar she wore when she wasn’t with the majority opinion and those dissent letters were meant as blueprints for the future for congress and lawmakers...to do the right thing,” Henry Wright said. “For me just the idea of what that means made me get up and start working.”

The artist said 25 percent of the proceeds from her art show will go toward funding ways to educate young women to use their voices in different ways.

To make a donation or to sponsor the meal Thompson said people can go or send it to Community Renewal’s office at 1000 N Kickapoo Ave.

Both Henry Wright and Thompson said any money left over will go to Emmanuel Episcopal Church and food left over from the meal will go to the church’s sack lunch program.

Legal professionals who wish to attend need to RSVP by Oct. 23 and can do so at 

https://airtable.com/shrxlzZm2dLtpVDGp.

Students can submit their essays to bit.ly/rbg-essay by Oct. 23.