RBG essay contest finalists announced, ceremony to take place Nov. 3

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
One of many pieces in Shawnee artist LeAnne Henry Wright’s “I Dissent, Art Show of Gratitude" art show.
Shawnee High School student Bella Dahlman is one of 20 finalists in the Unapologetic Essay Contest and became LeAnne Henry Wright's apprentice and helped her Henry Wright with various pieces in her “I Dissent, Art Show of Gratitude."

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 was for young women fifth through twelfth grade and the top 20 finalist have been announced.

The finalist are made up of young women from various Shawnee school districts including Shawnee, Grove, South Rock Creek, North Rock Creek and Dale.

Henry Wright said the essays were dived into two categories which were fifth through eighth graders and ninth through twelfth graders.

The finalists are as follows for ninth through twelfth grade: Destin Rogers, Lexie Rosario, Marilyn Bartley, Brianna Griggs, Bella Dahlman, Morley Griffith and Shalease Buckner and for fifth through eighth grade Alivia Wapskinen, Isabella O'Daniel, Mahayla Trevino, Jazzelyn Ortega, Kaitlyn McElfresh, Meranda Switch, Coryne Venable, Estelle Lilite, Margot Davidson, Emmaleigh Chittom, Reese Leone, Miana Redwine and Abbi Frentz.

The artist said because Destin Rogers and Alivia Wapskinen came in first place in their categories they will read their essays at a ceremony to be help Tuesday, Nov. 3 where they and the rest of the finalists will be paired with female mentors in the commun

“(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 Henry Wright, the event 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 at 11 a.m.

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).”

In addition to Jones, Henry Wright said professional singer and attorney Chandra Graham will perform at the ceremony.

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.

Henry Wright said she hopes in the future to have an event similar to this to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her grandmother who both passed away on Sept. 18. 

"The annual goal is to have an event each fall to honor the passing of both my grandmother and RBG with a mentor event connecting local young girls with various women leaders in our community," Henry Wright said. 

Check back for updates.