Houston Reporter Snares Top Honors at D.C. UNITY poetry Contest

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Roshanda Billingsley had good reason to be proud of herself – as did many of her friends and colleagues at the UNITY gathering of journalists in Washington, D.C., this week. Her poems won top honors at the Chrysler-Group sponsored $10,000 contest. More than 700 journalists from around the world attended the D.C. gathering.

Billingsley, from Houston, Texas and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, took center stage along with other journalists. Her winning poems were “Things to get off my chest� and “The type of woman I am.�

Second place honors went to Rhonda Swan, of Wilmington, Delaware and New York’s Errol Cockfield, took third prize – both are members of NABJ.

“Chrysler Group created the ‘Spirit in the Word’ poetry program 10 years ago to celebrate the spoken-word talent that many journalist have as a part of their craft,� said Dieter Zetsche, CEO of the Chrysler Group. “This celebration brings together cultures from around the globe to share life experiences through poetry.�

In addition to the poetry program, Zetsche and several journalists from the audience participated in a Stow ’n Go Challenge. Zetsche and the journalists were timed while they folded seats like the ones available on the 2005 Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Caravan. “Stow ’n Go represents yet leapfrog for the Chrysler Group in the minivan market segment,� said Zetsche.

Actress Shari Headley, known for her work in the “Johnson Family Vacation� and “Coming to America,� served as master of ceremonies for the event, which she has done on many other occasions. An independent panel of judges, including Jamie Foster Brown, publisher of Sister2Sister magazine and a host of print and broadcast journalists, selected the winning poets based on their delivery, content and creativity.

The “Spirit in the Word� poetry program has been offered at the diverse journalism conferences throughout the U.S. The specific journalist conferences include UNITY, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.

The poetry program invites participants to write, read and perform their works, in an effort to further the art of poetry. The poetry program began in Detroit in 1994. At that time, 47 journalists and poets attended the event.

UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., which represents 7,000 media professionals of color, is a strategic, national alliance comprised of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), National Association of Black
Journalists (NABJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), and Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). UNITY 2004 is the third joint gathering of the UNITY Alliance Associations.

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