Ask middle and high school students to write about "Faithfulness, Courage, and Persistence," name the contest after a pioneering African-American journalist, and offer a $100 Savings Bond to the winner, and they will write. And they will submit entry after entry, from near and far.

Nearly 140 students entered this year's Frank E. Bolden Literary Contest, sponsored by the diocesan Commission on Racism. They represent 11 schools in 7 states from Staten Island, New York, to Danville, California.

It wasn't meant to be a national contest, but the rapid reach of the Internet turned it into one.

“We’re just excited about it being such a national thing, we really are,” said Commission chair Nancy Bolden.

The contest bears the name of her husband, a legendary reporter and editor of the Pittsburgh Courier. He was one of the first two black journalists accredited in World War II. He wrote for The New York Times, reported for NBC News, and after a career in journalism, served as a public and community relations officer for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. He died in 2003.

“He’d be humbled that they named [the contest] for him,” said Nancy. “He always said he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, that he had just been lucky and had been at the right place at the right time.”

The winner will be announced this Saturday as part of the diocese's Absalom Jones Day celebration at the Church of the Holy Cross, Homewood. The Rev. Jones himself was a pioneer, being the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church. The contest themes, Faithfulness, Courage, and Persistence, are qualities attributed to him.

Saturday's observance includes a Eucharist featuring the preaching of the Rev. John C. Welch of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a luncheon, and cast members of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre staging a dramatic re-enactment of Absalom Jones' life.

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Editor's Note:  This event, originally scheduled for February 2010, was postponed due to a winter storm.  The winner will be announced and recognized Saturday, May 1, 2010, at Holy Cross Church.

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