By Mary Alice Miller
Twelve NYC Gold Medal winners will represent NYC at the national NAACP Act-So competition in Detroit this summer. Act-So represents Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. Act-So’s slogan is the “Olympics of the Mind.”
112 projects were presented for Competition (including 15 incomplete projects). A total of 95 students competed in 22 Categories. Act-So categories open for competition are: The Sciences (Architecture, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), Visual Arts (Filmmaking/ Video. Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, and Photography), Performing Arts (Dramatics, Dance, Music: Instrumental- Classical, Instrumental- Contemporary, Vocal- Classical, Vocal- Contemporary, and Oratory), Humanities (Original Essay, Poetry, Play Writing, Short Story, Music Composition), and Entrepreneurship. Short Story is a NYC initiative; not a National Category.
Act-So projects are scored on a strict scale. The Gold medal must score 95 or better, Silver- 90 to 94 and Bronze- 85 to 89. Anana Kambon, National Director of NAACP Act-So, has worked hard over the years to standardize Act-So’s scoring system. “No longer can local winners compete at the Nationals simply by being the best in their category. They must also score within our point system. A sole project presented within a category cannot win Gold and go to the Nationals by default.” The benefits of winning local Act-So competitions are numerous. In addition to the Medals, winners receive cash awards. Gold receives $500, Silver receives $300, and Bronze receives $200. All winners receive a laptop computer. Gold medal winners compete at the Nationals; Silver and Bronze winners are eligible to go as observers.
Even greater benefits are available to National Act-So competitors. According to Kambon, “National Act-So competitors receive substantial monetary awards for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze national winners, as well as many additional awards sponsored by corporate and collegiate National Act-So supporters.” Berkeley College offers $380,000 annually to 18 Act-So students. The Maryland Institute College of Art provides a collegiate summer program or a 4 year scholarship to 8 Act-So participants. The National Organization for Minority Architects coaches and mentors in their chapter cities. NASA offers an annual Space Camp for 15 students. According to Kambon, “If you don’t take advantage of the local competition, you can’t get to National.” For the first time in recent memory, Brooklyn hosted the NYC competitions. Edward R. Murrow H.S. graciously allowed Act-So to use its space. 60 adult volunteers came out to judge the competition. The student competitors presented themselves in their recital best. One young man presented in white tux and tails. These students are serious. Student participants came from 4 NYC NAACP chapters: Mid- Manhattan, Williamsbridge, the Housing Authority, and Social Services, representing a variety of NYC high schools. The recently reorganized Brooklyn NAACP branch does not yet have its own Act-So program. Kambon states there are 25 NAACP branches in NYC; therefore there is the potential for 25 ACT-So programs.
Anton Tomlinson, energetic and amiable, is the Chairman and Executive Director of NYC Act-So Committee. Tomlinson has been affiliated with NYC Act-So for 14 years. He is a passionate advocate for students. At any opportunity, Tomlinson solicits corporate support for the Act-So program. During the award ceremony, he told the packed audience that 4 Act-So students need laptops or computers for college.
Con Edison Headquarters graciously hosted the 20th NYC Act-So award ceremony. Master of Ceremonies was Reg Chapman, News Reporter for NBC- Channel 4. In addition to the Act-So awards, several community leaders were honored. Christopher J. Farley, author of Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley, was presented with the Humanities and Literary Award. Dr. Edison O. Jackson, President of Medgar Evers College received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Kenneth R. Theobalds, Vice President of Entergy Nuclear Northeast, received the Corporate and Philanthropic Award. Maurice McGlashan- Powell, Research Advisory Scientist and Engineer at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, received the Science and Technology Award. Nana Camille Yarborough, educator, griot, actress, singer, and host of Manhattan Cable’s Ancestor House, received the Performing Arts Award. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP NYS Conference of Branches, gave a special word of praise and encouragement to student participants and their parents.