The annual award, in memory of journalist Joseph E. Mohbat and Brooklyn student Verdery Knights, honors exceptionally gifted Brooklyn public high school seniors
Wirdah Khan, a graduating senior at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, is the winner of the 2018 Joseph E. Mohbat Prize for Writing in Memory of Verdery Knights. The annual award is presented to an exceptionally motivated Brooklyn public high school senior with a demonstrated gift of self-expression through the written word.
This year’s applicants were required to submit an essay exploring one or both of the #NeverAgain and #MeToo movements. Initially, Flatbush resident Wirdah Khan had not planned to enter the Mohbat Award competition. But at the encouragement of her teacher and when she saw that the topic was the #MeToo movement, she knew she had plenty to say. Khan wrote a moving essay on what the #MeToo movement meant to her, and she vividly and painfully chronicled hers and her sister’s experiences dealing with sexual harassment.
“This year’s Mohbat award essays showed us how perceptive and committed the young people of Brooklyn are today,” said Nancy Schuh, who established the award. “The judges all agreed that this year’s entries were the best since the inception of the award in 2012.”
The award was initiated to commemorate the legacy of Brooklyn resident Joseph Mohbat, a well-known journalist and lawyer, who died in August 2011, and Verdery Knights, who was an outstanding Benjamin Banneker Academy student with a passion for poetry and journalism. Mohbat served as a close friend and mentor to her until she tragically died at age 17.
The Mohbat Prize is valued at $2,500 and consists of a $1,500 cash award and a writing mentorship valued roughly at $1,000. This year’s winner, Wirdah Khan, will receive the cash award of $1,500, while the 2018 runner-up, Zariah Harrell, also a 2018 graduate of Benjamin Banneker Academy, will benefit from the Mohbat writing mentorship worth $1,000.
“We all learned an important lesson from this year’s applicants, some of whom told us that we failed to include the most relevant movement for them – #BlackLivesMatter,” Schuh added. “Instead, these applicants submitted essays on the issues that most directly impacted them –violence and racism in their own communities. The judges gladly accepted these entries with great appreciation and humility.”
Khan will be attending Brooklyn College in the fall where she plans to major in biology to pursue medicine; Harrell, a Clinton Hill resident, will be attending Kean University where she will major in psychology.