The New York Civil Liberties Union today announced the winners of its annual Freedom of Expression Contest, which invites young people in New York City to speak their minds on important civil liberties issues of the day. The annual contest asks youth to explore a topic relevant to their lives and related to civil rights and liberties. This year the contest asked young people to describe what rights are most important to them, prompted by the theme: “Equality Looks like…” Entries covered a wide range of issues, including the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices, LGBT rights, racial justice, reproductive freedom and immigration. “It's truly exciting to see the creativity of our young people come to life in the name of freedom and liberty,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “We are proud to continue the tradition of giving New York's youth an opportunity to speak their minds and demonstrate their potential.” Awardees are invited to attend the NYCLU's annual Broadway Stands Up for Freedom benefit concert on Monday July 22 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University. Dozens of Broadway's finest performers, including Tony winners Randy Graff and Tonya Pinkins will take the stage to support the NYCLU's youth programs. Selected winning contest entries will be presented during the show. This year more than 200 students submitted entries. The submissions were judged in two categories: creative writing and visual arts. The contest was open to New York City youth 10-21 years old. Multiple rounds of judging narrowed down the entries to first second and third place winners. In addition, four entries received honorable mention. Each placement received a pre-determined cash prize with the awards totaling $1,000.

The Winners:

Creative Writing Category

First Place: “The (In)decency of Human Beings” by Eli Betts (Townsend Harris High School; spoken word/poetry; age 15) Second Place: “G-E-L-Y-K-H-E-I-D” by Vanessa Taylor (The Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn; poetry; age 15) Third Place: “The Girl Who Stepped Off the Island” by Katherine Vargas (Millennium Art Academy; poetry; age 17) Honorable Mention: “The Mind of Bushwick” by Kayla Rolon (The High School for Fashion Industries; poetry; age 17) Honorable Mention: “These Streets Will Make You Feel Brand New” by Abinash Kaur (Townsend Harris High School; essay; age 15)

Visual Arts Category

First Place: “ Imagination PV” by Nadia Ali & Tsz Yan Jamie Fung (Townsend Harris High School; video; ages 15 & 16) Second Place: “Heart of Equality” by YES- Youth Enrichment Services Program (The LGBT Community Center; multimedia poster) Third Place: “Stereotypes” by Christina Wang (Townsend Harris High School; video; age 15) Honorable Mention: “Equality for All” by Shahrin Azim (Townsend Harris High School; painting; age 15) Honorable Mention: “Just Because” by Changing the Odds Project at the Community School for Social Justice (bulletin board; 11th grade)