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Monga Helps Launch Bicentennial with Poem

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Monga Helps Launch Bicentennial with Poem
Posted on 07/30/2019
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Allan Monga, a recent Deering High School graduate, joined Governor Janet Mills, Mayor Ethan Strimling, city officials, and members of the Maine Bicentennial Commission on Tuesday, July 30, to launch the commemoration of the State of Maine Bicentennial. The event took place at Deering Oaks Park and featured the dedication of the Tricentennial Pine Grove.

As part of the ceremony, Monga, Maine’s 2018 Poetry Out Loud champion and a member of the DHS Class of 2019, read “My Lost Youth” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is about Longfellow’s boyhood in Portland.

The Bicentennial kickoff day coincided with the 200th anniversary of the affirmative vote to separate the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in July of 1819.

The city specially invited Monga to read the Longfellow poem in the kickoff event. Monga is an asylum seeker from Zambia, who made news in 2018 when he was barred from competing with other state finalists in the Poetry Out Loud national competition because he was not yet a citizen or permanent resident.

With the help of Portland law firm Drummond Woodsum, which took on his case for free, Monga filed a federal lawsuit to win permission to compete. The Portland Public Schools joined in his lawsuit because it felt very strongly that he should have the same opportunity to compete as other students.

A judge ruled Monga could compete at nationals. He didn’t win but gave a powerful performance. His lawsuit resulted in a more important victory when the National Endowment for the Arts in August 2018 announced it would eliminate its citizenship requirement in the contest’s eligibility rules. Now, immigrant students across the nation have the opportunity to follow in Monga’s footsteps.

PHOTO CAPTION: Allan Monga, Maine’s 2018 Poetry Out Loud champion and a member of the DHS Class of 2019, reads “My Lost Youth” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at a Bicentennial kickoff at Deering Oaks Park. Gov. Janet Mills, Mayor Ethan Strimling and other attendees listen.