Poetry Out Loud To Allow Noncitizen Competitors After Portland Asylum Seeker Sues

Aug 8, 2018

The National Endowment for the Arts is planning to eliminate a rule that prohibits some noncitizens from competing in a national poetry competition.

The decision comes four months after Deering High School student Allan Monga sued the federal agency for not allowing him to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud competition.

An asylum seeker from Zambia, Monga won Maine’s version of the Poetry Out Loud competition, where students read and perform poems for prizes. His victory qualified him for competition at the national level. But the NEA banned Monga from participating in the national contest because of rules that require entrants to be “U.S. citizens or permanent residents.”

Monga sued the agency in April and a federal judge allowed him to compete. Now, in a letter to Monga’s lawyers, the National Endowment for the Arts says it plans to change the rules for future competitions — and students won’t be excluded due to factors like race, religion and national origin.

In a statement, Monga says that he’s happy that other students will no longer need to fight to compete. The NEA did not respond to requests for comment.

This story was originally published Aug. 8, 2018 at 2:48 p.m. ET.