In recent news, two girls from Atlanta, GA became the first ever black girl duo to win the Harvard Debate Council’s annual summer debate competition at Harvard University. Miss Emani Stanton and Miss Joyla Jackson won this prestigious award participating in the summer residential program for hundreds of gifted youth from over 15 countries around the world. Students flocked to the Harvard University campus for two weeks of intense study which ended in a program-wide debate tournament. This year’s tournament was held virtually due to COVID-19 protocols but the dynamic duo triumphed during the “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States” debate.
The origins of this program happened when Harvard accepted a proposal from esteemed award-winning debate coach and author Brandon P. Fleming in 2017. His goal was to establish the Diversity Project as a means to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. Both debate winners are current members of the program. To date, the Harvard Diversity Project has raised over $1 million to enroll over 100 Black students into the debate residency on full scholarship. All four of this year’s finalists had little to no debate experience prior to being trained via debate coach Fleming’s unique and vigorous curriculum resulting in wins at the international debate competition.
I must confess to being attracted to stories resonating with my own interests. As a former high school debater, I can still distinctly recall some of the debate topics as well as the challenging competitions in my home city. Participating in debate made me more interested and knowledgeable about all kinds of issues since we often discussed national and world events. To this day, the NERD in me still loves having debates (some say arguments) with my tribe – – not about the personal business of others – – about national and world events, the arts and culture, books, education etc. These topics trigger me in a good way since one often learns a lot during the process.
So today, let’s salute Miss Stanton and Miss Jackson for their incredible performance demonstrating once again that beauty extends to the MIND as well. These young women definitely showed up and showed out creating “24K Debate Magic” for us all to appreciate.