First Black Girl Duo Wins International Debate Competition At Harvard

According to an announcement, two Black females from Atlanta have been the first Black female duo to win the annual summer debate competition at Harvard University for the first time in the Harvard Debate Council’s history.

If you didn’t know, the students from the Harvard Debate Council’s program are virtually unstoppable, having beaten the competition for the fourth year in a row to win the top prize.

Hundreds of bright youngsters from over 15 countries descend on campus each summer for a two-week intensive study program that ends in a program-wide debate tournament, hosted by the Harvard Debate Council, one of the oldest campus organizations at Harvard University. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, this year’s residence and competition were held virtually.

Jayla Jackson, 16, attends Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School as a rising junior. Emani Stanton, a rising senior at North Atlanta High School, is 17 years old. Both girls are part of the Harvard Diversity Project, which was developed by Harvard’s award-winning debate coach and author Brandon P. Fleming and is based in Atlanta. Fleming’s proposal to establish the Diversity Project as a way to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus was accepted by Harvard in 2017.

Fleming looks for underserved Black students in Atlanta who have never debated before. He prepares them for the Harvard summer program by training them every weekend in Atlanta for a year, exposing them to higher-level academic areas. Fleming has generated over $1 million in four years to fully fund the Harvard debate residency for over 100 African-American students. Fleming’s unique curriculum prepared all four cohorts to win the world debate tournament at Harvard.

With an unblemished 10-0 record this year, Jackson and Stanton won the Atlanta-based team’s fourth consecutive championship. “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States,” was the topic of discussion.

Fleming emphasizes to his students that the program is “bigger than debate.” He states, “The achievements of this program and our scholars reveals to the world the power of educational equity.” Jackson remarks about the historic win, “We want to use our platform to show people what’s possible when the playing field is leveled for those who need it most.”

The Harvard Diversity Project has already accepted a new group of students who will begin training in the fall of 2022 in preparation for the Harvard debate residency.

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