These Two Students Are The First Black Girls To Win Harvard’s Debate Competition

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Two Black girls from Atlanta made history after winning the annual summer debate competition at Harvard University. This is the first time that two Black women have won the debate competition since its inception in 2017. 

Jayla Jackson, 16, and Emani Stanton, 17, won the Harvard Debate Council’s debate competition with an undefeated record of 10-0. Jackson will be a junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School and Stanton is a rising senior at North Atlanta High School.

In a Twitter announcement, the council said the duo has “shown the world what’s possible when the playing field is leveled!”

Every summer, the Harvard Debate Council hosts the program for hundreds of gifted and talented students who hail from several countries around the world. Students get the opportunity to live on Harvard University’s campus for two weeks before competing in the debate tournament. This year the competition, however, was held virtually due to COVID-19. 

The debate’s topic was “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.”

Harvard’s debate coach and author Brandon P. Fleming founded the program four years ago to promote inclusion and diversity on the ivy league’s campus. He actively recruits Black youth located in Atlanta who have little to no experience debating. For a year, he trains his recruits every weekend in Atlanta and then transports them to Harvard for the two-week intense debate training program. 

Over the course of four years, Fleming has enrolled more than 100 Black students in the two-week Harvard debate residency program on a full scholarship after raising more than $1 million.

Fleming  encourages his students that this diversity program is “bigger than debate.”

“The achievements of this program and our scholars reveals to the world the power of educational equity,” Fleming said. “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 for the program’s next debate slated for 2022.

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