Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Julius Bedford (Craigmont High School)
Two teams from the Shelby Debate Society traveled to Los Angeles to compete in the National Association of Urban Debate League’s 7th Annual Tournament April 9 – 12.
The students representing the Shelby Debate Society were the winners of the Shelby County Championship Tournament: Robert Thigpen and Tamia Pratt, both 18, of Whitehaven High School and the runner ups, Timothy Richmond Jr. and Julius Bedford, both 17, of Craigmont High School. These students prepped all year on the topic of ocean exploration and/or development. Students researched ocean policy and argued that the government should increase its interactions with the oceans.
On the first night, the students attended a banquet celebrating the winner of the Debater of the Year, which Jordan Smith, 18, of Central High School was a finalist. The students who attended were graced with a speech from actress and singer Zendaya, best known from the hit Disney series “Shake It Up.”
She encouraged the students by saying, “I realized that we are doing the same thing. There are people like you in my age group fighting and standing up for what they believe in.”
She also encouraged the students by saying, “Don’t be afraid to stand up and say something. There are times where you have to say something.”
The following day the debaters had a chance to go sightseeing before engaging in two rounds of critical debates. Students went to Hollywood and saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This was most of the student’s first time in the city.
Later that night the students began debating. During the first round Richmond and Bedford faced a team from Detroit, arguing for reparations for Hurricane Katrina survivors. The round was won by the Craigmont team, because of Richmond’s argument claiming that there are plenty of people within Memphis that don’t feel like the hurricane survivors are in need of restitution.
The Craigmont High school team left undefeated that night after beating a team that argued against the plan that the United States federal government should ratify the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which is a law that will allow the U.S. military to have freedom of navigation. The Law of the Sea would also provide opportunities to increase trade. After their wins the first night, the team of Richmond and Bedford lost the rest of the rounds, but gained a memorable learning experience.
The team of Thigpen and Pratt also fought hard against teams from all over the country.
“These teams were tough, but I knew that we could do it,” Thigpen said after his first night of debating. “We tried our best and that’s all that we could do,”
Pratt and Thigpen went against a team advocating for using Sankofan education to find an individual’s personal heritage. Both teams maintained a record of 2-4 which cumulatively broke the record for the most number of rounds won by teams in the history of Shelby Debate Society.
The students from Whitehaven and Craigmont have big plans after their return to Memphis.
The seniors from Whitehaven will be attending colleges out of state. Pratt plans to attend college at Occidental College in Los Angeles in the fall and Thigpen plans to attend Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The team of Richmond and Bedford looks forward to another year of debating for the Shelby Debate Society during their senior year and aspires to attend the national tournament next season in 2016.