The Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project makes it a tradition every summer to hosts a two-week summer intensive residential program which also hosts a debate tournament, although this year due to COVID-19, the competition held virtually with Atlanta teens Emani Stanton and Jayla Jackson emerging victorious, winning the top prize after remaining undefeated for all 10 rounds with a perfect record to be named the champions of Harvard University’s annual summer debate competition.
For the very first time, the Black female debate partners clinch the crown.
Jayla Jackson, 16, is a junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School while Eamani Stanton, 17, a senior at North Atlanta High School, the pair beat more than 100 other debaters from around the world, remaining undefeated for all 10 rounds, according to the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project.
“The bar has been raised, and that’s a good thing for people and for girls of color all around the world,” Jackson, a rising junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, told NBC affiliate WXIA. “It is still mind-blowing for us. We went in there, and we did it.”.
The duo met at the program where they quickly realized that Stanton’s analytical brain was a perfect balance to Jackson’s more creative thinking, according to WXIA.
“Once we started sharpening our skills, it became a game of chess finding a partner that complements you,” Jackson told the outlet.
The Harvard Diversity Project founded in 2017 by Harvard’s award-winning debate coach and author Brandon P. Fleming is aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.
Fleming set the record straight about the program being “bigger than debate.”
Fleming stated in a recent interview that, “The achievements of this program and our scholars reveals to the world the power of educational equity.” Jackson then turns his remarks to 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.”
This year’s competition marks the fourth year in a row that students from the program have won, according to its Instagram.
“They have shown the world what’s possible when the playing field is leveled!” the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project wrote in a celebratory Instagram post.
The girls’ topic of debate was “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States,” according to Black Enterprise.