Jayla Jackson and Emani Stanton Become the First Black Girl Duo to Win Harvard’s International Debate Competition

Image: courtesy of The Purple Agency

Black girl magic continues to rack up some very impressive wins.

Less than 24 hours after celebrities such as Naomi Osaka, Leyna Bloom, and Megan Thee Stallion cover Sports Illustrated’s 2021 Swimsuit Issue, Jayla Jackson and Emani Stanton make history as the first Black girl duo to win Harvard’s International Debate Competition.

The Atlanta tandem won the distinction with an undefeated record, which culminated as gifted youths from over 15 countries attempted to take home the grand prize at one of the oldest campus organizations at Harvard University. 

Jayla Jackson, 16, and Emani Station, 17, are both rising sensations from Holy Innocence Episcopal and North Atlanta High School, respectively. Both are members of the Harvard Diversity Project, an initiative which was founded by Brandon P. Fleming in 2017. Fleming, a Harvard alum and award-winning debate coach and author, recruited underserved Black youth in Atlanta with the intended purpose of creating a pathway of inclusion on campus.

This history-making W for Jackson and Stanton is nothing to sneeze at. As a junior and senior in school, both girls not only learn academic disciplines that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise, but this opportunity serves as an inspirational beacon to those also looking to become “bigger than debate.” The young, great debaters were trained by Fleming every weekend for one year leading up to the Harvard summer program. 

The topic of debate was, “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States,” and with a 10-0 record on the line during the competition, Jackson and Stanton secured the fourth consecutive championship for the Atlanta-based team.

“The achievements of this program and our scholars reveal to the world the power of educational equity,” Fleming emphasized in a released statement. “We want to use our platform to show people what’s possible when the playing field is leveled for those who need it most.”

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This win is already in the team’s rear view as the next cohort of The Harvard Diversity Project has already begun training for the 2022 Harvard debate residency.

You can watch Jayla and Emani in one of their debate classes in the video below.

To learn more about the program, please check out Brandon P. Fleming’s book, MISEDUCATED: A Memoir.

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