EXCEL’s Tanesha Walker (back row, middle), and Top Speaker Rashid Campbell (back row, left) with the Skyline High School team. Campbell and Walker won the championship trophy at last weekend’s debate championships.
Christopher Scheer, a teacher and debate coach at Skyline High School, sent me a recap of the Bay Area Urban Debate League championships last weekend, which I’ve posted below.
My favorite quote:
I spoke with my martial arts mentor this morning, said Campbell, a senior at Skyline from East Oakland who will attend the University of Oklahoma on a debate scholarship this fall. “We talked about how I wasn’t scared to fail, I was scared to succeed. I decided to succeed.
For the full play-by-play of the competition, check out Scheer’s write-up below:
Having won the previous league tournament and proven they could compete with some of the best debaters from around the country just weeks earlier in New York City, Oakland teens Tanesha Walker and Rashid Campbell arrived at the Bay Area Urban Debate League Championships [BAUDL] this weekend as the favorites.
In the end, however, neither the added pressure nor several dozen other debaters from San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley could knock the hybrid team from EXCEL and Skyline high schools off their game: They marched undefeated through the field and finished by defeating Latoree Howard of Skyline on the auditorium stage at Fremont Federation of High Schools on Sunday evening.
“I spoke with my martial arts mentor this morning,” said Campbell, a senior at Skyline from east Oakland who will attend the University of Oklahoma on a debate scholarship this Fall. “We talked about how I wasn’t scared to fail, I was scared to succeed. I decided to succeed.”
Eight varsity pairs “broke” from Saturday’s prelims into Sunday’s quarterfinals at the two-day end-of-the-year tournament, which included some 60+ competitors from Balboa, Mission and Downtown high schools in San Francisco, and Fremont, Oakland and Street Academy high schools in Oakland. Cal Prep, a charter school based in Berkeley, also took part in the second annual championship event for the new league, which aims to bring the grueling and academic activity of policy debate to high-poverty schools.
“Debate is a traditional and meaningful path to a multitude of careers and a way to strengthen the ability of young people to speak for themselves and make their own history,” said Skyline Coach Christopher Scheer. “Why should that only be available to those who can afford private school or to live in the suburbs?”
Schools competing in urban debate leagues – there are 19 currently operating around the country – must be “40-40” schools, meaning they serve a student body of which at least 40 percent qualify for free lunch and 40 percent are minority. Perhaps ironically, the national topic this year for all policy debate leagues called for teams to put forth plans to solve poverty in the United States. Campbell and Walker, who hopes to start a policy debate team at UCLA next year, “ran” a prison reform affirmative which called for the Supreme Court to demand increased education and health care in the nation’s prisons, both to reduce recidivism and decrease the chance of epidemics.
In the final debate, Howard, debating alone on Sunday because her partner couldn’t get out of her shift at work, argued such controversial social services spending would cost President Obama political capital he needs to pass financial regulation reform laws this Summer. On a 2-1 split decision, however, Howard, who had upset top pairs from Skyline and Balboa on her way to the final debate, lost to the veteran pair.
(She had a consolation prize, however, as the recipient of one of a score of debate camp scholarships granted Saturday by the league to a score of economically-needy competitors. Howard will attend the Gonzaga University camp for two weeks in Spokane, Washington.)
Here loss meant Walker and Campbell were undefeated in 12 straight rounds since forming their partnership at the April tournament in order to prepare for their full scholarship trip to compete in NYC at the National Urban Debate Leagues National Championship, held at the top of the JP Morgan Chase bank earlier this month. At that event, Campbell and Tanesha took first runner-up in the Building Leagues category and Campbell earned a 14th place speaker gavel.
Back in Oakland this weekend, Campbell, who raps as part of his framework argument calling for the voices of the oppressed to be heard, took first place speaker. Campbell also earned the “Best Debater” award, as voted on by his peers in the league.
Skyline High won the overall Sweepstakes award, while a hybrid pair from Street Academy and Fremont took the championship in the Novice category. For the whole year, with statistics from all seven tournaments, Skyline won the annual Sweepstakes trophy, while Natassia Jordan of Cal Prep took the first-place speaker award.