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A statement on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery

On behalf of myself, President Pam Wycoff, the entire Board of Directors, and the National Speech & Debate Association, we join you in denouncing the senseless racist violence that has taken the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many more.  

Although it is difficult to comprehend the pain of the Black community, we all can and do join you in condemning anti-Black violence and racism. Far too often the burden of speaking  against centuries of systemic racism and tragic death has been carried by Black communities. The Black members of our speech and debate communities should not alone mourn and fear for the safety of our Black students and coaches. 

We ask every member of our community to join us in living our mission to create spaces for stories and perspectives that are often screamed out in the streets, yet left unheard by those in power. We recognize our community needs to do more, and our organization needs to do more to amplify your voices and support you in sharing these messages.

We must model and foster the importance of listening to those perspectives that are marginalized by racism. We must model and foster spaces where young people can use the power of their voices to create institutional changes. We must model and foster holding and truly listening to the uncomfortable and courageous conversations necessary to fight against racism. 

We ask every member of our community to join us in actualizing our mission by preparing young people to communicate, think critically, collaborate, and creatively find solutions to the greatest problems that our society confronts. As activist and rapper Killer Mike said, “It is your duty to not burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house, so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” 

We believe that the NSDA and its membership should be committed to providing the opportunities for our young people to learn to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize. With that in mind, we offer the following suggestions for assisting students in using their speech and debate skills to challenge anti-Black violence and oppression:

    • Read and draw upon Black authors for debate and speech events;
    • Initiate and engage in courageous conversations with someone who doesn’t look like you;
    • Form reading groups focused on anti-Black violence and oppression;
    • Join Community Advisory Boards in your cities to advance social reform;
    • Submit position papers advocating for reforms in your communities;
    • Advocate for reforms at your City Council;
    • Participate in your political process by campaigning, voting, and/or engaging your representatives;
    • Teach others how to utilize speech skills to advocate for change; and
    • Use your artistic and performative talents to inspire others to be agents of change.

We hope you read this letter and these recommendations as a continuation of our path to be a more equitable organization. The NSDA is committed to modeling and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion for all speech and debate communities. We hope that you join us. 

J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director
Pam Cady Wycoff, President
Tommie Lindsey, Jr., Vice President
Byron Arthur
Mike Edmonds
David Huston
Adam Jacobi
Jennifer Jerome
Renee Motter
Thomas Rollins
Robert Runcie
Timothy Sheaff