“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sadly, we are mourning the tragedy of all of the lives lost and the continued injustices sprayed upon black and brown communities. Chicago Debates exists to bridge the educational opportunity gap, which persists as a result of hundreds of years of systemic racism. The majority of the students we serve are black and brown and are witnessing and/or experiencing these events firsthand in their neighborhoods, are traumatized, feel unsafe, and are living in fear. As the mother of two Black sons, I too am afraid. I too am outraged, frustrated, and have had enough. The constant pain and suffering experienced by black and brown communities must cease now.
We stand in solidarity with those across the world demanding justice and change.
We understand that our students are struggling with how to respond and are likely feeling helpless, hopeless, and uncertain about the future. We know that they want to be heard. Many of us are questioning what we can do to support change and make a difference. Chicago Debates is making that difference by cultivating the voice and skills of our future leaders.
Policy debate helps students learn to use their voices to enact change. Debaters are trained to see all sides of a situation, to use evidence to support demands for change, and to disagree via civil discourse. Policy debate builds community and engages students in politics (86% of our students said debate increased their interest in politics and social issues).
The national debate topic for the 2020-2021 school year has never been more relevant than it is right now. Students will debate the entire year on Criminal Justice Reform, including policing practices. President Obama’s recent call for policing reform highlighted the need to use evidenced-based reforms to guide the work ahead. Students will soon be learning all about those reforms and by this time next year will be subject matter experts.
We are committed to our organizational value of justice and helping to combat the structural and systemic inequities in the world. We are committed to ensuring that debate is available for CPS students allowing them a platform to use their voices and build their leadership skills. These young people will be primed to assume roles of leadership and drive the change that our world so desperately needs. Our work continues to be an investment in our future leaders, our city, and our nation. It’s time for change.
-Dr. Toinette Gunn, Chicago Debates Executive Director