Make NSDA (Speech & Debate) Finals Videos A Free Resource for Educating and Empowering

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June 3, 2020

Dear Speech and Debate Community:

        Perhaps more than ever, words matter. Whether those words are on posters at a protest, in the caption of a post, or on a petition like this one, we have all come to see how true the National Speech and Debate Association’s mission is in these uncertain times. “I can’t breathe” and “black lives matter” are no longer just phrases but a matter of life or death for many. As a national organization who has always championed the power of words, we believe the NSDA has a responsibility to once again rise to the moment and be an advocate for change. Therefore, we urge the NSDA to allow free access to all National final round videos in order to be visible to everyone, not just those who can afford membership to the NSDA. We cherish this activity because it has allowed many of us to create change and be changed––and national finals videos are a critical resource. Whether this is your first year involved in speech and debate or your life’s work, you can probably recall a specific performance or closing argument that fundamentally changed the way you think. We vividly remember watching Iree Mann’s performance of Death of Innocence by Chris Benson and Mamie Till in 2018 that taught us about the importance of confronting police brutality head on––the moment where Iree depicts Emitt Till’s open casket will be etched in our memory for eternity. It is moments like these that can change the world. As the world turns their attention towards the younger generations, we believe it is imperative to not hide some of the most vibrant student voices in this country. As it currently stands, the majority of people who can access final round videos are current members whose schools have paid the hefty annual $200-350 fee. These are obviously privileged schools with resources, and this limits the spread of the message to those currently involved--preaching to the choir, in a way. Imagine the change that could be catalyzed if students who will never be involved in speech and debate could access these videos. Like those of us who have been doing forensics since middle school, they would be inspired, motivated and, perhaps, this could be just the motivation they need to create change or generate hope. Further, they could forward the videos to friends, family, teachers, classmates, and even political leaders. We wrote these words, we crafted these performances. Our words matter more than any paywall. 

        We will leave you with this: the NSDA sent out a message on June 2 encouraging the speech and debate community to act in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. In that message, we were met with eleven charges to action. We encourage the NSDA to act upon their final two charges: to teach others how to utilize speech skills to advocate for change; and to use your artistic and performative talents to inspire others to be agents of change. There is no better way to act on these charges than to release national final performances that are the backbone for change in our community. It is time we shared our messages with the world, not just the people with resources inside our beloved activity. 


Most important of all, know that signing this petition does not take precedence over amplifying the black voices in our community and donating to black foundations and organizations. We must show black competitors that they are crucial in a space where they many times don't feel wanted. Below, we have attached links to several organizations doing good and fighting systemic racism today. If able, we urge you to consider making donations to these organizations...

National Bailout Foundation:

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/freeblackmamas2020

National Black Justice Coalition:

http://nbjc.org/node?page=16%22%3B=

Black Visions Collective:

https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/

 

Sophia Corridan ‘19

Former Captain of Phoenix Country Day School Speech & Debate Team. corridansophia@gmail.com.

Ryan Horlick ‘20

Current Co-Captain of Phoenix Country Day School Speech & Debate Team. ryanhorlick1@gmail.com.