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Boston NAACP Takes Youth to Harlem for the Great Debate

 March 4, 2013

40 Boston Youth Travel to Harlem, NY for The Great Debate

On Saturday, March 2, 2013, the Boston NAACP hosted a bus trip to Harlem, New York to attend "The Great Debate" as well as to tour some of the particularly historic Black History sites there.  The trip was made possible by generous contributions from Northeastern University and Mount Ida College.
NAACP Great Debate

The National NAACP Youth & College Division’s “The Great Debate” took place on Saturday, March 2, 2013.  Inspired by the 2007 movie “The Great Debaters,” staring actor Denzel Washington, the NAACP’s Connecticut State Conference President and National Board Member Scot X. Esdaile created the “NAACP Great Debate Series” in 2008.

This one of a kind debate series brings together highly acclaimed debate teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) to compete against their Ivy League counterparts. The teams debate some of the most pressing social, cultural, and political issues of the day.

Back in 2008, the first such debate was held at Woolsey Hall on the Yale University campus where students from Howard University and Yale University demonstrated their oral prowess. Since then, interest in the series has grown. Under Esdaile's leadership, the NAACP has partnered with Starbucks coffee to present the Great Debate series every year.

In 2012, the Youth & College Division hosted the Great Debate between Wiley University and Harvard University during the 103rd Annual NAACP National Convention in Houston, Texas.

On Saturday, students from several groups joined together to journey down to one of the most importnt locations in Black History - Harlem.  Students making the journey came from:
  • The Boston NAACP’s Pipeline to Leadership Program
  • The Freedom House
  • The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Weston Public Schools
  • MassVote
  • Mount Ida College

Tour of History Black History Sites

As part of the day's events, 40 students and 7 adults were treated to a tour of Harlem by Neal Shoemaker, owner of Harlem Heritage Tours. According to Boston's Michael Curry, the youth were exposed to
  • Black and Latin Harlem
  • Rucker Park
  • The key historical locations in Malcolm X’s life
  • The location of the original Cotton Club
Mr. Curry, who is President of the Boston NAACP, continued: “They walked the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Towers housing development and were introduced to the concept of gentrification, and were encouraged to return home and buy properties in their own communities.” Students were also introduced to the contributions of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a U.S. Congressman (1945-1971), who represented Harlem, New York.

Great Debate in process
Great Debate Issues Close to Home

After the tour, the Boston contingent arrived at the First Corinthian Baptist Church to witness Howard University (a historically black college) debate Columbia University (an Ivy League institution) on the issues of “Stop and Frisk” and “Gun Control.”

The two-hour debate featured some of the nation’s best and brightest masterfully arguing both sides of the issues. “Our kids were exposed to a spirited exchange on issues that are near and dear to them,” said Tahina Barlatier, Success Coach for The Freedom House’s PUSH program. “Kids have been stopped and frisked in Boston and one of our youth leaders from the Boston NAACP had been shot.” Students listened to the constitutional arguments behind the seminal court case Terry v. Ohio on stop & frisk, and then heard compelling arguments for and against restricting access to guns.

Contact Information

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. The Boston Branch is the first chartered branch, established in 1911.

Communications Committee, Boston NAACP

Posted: March 4, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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