A high school in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn has a new award to add to its trophy case thanks to the speech and debate team earning a national championship win with a speech themed around the issue of “Why Black Lives Matter.”
Aliyah Myers, a sophomore at Achievement First Brooklyn High School gave the impassioned recitation.
“I have a powerful message that needs to be heard,” Mayers told the New York Daily News.
The speech was originally written by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza in 2016. “My message is that Black lives matter. Whether or not you are Black or white, we are all impacted by the dangers of white supremacy. It’s time to overcome it.”
Garza heard about the 15-year old, straight-A student’s big win using her words and expressed gratitude.
“Aliyah really exemplifies why we started Black Lives Matter in the first place — so that Aliyah could know that her life matters, and that her circumstances aren’t a result of black deficiency, but instead, of white racism. Black people have always been magic — and Aliyah is no exception.”
Though Garza expresses her appreciation for Mayers, not everyone shares her sentiment. The 60-member all Black and Hispanic team told the New York Daily News that they have sometimes encountered disrespect and racism at competitions they attend all over the country. On one occasion, a student was even mistaken for a member of the wait staff.
However, the speech and debate class teacher and debate team coach K.M. DiColandrea believes the students have the fortitude to withstand the slings and arrows.
“Even when we’re in places that are actively hostile, the students still have the confidence to speak with all the power and composure they’re capable of,” said the coach who the students have nicknamed DiCo.
DiColandrea founded the debate team in 2011. Many students remain in the speech and debate class throughout their four years of high school. The students have debated on a number of topics, including net neutrality, foreign policy, and social justice.