Howard and Hampton University’s debate teams competed in an exhibition debate for the title of “The Real HU,” as students from the rival universities engaged in fast-paced discourse over topics from immigration to school curriculums in Cramton auditorium last week.
At the onset of the Feb. 10 debate, Howard University Student Association President Jordyn Allen opened up the event by singing the Black National Anthem together with an audience of about 100 people. This was followed by an interpretive poem reading from senior marketing major Joshua Higgins titled, “My God,” and the introduction of professor Angela D. Minor, the faculty advisor of the Howard Speech and Debate team.
After both teams of four took their seats, Minor kicked off the competition as moderator of the debate. Both sides were passionate and ready to engage in intellectual discourse.
The first resolution of the debate tackled immigration status concerning the Affordable Care Act. Hampton argued their stance in support of verifying immigration status for healthcare coverage while Howard argued against it.
Hampton senior political science major Ryen Bell delivered the first opening statement, emphasizing the importance of healthcare access for all while noting that the Affordable Care Act is specifically designed for American citizens, which can include legal immigrants.
However, Howard senior sociology and psychology double major Nadrat Amos refuted Bell’s argument, speaking assertively as she backed her main point.
Amos said, “The right to healthcare is the right to human life… Hampton is going to sit here and tell you that we don’t have the resources as a country to support that statement, but we do have the resources to grant $900 billion towards military operations? Make it make sense.”
The Lagos native drew on her own experience to illustrate the relevance of the debate resolution to the audience, recounting how her family struggled to access healthcare when they migrated to America.
Following Amos, her partner, junior international business major and the Hilltop business manager, Julian Szyszka doubled down on these points by adding, “America is openly willing to let undocumented immigrants work and slave over the little they make, but when they get hurt on that same job, everyone turns their head and blames immigration… that isn’t right and that certainly isn’t just.”
Contributing to Hampton’s arguments was senior political science major Christopher Holiday. From an early point in the match-up, the Hampton team felt that Howard’s main speaking points took away from the substantiality of the argument and played on the audience’s emotions rather than staying on task.
Holiday forwarded this assertion by saying, “The narrative pushed onto us by the opposing seeks to be demoralizing and when looking at their actual points made, although decent in theatrical attempt, lack substantial evidence and relevance.”
The cheers, boos and banter of the Cramton audience could be heard loudly as each school argued for their respective stances on morality versus legality. Howard and Hampton kept the debate lively with their contrasting views, offering passionately argued perspectives on the debate topics.
Following the conclusion of the first debate topic, Howard University’s Jada Bourne started off the second round of debate, by saying “African-American studies should be integrated into the curriculums of K-12 public schools nationwide.”
The Dallas native started the debate with her main point that Black history is the foundation of American history in industrial, economic and cultural contexts, meaning their impact should match their representation in school curriculums.
As Hampton’s Jeremiah Lewis and Alaina Tholtam stepped up to argue the affirmative, the audience began to show their favoritism towards Howard. Minor had to remind the audience throughout the debate to remain respectful of Hampton’s team as they argued in the affirmative.
Despite the fact that Hampton had sound and informed views over both debate topics, Howard employed their aptitude to articulate their ideas in a dramatic way, using the audience heavily to their advantage.
Throughout the debate, Howard utilized their at-home advantage and personability to their strong suit. From early on it was understood that a debate seemed less about who made stronger points, and more about who could rally the audience.
The two teams’ exhibition debate match was an intense battle, but in the end, neither emerged as a clear victor.
Desmond Braxton, a senior finance major from Atlanta was at the debate match between Hampton and Howard. He commented that Hampton came out strong with a few solid points, but ultimately Howard emerged victorious due to the eloquence of their assertions. “Overall, it was a great debate,” Braxton said, “but I think we all know who ‘The Real HU’ is.”
At the end, Christopher Holiday of the Hampton debate team shared his thoughts on the event.
“It was so encouraging to see that we were able to have a debate after the outbreak of COVID-19,” Holiday said, “The biggest challenge of this debate honestly was advocating for positions that may not align with one’s personal views was difficult, but it was great to have an open platform to discuss such topics.”
When asked about his approach to the debate Szyszka said, “We tried to get out on top really early through reaching the audience and coming at the debate from a humane aspect. Talking about subjects like immigration status and teaching AA history, you can’t separate facts from morality when they affect humans nationwide.”
Szyszka went on to say, “We’re getting ready for our HBCU Nationals competition right now so we’ve been in our bag for a while now…we’ve been ready, we’re always ready and the team stays ready.”
Szyszka gave gratitude to Minor, who headed putting the event together.
“Attorney Minor is such an instrumental figure at this university and especially for this team. We wouldn’t be here without her so thank you Attorney Minor for your everlasting support and proactivity,” he said.
Moving forward, the Howard debate team prepares for their HBCU National Championship Debate on Feb. 24 in Richmond, Virginia. They will be facing off against schools such as Hampton, Morehouse, Spelman and Tuskegee University on the campus of Virginia State University to take it all home.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman