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Hear Me Debate with Confidence!

by Erika Marte | Nov 21, 2017 9:01:13 AM | |


Teachers, astronauts, scientists, lawyers, education leaders, and debaters all have one thing in common – confidence!

Saturday, November 4th marked the second New York City Urban Debate League (NYCUDL) Girls Debate League workshop on the theme of Confidence & Debate. New York University at Steinhardt hosted a group of bright and talented elementary through high school girls who explored moments of insecurity in the academic sport of debate. The theme of this workshop was developed through the combined efforts of the debate community and the girls debaters’ feedback from the previous workshop on identity and debate.


The morning session of the workshop was aim to understand the definition of confidence. Erika Marte, Girls Debate League Director and facilitator, encouraged the girls to think about what confidence looks, feels, and sounds like through creative group activities. After defining confidence as “standing tall,” “being sure of yourself,” “fearless,” ”being heard,” etc. the girls brought their words to live in a visual representation of confidence. Present at the gallery walk of their masterpieces were a mixture of claps, cheers, and profound discussions. For instance, a young girl said, “We drew our confident girl like this because what matters is not how she looks. What matters is what’s on the inside and how she debates.” Throughout the morning session the girls bravely shared moments of confidence in their classrooms, home, and debate rounds.




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In the afternoon session of the workshop the girls “walked the talk” and prepared for mini-mock debates. The debate topic – The media should censor all representations of women and only allow the portrayal of positive and confident women roles – sparked immediate conversations. First speeches were filled with contentions such as, “Censoring the media does not and will not solve the root issues that women and girls face in America” or “Imagine only having positive and nice roles of women in our music, tv, and news. We would grow up with the best role models!” The girls did not make judging easy for our alumni debaters who volunteered to provide the girls with constructive comments after rounds. Preparation time was never enough for these debaters who had first hand knowledge on the topic they were so passionately debating.






The workshop ended with a keynote speech by NYCUDL alumni, Camonghne Felix – poet, writer, founder of social initiative POC 4 Solvency, account executive at Berlin Rosen, and former speech writer for Executive Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Felix showed the girls one of her inspiring spoken word poetry pieces on the subject of confidence and structural oppression. Immediately thereafter girls and parents responded with a wave of positive comments and questions. A high school debater asked, “Did you ever feel that being a black woman ever held you back or was a problem?" Felix shared her experiences and responded with “You are not the problem. Being a black girl or women is not the problem. Don’t ever think that or let anyone tell you so. The rest of the world and how they view you are the real problem. A problem that you are all starting to solve through debate.”


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Having confidence is easier said than done, nevertheless our young girls debaters who participated in the workshop have demonstrated that it is possible to be confident regardless of the situations they may encounter in their lives and in debate. “Drawing confident people inspired me to hold my head high!” is one of the many take-aways that the young debaters shared and that judges and parents will see firsthand throughout future debate rounds.




The Girls Debate League understands that gender inequality continues to exist and thrives at different levels of society. We strive to utilize debate as a vehicle to actively acknowledge injustices and create a safe space for individuals who identify as female to challenge the status quo.


This workshop was possible thanks to a grant from Citizens Committee for New York City.


Photo Credit: Andrea Martucci, International Center of Photography, amartucci19@students.icp.edu


Learn more about the Girls Debate League by clicking here or visiting us at http://debate.nyc/programs/girls-debate-league/



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