Congratulations to Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson for becoming the first black women to win a national debate championship! The Towson University students beat 170 other teams during the Cross Examination Debate Association national championship held this week in Indiana.
Ameena and Korey’s winning argument likened police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and structural poverty issues to a warlike violence against African-Americans in the U.S. and identified solutions.
The Towson debate team was at the center of a controversy last fall when its members said the university was preventing it from participating in a tournament at Harvard University. Towson eventually relented and the team took part in that competition.
Johnson, an 18-year-old sophomore, called the win “surreal.” The team spent untold hours poring over books, articles and other publications to craft their arguments, then took more time to practice their delivery strategies, she said.
“The arguments we construct are like mini-dissertations,” Johnson said. “One of our strongest things is being adaptable, not just to our opponents, but when you get judges, you have to assume that they’re susceptible to certain types of arguments.”
Kelsie said both teams in the final round agreed that police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and structural poverty issues amounted to a “warlike violence” against black people in the U.S. But she said Ruffin and Johnson argued that the issue could be overcome not by focusing on the negative of the situation, as the opposing team did, but by imagining a better future.
Now Ruffin, 21, and Johnson are designated among the top 16 debate teams in the country. Ruffin placed 12th and Johnson placed 15th in the individual rankings.
“I’m beside myself,” Kelsie said. “They’re just amazing, remarkable young women.”