Seattle Debate Institute 2008

University of Washington

August 15-29, 2008


Tournament Results!

Seattle Debate Institute 2008 with Voltaire Sterling from the movie The Great Debaters

·     Application
Brochure and Everything Else You Need To Know!
Administrative Procedures


   Fund A Scholarship!

   Letters of Support: Why should you support SDI?

   Daily Schedule & Benefits of Debate


About SDI

SDI is a, two-week, residential, summer institute/workshop for urban youth going into grades 9-12.  Housed on the University of Washington’s campus, program includes individual research, brief writing, creative writing & music production, speaking drills, and practice debates with an experienced and diverse faculty and low student-teacher ratios.  SDI will provide students with the necessary training and supplies that prepare the students to debate the 2008-9 National Topic:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.

Cutting Edge Programming

Although the topic of the year is about alternative energy, the curriculum is designed to expose students to current literature and experts from the community who are waging critical arguments that focus on ways to address the root cause of societal injustices and inequities based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation. The 2008-9 topic provides an excellent opportunity for the students to explore a wide-range of issues like environmental racism, gentrification, Ecofeminism and corporate responsibility.  Not only do students develop an understanding of how these issues affect themselves and local and global communities; but they also learn about the importance of their own voice and role in creating solutions to these problems.

SDI is the only debate institute in the country that enables students to both gain all of the academic benefits of debate; while also being culturally relevant and connecting to students’ interests. In 2006, we pioneered our first Hip Hop Debate programming that provided students with another way to present their arguments in their 90-minute evidenced based debate rounds. The goal of this program is to teach students how to use Hip Hop culture to speak to the issues that they will be debating.  Our goals around this are to create a more inclusive activity, build community and stimulate a broader commitment to create a more inclusive politics that values the richness, voices and needs of all cultures.  The success of the institute was featured in Newsweek Magazine and KIRO Radio in 2006. Our 2007-8 programming has received local acclaim from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Pierce County Message Magazine, KPLU/NPR, Live from I-5 Radio, KJR Sports Radio.

Student Stipends & Tuition

Tuition for just room and board is $1,500. 

$3,500 provides urban scholars with supplies and a stipend.

For our urban debaters, we are currently fundraising to provide dozens of full-ride scholarships and additional stipends to be used during the school year to fund their participation at weekend debate tournaments regionally and nationally during the 2008-9 debate season.

Why Debate?

“What would occur if debate became as compulsory in inner-city educational culture as football or basketball? Imagine graduating from high school each year millions of underprivileged teenagers with the ability to articulate their own needs, the needs of others, and the ability to offer solutions. I am convinced that someone would be forced to listen.” Professor Edward Lee, Memoir of a Former Urban Debate Participant

Best Learning Tool for Urban Scholars

Educators around the country believe that debate is a better learning tool for urban students than anything else they have tried.[1]   According to Yale University Professor Minh A. Luong, “There is no better activity that will develop essential academic, professional, and life skills than dedicated involvement in speech and debate.”[2]   Research on debate consistently produces dramatic results across the curriculum and most measures of academic achievement – especially for traditionally underserved educational communities.  Robert B. Reich, Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis University explains: “Urban Debate Leagues can help reduce the education-opportunity gap that separates rich and poor communities and thus they can help our children’s chances and our nation’s future.” 

Preparing for and participating in public debates and 90-minute debate rounds at weekend tournaments, students practice voicing their own researched views on the most pressing political, economic, social and cultural questions facing their generation.

Debate participation is linked to improvements in test scores, grades, reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, reducing achievement gaps[3] between populations, reducing discipline referrals[4] , and promoting college attendance.[5]   In Atlanta, a study of the impact of debate on at-risk middle school students found that seventh graders improved their grade-point averages by four points and experienced a 50% reduction in disciplinary action.[6]   Not only do reading scores of debaters improve 25% more than those of non-debaters;[7] but also, the New York Times reported in 2004, that after two years of debating, high school students participating in Urban Debate Leagues research at a post-collegiate level.[8]   Furthermore, John Sexton, President of New York University and former Dean of NYU Law School explains, “In some ways debate is a superior training to what’s offered in some law schools.[9]


Debate increases college matriculation and scholarship opportunities.  In 1997, Atlanta reported that over 12,000 of students participating in urban debate went on to attend a four-year college or university, with three dozen receiving debating scholarships.  In addition, nearly 100 colleges and universities recruit urban debaters, the majority of whom are low-income.[10]


High expectations for student achievement are fostered by team-based competitive tournaments.  Debate competition inspires students to improve reading comprehension, critical thinking and research skills, note-taking, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and enables students to become leaders in their peer group and role models for middle school students. 


Students learn to respect others’ views, develop their own, and accept responsibility for them. The debate format positions students as active, vocal advocates for public policy change: transforming traditional student attitudes toward learning basic skills.  Research becomes a means to an end:  winning debates.  Students are free to speak with authority, as advocates for change in which they are intellectually invested.  Breaking the code of public policy language is a byproduct of researching those issues, providing students with justified confidence in their own ideas.  Teachers, parents and judges listen while students speak.  Judges take copious notes.  This reversal of power that the debate format embodies is critically important as a life experience for marginalized populations.

Neighborhood Involvement

In addition to our fabulous teaching staff, the institute will also feature guest speakers from the community to provide the students with a well-rounded curriculum that thinks about education as addressing the whole child. Guest speakers will bring their expertise in law, civil rights, education, health and wellness, media literacy, engineering and production, goal setting, college readiness and financial planning.

Four graduates of the Seattle Urban Debate League will also be selected to receive paid internships to work at the institute. The goal is to assist our graduates in paying for their higher education; provide them with job training in education/tutoring/mentoring; as well as provide our high school participants with exceptional role-models and extra tutors in the classroom.

Lastly, several of our varsity debaters have committed to help with curriculum development and mentoring novice debaters at the institute.

Community Building and Celebration

The end of the institute will feature a tournament; which will culminate in a final round/public debate with an awards ceremony/celebration. The judges of the public debate/final round will be leaders in our community who are experts in their respective fields (policy making, environmental studies, community organizing, media literacy, social justice, performance arts and communications).  All parents, guardians, sponsors, debate coaches/public school teachers, community partners and the media will be invited to share in this showcase of the talent, vision and intelligence of our youth.

The debate community functions as an extended family and network of support for our youth. Post the institute the people involved, youth and adults continue to work with one another in the community and in the schools.

Race Relations & Social Justice

According to Henry Giroux, “What is so important about the UDL program is that it is not merely interested in teaching debating skills to students…instead, debating is viewed as a form of critical literacy that empowers students, especially underrepresented races, ethnicities, and females, not only with high-powered academic skills but also with the essential critical knowledge and beliefs necessary to convince them that they can become both effective advocates for democracy and leaders in a world that they must learn how to influence and govern.”

Debate brings groups together from all races and cultures and provides countless opportunities to build bridges between groups that may not ordinarily interact. In addition to learning about social justice issues at SDI, our debaters hold public debates in the community to raise overall awareness about these issues.



Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley, Institute Director (returning staff) : After debating on the 1st Urban Debate League high school teams in Atlanta, Shanara debated for Emory University where she was a quarterfinalist at the Cross-Examination Debate Association National Championship.  Shanara has taught at numerous national debate institutes, including SDI and currently is currently a professor and Director of Debate at University of Pittsburg.

Dr. Charles (Cap) Peck (Faculty Sponsor of SDI): Founding member of the WSU faculty, and currently Professor of Special Education at the UW where he is the Director of Teacher Education and Co-Director of Teachers for a New Era, a Carnegie Foundation project designed to rethink teacher education.

Judy Butler, Director of Teachers Institute (returning staff ) : Judy is one of the most experienced instructors in the nation, having taught at over 50 debate workshop sessions.  Judy is the founder and former debate coach for Spelman University and has also coached at Emory University, Georgia State University and Woodward Academy.  Judy also is the co-founder of Stanford National Forensic Institute and 16-year instructor there.  For the last few years Judy has worked as an independent contractor for the Federal Public Defender Program as a litigation investigator on State Habeas capitol cases.

Jen Johnson, Executive Director:  Jen is the Executive Director of the Seattle Debate Foundation.  Jen has directed several debate institutes and has taught at over 20 debate workshops.  She is a former UC Berkeley debater and former Director of the SF-Bay Area UDL.

Laura "piece" Kelley-Jahn, Director of Arts & Culture:  Seattle's only HBO Def Jam Poet, Seattle Grand Slam Champion 2004-5. She is an em-cee, educator, activist, co-founder of Aim For Peace, member of Seattle Arts Commission Education Committee, and Executive Director for the Think Big Foundation.

Omaree Johnson, Chief Technology Officer: President of Reason Records, Accomplished Performance/Teaching Artist, Engineer, Community Organizer and Volunteer, and Chief Technology Officer for SDI.

Deven Cooper: Baltimore UDL and Towson University alumnus, 2008 National Debate Tournament Champion qualifier and 2008 CEDA National 1st Place Team Champion.

Dayvon Love: Baltimore UDL alumnus, 2008 National Debate Tournament Champion qualifier and 2008 CEDA National 1st Place Team Champion with Towson University.

DLabrie:  DLabrie has traveled around the world as a recording/performing artist. He is the President of Rondavoux Records and the Northern California Director of Hip Hop Conress. His video VOTE FOR BARAK has received national attention including airtime on CNN. DLabrie also works with the Hip Hop Chess Federation, SAVOY (Stop All Violence on Youth) and numerous other youth and community empowerment organizations.

Julie Chang Schulman: Northwest Regional Coordinator of Hip Hop Congress, Education Committee member of H2ed, Co-director of Reclaim the Media, member of Alpha P., Assitant Chapter Head of Zulu Nation of Seattle (206 Zulu), freelance journalist, and Co-host of Fresh Coast Radio KBCS 91.3 FM.

Asun Nicholas, a.k.a. Suntonio Bandanaz: OtherGounds Records, Performance/Teaching Artist for numerous organizations including H2ed, Cofounder of Project Mayhem (Seattle), member of Alpha P and 206 Zulu.

Toni Hill (returning staff): Soul, Hip Hop, Jazz performing and teaching artist. Her projects include: Sirens Echo, Hungry mob, Oldominion, The Chosen, The Lab, Black Notes, Liv & The Warfield Project, Randy Star & The Flirt Band and many more

Jael Myrick (returning staff): Jael is a Bay Area Urban Debate League graduate where he earned national recognition debating for John F. Kennedy High School. Jael is returning for his fourth year instructing at SDI.  Jael is the founder, CEO and Chief Executive Officer of STRONG: Standing to Represent our Next Generation in the Bay Area.

Makela Steward, Certified Instructor, Rainier Beach High School: Ms. Steward graduated from Rainier Beach High School and is now coaching for her Alma Mater after leaving her teaching position for New Orleans Public Schools after Hurricane Katrina.  Ms. Steward is certified in Language Arts, History and also teaches Drama, Choir, and African Drumming.

Joseph Swarner, Certified Instructor, Garfield High School: Mr. Swarner was a high school debater himself and now coaches for Garfield High School. He is also certified Social Studies instructor at GHS.

SDI 2008 -  Partners in Hip Hop

Numerous artists from around the Pacific Northwest and the United States have contributed our program. Below is a list of many of the teaching artists who are dedicating countless hours to making an impact on our young people's lives by sharing their craft, wisdom and encouragement so that our youth see their future of endless possibilities:

  • Julie Chang Schulman, Northwest Regional Coordinator of Hip Hop Congress, Education Committee member of H2ed, Co-director of Reclaim the Media, member of Alpha P, Assistant Chapter Head of Zulu Nation from Seattle (206 Zulu), freelance journalist, and Co-host of Fresh Coast Radio KBCS 91.3 FM.
  • BeLoved 01, Performer, educator, community organizer, elementary school debate coach, dancer, poet, freelance journalist, and community activist.
  • Mic Crenshaw, Portland, Oregon Hip Hop artist/educator/activist, Co-founder of Global Family NetWork  
  • DJ B-Girl, has been a staple in the Seattle music scene since 2001. She is a DJ, breaker, producer, community organizer, teaching artist, Co-Host of B-Girl Bench, and Co-host of Fresh Coast Radio KBCS 91.3.
  • DJ Miss Broadway, has been deejaying at Seattle dance clubs for over seven years and has also brought her field of expertise to the classroom teaching and inspiring our young ones.
  • DLabrie, President of Rondavoux Records and Northern California Director of Hip Hop Congress
  • Rajnii Eddins, A dynamic spoken word poet, emcee, teaching artist, community leader and Director of Debate Mt. Tahoma High School
  • Willie JR Fleming, a.k.a. I Am Hip Hop Chicago, Co-Chair of Music/Video/Promotions for CO-OP Entertainment, Chicago Regional Director for Hip Hop Congress, Human Rights Activist/Speaker/Video Production for Poor Peoples Human Rights Campaign and Coalition to Protect Public Housing
  • Jose Gutierrez Jr., a.k.a. Luvva J, teacher, writer, poet, em-cee, producer, director, youth advocate, Official DJ for Andre Nickatina, Steelo, The Silent Lambs Project & radio host of Live From I-5 Radio, Sac Town Radio & Warrior FM. Jose is also the Director of Debate for Lincoln High School.
  • Toni Hill, Soul, Hip Hop, Jazz performing and teaching artist. Her projects include: Sirens Echo, Hungry mob, Oldominion, The Chosen, The Lab, Black Notes, Liv & The Warfield Project, Randy Star & The Flirt Band and many more.
  • Laura "piece" Kelley, Seattle's only HBO Def Jam Poet, Seattle Grand Slam Champion 2004-5, she is an em-cee, educator, activist, co-founder of Aim-for-Piece, member of Seattle Arts Commission, Education Committee, and Executive Director of the Think Big Foundation.
  • Amos Miller, of 2o6 Vintage, has produced tracks for nearly all of Seattles hip hop and R&B talent, including Piece, Choklate, Silent Lamb Project and Vitamin D.
  • Asun Nicholas, OtherGounds Records, Performance/Teaching Artist for numerous organizations including H2ed, Cofounder of Project Mayhem (Seattle), member of Alpha P and 206 Zulu
  • Shamako Noble, President of Hip Hop Congress and Co-Director of H2Ed. He is an accomplished em-cee and poet and extensively involved in Hip Hop Promotions, Marketing, PR Media, Journalism and Grassroots Campaigns.
  • Radio Active, is an emcee, beatboxer, writer, painter, b-boy, musician and teaching artist. He has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan as a member of the musical group Michael Franti & Spearhead and appeared on national television programs such as David Letterman, Craig Kilborne and on MTV with the critically acclaimed single/video “Rock The Nation.”
  • Silver Shadow D, a Seattle legend as an Underground Hip Hop/Dancehall performing artist, producer, writer, and recording engineer from Seattle, WA, Chief Engineer and Producer of SHADOW MUZIK and member of 206 Zulu.
  • Sista Hailstorm, Southern Native Warrior member of Zulu Nation 206 and Rebel Alliance L.A.ometeohtl & nym from Lost Aztlan with a life time commitment to empowering and educating indegenous youth through the use of native traditional education, underground hip-hop, graffitti art, urban dance, traditional dance & singing.
  • Gabriel Teodros, Since the release of Lovework earlier this year, Gabriel Teodros reached the very top of the CMJ Hip Hop Charts, released two new music videos, was featured on NPR and in URB Magazine's "Next 100", and has been recieving rave reviews everywhere from Rolling Stone to

There are countless other Hip Hop Artists who we must give thanks and praise for their support as well: Dirty-O, M-Famous Productions, Kazi, Kazm, Jerm, Mind Movers, Black Senate, Han Solo, Silent Lambs Project, SOLO, Moorpheus Magnetik, Cochise, Jace, Silas Blak, D. Khalil Crisis, Dead Prez, NISAN, Cleveland Steamers, RA Scion, Jael Myrick, RC, The Jacka.

SDI 2008

Crews, Business, Media, Networks & Organizational Supporters

206 Zulu – Provides teaching artists & opportunities for the students to be interviewed and present on Zulu radio during SDI.

Aim for Peace – Aim for Peace uses Hip-Hop as a vehicle for social change inspiring youth to find their voice through positive writing workshops, recording projects, and live performances that build self confidence, heighten creative expression, instill academic awareness and promote community outreach. Aim for Peace was founded in 2004 by Seattle spoken-word artist Laura “Piece” Kelley and hip-hop producer Amos Miller. Aim For Peace will facilitate writing and music workshops for SDI youth that use hip-hop to express the realities of growing up in today’s society. This is a fresh and innovative approach that engages youth in critical thinking, media literacy, and academic achievement.

Alpha P. – Is one of Seattle’s incredible Hip Hop crews. They will be supplying teaching artists for SDI.

Associated Leaders of Urban Debate – Provides PR/Marketing support to ensure that our youth and partners receive national recognition for their accomplishments and efforts.

B Girl Bench - B-Girl Bench provides workshops that create a space for women to be empowered as leaders, mentors and artists who promote social change and increase the visibility of women in Hip Hop.

Block Teamsters Union – Seattle’s first Hip Hop artists union created to unite, support, and complete northwest rap and hip-hop artists, to prepare them for worldwide exposure provides teaching artists.

Gonzaga University – Will waive entry fees for SDI debaters who plan to compete at their January 2009 tournament.

Hip Hop 101 TV – Will provide opportunities for our students to be on their programming.

Hip Hop Congress – Provides teaching artists and national recognition of youth’s accomplishments and our supporters.

Live From I-5 Radio Will interview our students.

Multimedia Center 206 – Will help recruit youth and help students document their work via videotaping classes and student interviews.

National Association of Urban Debate – Provides PR/Marketing support to ensure that our youth and partners receive national recognition for their accomplishments and efforts.

Open Hand Reel – Run by Scott and Angelica Macklin assists with video documentation and production. Scott Macklin is also the Chief Technology Officer at the UW who provides us access to video cameras, editing programs and a computer lab.

Project Mayhem - They will be supplying teaching artists for SDI.

Rainier Beach Community Action Coalition – Has included Urban Debate as one of their partners in their community initiatives.

Reclaim the Media – Will provide media literacy workshops.

Seattle Hip Hop Summit Action Network Youth Council & Remix Marking & Communications Focuses on educating and empowering youth about the realities of the Hip Hop/entertainment industry and other issues of relevance to the Hip Hop generation.

Seattle Public Schools – High School teachers help recruit students, teach classes and ensure that students receive school credit for attending SDI.

University of California, Speech & Debate – Will waive entry fees for SDI debaters who plan to compete at the UC Berkeley Tournament in Feb. of 2009.

University of Puget Sound, Speech and Debate – Will waive entry fees for SDI debaters who plan to compete at their January 2009 tournament.

University of Washington – Provides free classroom space, guest speakers and has reserved all of our dorm rooms and meal plans.

Whitman College – Will waive entry fees for SDI debaters who plan to compete at their November 2008 tournament.

Youth Uprising – Provides free space for our debaters to prepare the day before the Berkeley tournament.


[1] “Making Their Case,”  CBS 60 Minutes, June 8, 2003.  & “Debate: New Gateway to College for Urban Educators,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2003.

[2] Minh A. Luong, “Forensics and College Admissions,” Rostrum, November 2000, page 3.

[3] Keith Ervin, “Student Debates Prompt Cheers,” The Seattle Times, March 26, 2001.

[4] “Debate: New Gateway to College for Urban Educators,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10, 2003.  

[5] Holly J. Morris, “League of Their Own,” U.S. News and World Report, June 17, 2002.

[6] Tonya Harris, “Urban Debate Leagues – A Growing Phenomenon,” Urban Educator, March 2006, page 6.

[7] Linda Collier, University of Missouri-Kansas City National Study on Debate and Urban Student Achievement, May 2004.

[8] “The Smart Sport” The New York Times, November 14, 2004.

[9] John Sexton in “A Conversation with John Sexton,”  Rostrom, March 1994 Volume 68 Number 7

[10] The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 10, 2003.

[11] Stacy A. Teicher, “Speaking Up,” The Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2004.

[12] Harris, 2006, page 6.

[13] Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley “Folding the Rhetoric of Inclusion Back on Itself: Hip Hop and Academic Debate.”  Paper presented at the National Race and Pedagogy Conference. Tacoma, Washington.  2006

Judy will also be instructing SPS teachers during morning workshops.

Shanara will trade off with Judy instructing SPS teachers.


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