Image Description: Great Falls Park. The bottom half of the photo shows a river, the middle of the image shows green trees and a waterfall, the upper half of the image is a deep blue sky with fluffy white clouds.
It has been a minute since I wrote one of these.
I had surgery last month which is what brought on the break. I am back now, though (and fully recovered). A lot has happened with the organization. Today, I will try to give a rough account of what has happened and when.
Weeks eight and nine had a lot of tournament planning. I organized accommodations, curated tournament-specific judge training materials, and created handouts for participants. Everyday, I spent around five hours doing work planning for the tournament. During this time, we also had multiple meetings. One meeting was with an important official in a prominent speech and debate league. A few others were with people interested in the organization. These meetings generated some good ideas to include in our advocacy. Funny enough, I had a meeting the day after my surgery, and I talked for two hours holding an icepack to my face that was incredibly swollen.
Weeks Ten and Eleven were a whirlwind. It slowly became clear the week leading up to the tournament that it would need to be cancelled due to low enrollment. There are lots of aspects to the attendance problem. We received many emails from people who wanted to attend but could not. The most common reason was the timing of the school year. The grant we received from Georgetown SIPS was time-sensitive and had to be used during the summer. This is why I selected the first weekend in August for the tournament date. It was the closest possible date to schools starting while also still falling into the Georgetown summer calendar. Still, we had eleven schools signed up to attend. The week before, however, the biggest school pulled out for an unknown reason. This reduced our attendance greatly. A few other people dropped here and there and then before I knew it, only a very small group of people were signed up.
This was a really difficult thing to handle emotionally. I spent months promoting this tournament in every way I knew how. I sent hundreds of emails to coaches and teams and individuals. I networked until I was exhausted. I have never prepared for something more in my life. A few hundred hours of work went into this event. I really wanted this tournament to happen. At the end of the day, I cannot force things outside my control, and I know I tried everything I could to make it happen. I am just one person doing their best to make speech and debate a better place, and I should not feel bad about the things I try to do in pursuit of that goal.
Also, it was helpful to realize all the documents and presentations I made in preparation did not magically disappear. The materials still live on in this website as a model of what a more inclusive tournament looks like.
It is not all doom and gloom, though. This is also the period of time when our biggest success happened. Somewhere around week ten, I felt prepared to initiate contact with the National Speech and Debate Association. I sent a strong email outlining everything about 1AC, what we have done, and what we want. To my delight, surprise, and jubilation, the Director of Diversity responded and set up a meeting with 1AC and her staff. I will not discuss the details of the meeting because I do not want to announce anything before it is set in stone and implemented, but it was a very productive and hopeful meeting.
After the tournament cancellation, 1AC did a massive pivot. I reallocated the grant money from the tournament to the production of judge training materials
Image Description: Film lights, camera, and stands sit indoors behind a couch and in front of a kitchen.
In two weeks, I wrote, shot, produced, edited, uploaded, created, etc., a video and companion guide specially designed for judges with advice on how to combat ableism in speech and debate judging.
There are a few major considerations I had to make in the creation of these materials. The first is that the advice had to include things that would not contradict a tournament's rules. As much as I think it is moral, I cannot advise that judges facilitate extra time accommodations because time is strictly kept at most, if not all, tournaments. The guidelines needed to be things that were within the power judges have.
Additionally, I tried to make the materials as brief as possible. I wanted them to be persuasive to someone who has never engaged in critical theory or studies before. The language needed to be plain, uncomplicated, and short. As much as I would like to dive into fundamental critiques of capitalism and racial pedagogy as a starting point for understanding disability theory, people generally have a short attention span, and I needed to keep it as condensed and to-the-point as possible.
Also, this last week, we were interviewed by the Stennis Public Center for Public Service. More details on that coming soon!
All in all, things are taking off in new directions, and I cannot wait to see how 1AC grows this coming fall!