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Stay WOKE Speech and Debate Competition 2020 Thrived Sans a Live Studio Audience

By Anna Galaktionov

The 2020 Stay WOKE Speech and Debate Competition served up compelling performances amidst the aggressive pandemic, boasting virtual live stream viewers in lieu of a live in-person audience.

The David Brinkley Studio
Moderators Mateo Gomez (left) and Brianna Lopez (right)
Moderator Mateo Gomez (left) and Official Amanda Gonzalez Garcia (right)
From left to right Judges Dr. Foreman, Dr. Hartz, and Professor Noel
Official Suzannah Young (left) and Moderator Brianna Lopez (right)
First Place Winner Horatiann Gordon
Second Place Winner Benjamin Downs
Third Place Winner Jazmin Baez
From left to right Speakers Anyah Charlotin, Benjamin Downs, Laylah Santiago, Jazmin Baez, Ethan Brooks, Horatiann Gordon, and Isabel Pulgarin
From left to right Judges Dr. Hartz, Dr. Foreman, and Professor Noel
The Buccaneer Faculty Advisor Professor Tiffani Knowles
Professor J.R. Steele

Photos Credit to Emma James

The competition was held at the David Brinkley Studio at Barry University and was live streamed on November 19 via the YouTube channel BTV Channel 14.

The event moderators were Brianna Lopez, author of The Nighttime Series: A Collection of Poetry and Short Stories, and Mateo Gomez, a political skeptic featured on MSNBC, NBC, CBS, BBC and more, both of whom are staff writers at The Buccaneer.

The officials, who asked the debaters questions after their speeches, were Suzannah Young and Amanda Gonzalez Garcia, also staff writers at The Buccaneer.

The speech judges were political science chair Dr. Sean Foreman, business management professor Dr. Dale Hartz, and FMU communication professor Jefferson Noel.

Each student speaker either argued the affirmative or negative side of a debate topic.

The first topic posited that virtual learning is superior to face-to-face learning. Anyah Charlotin argued for the affirmative side and Laylah Santiago stepped up against.

Charlotin claimed that virtual learning is flexible, cost efficient, and accessible. Santiago argued that virtual learning produces stress, limits teacher feedback, causes social isolation, and decreases student engagement.

The second topic covered the dilemma concerning the wearing of face masks in open spaces.

Benjamin Downs responded with a bold “No,” stating that funding for the enforcement of wearing face masks is costly and would need to come from local taxes. He also said that face masks induce health concerns, and social distancing is enough to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Horatiann Gordon starkly disagreed by arguing that the wearing of face masks, even in open spaces, is a life-saving precautionary measure and is everyone’s responsibility.

The audience on the live chat enjoyed this debate topic and showed active support for both speakers.

YouTuber Christopher Mitchell wrote, “Sooo good both of them literally have chills.”

The following topic evaluated whether Latinx should replace the words Latino or Latina in the spoken and written language of Spanish or not.

The affirmative speaker was Jazmin Baez who claimed that LGBTQ members are part of the Latin culture and therefore need to be welcomed into the culture by incorporating Latinx.

The opponent Ethan Brooks argued that most of the Latin population is unaware of the term Latinx and only 3% of Latin people actually use it. He also mentioned that Latinx is an English term that cannot be easily incorporated into the gender based Spanish language.

The last speaker was Isabel Pulgarin who passionately argued against Florida Governor DeSantis’ Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act. Pulgarin supported her claim by using real-life examples of peaceful protestors being killed by drivers running into them with their cars and then not being charged guilty for doing so.

Pulgarin’s opponent had unfortunately dropped out of the competition the day before.

As the judges were deciding the winners, Professor J.R. Steele spoke about the almost universal fear of public speaking and how all need to become “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Our international remote students were also represented in the competition. Zyhria Curry from the Bahamas presented an affirmative speech on virtual learning being superior to face-to-face learning, and Alice Gotbring from Sweden argued that professional sports organizations have the power to affect change within society’s racial inequities.

After the speeches, Dr. Foreman announced the winners.

Horatiann Gordon received the first-place win, Benjamin Downs followed in second place, and Jazmin Baez took third place.

The staff at The Buccaneer and all the event participants congratulate the winners and all the speakers!

Professor Tiffani Knowles, faculty adviser for The Buccaneer, graciously ended the competition by reminding all viewers to stay tuned for the Winter 2020 edition and to visit the newspaper’s website at