March 26, 2021 –
We are living in a time of precedented violence and global health crises.
There has been an oversaturation of media and updates about the coronavirus pandemic as well as how the virus has influenced every area of living from the macro to the micro. In this saturation, we have also witnessed the proliferation of racialized violence against Asians and Asian-Americans in concurrence with antiblack violence within the United States. The political climate is ever-shifting, from marching on Washington to rioting in Washington, while immigration policy has been tumultuous and the point of anxiety for many families. All the while, gendered and religious violence permeates through the cracks of protestors.
While the intersectional nature of such issues can be recapped indefinitely, this annual review necessitates discussing three focus points:
1) Health is important beyond the impacts of COVID-19
2) You are an advocate
3) You matter
COVID-19 is a serious concern as many people, including my family, have been impacted by the spread of the virus. While caring and protecting yourself in response to this pandemic is essential, your health is not limited to the impacts of this virus. Remember to care for your mental health. As the nature of debate and socialization itself has changed, we have found ourselves making a variety of adjustments. People have been more domestic and some relationships may have been strained while others may have grown. There are some people who haven’t been in school or work for a year and, for better or worse, it has been an adjustment.
Dedicate the necessary time to ensure you are getting the interactions you need to foster your mental stimulation. If you are enjoying your time alone, then try to use that time to enjoy or work on yourself and your desires. Stimulate your body in addition to your mind. Exercising is an essential part of your mental development in addition to your physical. As the physical movement has decreased over the year, it should be substituted with additional activities. Especially for debaters, exercising your lungs helps with your speaking and breathing for speeches. Be intentional about the media you consume. The socio-political reality of all of the violence across the world is part of your individual health and larger community health. It is important that you control your intake because that is important to support your optimal headspace.
Policy debate, and NAUDL uniquely, provide an opportunity for training and a platform for advocacy to ensure our young scholars have the tools they need to create change. The issues you have been witnessing may be inspiring you to create change. This change may be for yourself; it may be for someone you love, or it may be for someone you don’t even know, but we must continue to build and be advocates. As we reflect on the histories of violence while surviving our present, we must envision futures where we understand how we can impact the lived circumstances of those areas that we wish to influence. There can be no idle minds in a world that necessitates a plethora of missions. Use the energy of your frustration and your insatiable appetite for change, to pull your advocacy skills into the task you choose.
It is easy to become complacent when people might reject you, deny your energy, or try to break your spirit. Firstly, we must begin change with belief in ourselves. You are important. You are necessary. You are valuable. You matter. In the same way your debate experience is not determined by your win record, life is not determined in that manner as well. Embrace the process of building and learning so you can create your reality. Secondly, we must create and rely on our communities. In some ways, activities and organizations such as policy debate and NAUDL could become communities for you to build relationships, friendships, family, and support — but in other ways, you can build your own communities from the people you interact with by deciding on your friendships and mentors.
Tyler Akeem Anderson is a J.D. Candidate and Ph.D. Student (American Studies) at the University of Minnesota Law School and College of Liberal Arts. He previously debated in the New York Urban Debate League, graduating in 2014, and at Dartmouth College.