Nine of the last 13 winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been of Indian descent. In many years, African Americans are not represented among the top finalists. Financial obstacles undoubtedly contribute to the low level of participation by African Americans. Many of the nation’s top young spellers employ tutors and coaches and have access to digital media tools to help them prepare for spelling bees. In many cases, these aides may not be available to young African Americans.
But a new event offers many young African American students the opportunity to compete on a national level in spelling competitions. The second annual African American National Spelling Bee will take place in Houston on June 16. Regional competitions have been or will be held in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. Students in grades 6 to 8 are eligible to compete.
The top three finishers from the regional competitions will travel to Houston for the national event, with their expenses and those of their guardians paid by the event’s sponsors.
The African American National Spelling Bee Competition was created by Robert Garner Jr., a Houston businessman who had trouble with spelling as a youngster.
According to the organization’s website, the mission of the African American National Spelling Bee Competition is to give urban middle-school children in grade levels 6 through 8 the opportunity to test their skills within their peer group. The objective of the bee is to:
• Improve students spelling skills
• Increase their vocabulary, reading appreciation and writing
• Nurture their confidence level
• Build life skills
• Unique to this spelling bee, the competitors will see the winners as positive goal models with whom they can identify. Skills emerge through competition and students can build confidence that will hone their abilities to succeed in a multitude of disciplines including oral presentation, the sciences, the arts, and athletics.
Here is a discussion on whether or not the Black-only spelling bee is a good idea. We invite readers to listen and comment.