Photo Caption: Claudine Allen (left), general manager, JN Foundation in conversation with Germaine Barrett, founder and executive director of the Jamaican Association for Debating and Empowerment (JADE), and Rushana Jarrett, special projects manager, JADE, during a courtesy call on the JN Foundation at the JN Group’s corporate offices in New Kingston on Tuesday, September 19. The visit, which also involved members of JADE’s Gold Club in high schools across the country, follows on JADE’s most recent accomplishment. High School students coached by the association won the Rollins College Great Debate in the United States in 2022. The students’ participation was sponsored by the JN Foundation. Barett shared information about JADE’s plans for the upcoming National Debaters Week, October 7-14 which includes a launch on September 28. The association is preparing a sustainability plan to promote debates as a healthy form of public discourse and empowerment.
Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation, is mooting that Jamaica can strengthen its music and culture by honing and engendering the skill of debating.
She made the remark during a courtesy call by members of the Jamaican Association for Debating and Empowerment (JADE) on the JN Foundation at the JN Corporate Office in New Kingston on Tuesday (September 19).
Ms Allen, a trained communication specialist, called for more research to be done in the area.
“We just need to get more people to understand that it’s ok to use words to express themselves clearly without resorting to vulgarity and violence,” said Ms Allen. “You can use your words to have productive [‘clashes’] and that is something that can be very useful in helping our music and culture to be more harmonious and peaceful,” she added.
Zoning in on dancehall clashes, which is a major part of Jamaica’s culture, Ms Allen said the fundamentals of debating can help performers improve their lyrics and performances.
“It can help with mediation, conflict resolution and even the gender issues, which are emerging out of dancehall.” she reasoned.
Germaine Barrett, founder and executive director of JADE, agreed and said he would welcome the collaboration with JN Foundation to pitch the idea to the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport “so they can see the intersectionality of what we are trying to do [with debate].”
He said his organisation is planning to lead further research to better understand how lyrics are crafted and what makes genres, such as dancehall, alluring in the Jamaican context. He added that there are also plans to launch a sustainability plan to promote debating across the country as a productive and healthy exchange.
Last year, JN Foundation sponsored the participation of a team of high school students, coached by JADE, that won the prestigious Rollins College Great Debate in the United States. One of the members from that team, Ronaldhino McLean, is among the high school students from the JADE Secondary Level Gold Club. He was also present at JN’s offices on Tuesday for the courtesy call.
The visit by JADE was also used to set the scene for National Debaters Week scheduled for October 7 to 14, as proclaimed by Governor General, His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen. The week will be officially launched at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Faculty of Law on September 28.
Mr Barrett said JADE has several activities planned to commemorate the week, including a church service, zonal competitions for high schools across the island and the Caribbean Conference on Dialogue and Debate, which will be held at the University of Technology, Jamaica.
During the week, JADE will host representatives from iDebate Rwanda, who, Mr Barrett said, will be sharing their own history and culture as an organisation.
The week will culminate with the JADE ‘Peppa Pot’ event that will showcase the creative skills of members within the organisation. The full list of events can be found on JADE’s website at myjade.org.
“National Debaters Week is a concentrated national focus on debating as a tool for solving many of the social challenges that we face as a country. We tend to resort to violence when we are upset with someone and that can be solved with debate. Debate also allows us to share ideas. We want to use the week to promote the benefits of debating and debunk certain myths about this activity,” he shared.
JN Foundation has committed to supporting JADE with its week of activities and its overall mission to advance debating, public speaking and critical thinking in Jamaica. JADE, a non-governmental organisation, was established in 2014.