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Rutgers University-Newark Debate Champions Will Be Honored During May 11 Creation Nation Parade

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The Rutgers debate Team: (l-r) Nahshon Thomas, Luis Carrera, Willie Johnson, Devane Murphy (holding Championship Trophy), Chaz Wyche, Nicole Nave (holding her 1st place speaker award); Ryan Wash, Christopher Koza and Carlos Astacio

Members of the national champion Rutgers University-Newark Debate Team  will sit in a place of honor –atop a float –during the May 11 Creation Nation Art & Peace Parade through downtown Newark.  Debate team director Chris Kozak also will ride on the float, as will at least one of its coaches.

Last month the team, housed at the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), became only the second team in U.S. collegiate debate history to win both the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) National Tournament and the National Debate Tournament (NDT) in a single season.

Veteran debate pair Devane Murphy (SPAA ’19) and Nicole Nave (SPAA ’19) won both tournaments, defeating close to 100 of the nation’s best teams at the CEDA tournament at Johnson County Community College, and besting 78 teams at the 71st NDT at Kansas University.

Their victory marked the first time the university’s debate team has won a national debate championship since its founding in 2008.  The debate team offers pathways to college for debaters from NPS and other Newark schools.  More than 70 percent of Newark’s debaters who graduate from college – and more than 95 percent graduate, and on time – return to Newark to work, as lawyers, teachers and in government –and as debate coaches.

On May 3, Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Chancellor honored the debaters, including the two members who finished first and second at the NDT, Newark native Devane Murphy and Ferguson, Missouri, resident Nicole Nave. They were the first African-American partnership to score first and second respectively in the prestigious NDT, and Nave was the first black woman to ever attain this title. They are the second black team to win the NDT championship; the first included RU-N student, and Newark native, Elijah Smith.

In praising the team’s accomplishment, Rutgers University – Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor stated, “It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this achievement. In a sense, it is not a surprise to us because we know the brilliance of our debaters, the dedication, experience, and wisdom of our coaches, and the unbelievable strength and tradition of the Newark Public Schools debate program from which so many of our champion debaters have come.” She also noted, “It speaks volumes about the incredible talent to be found in Newark, as well as cities like it. In that sense, our debaters’ accomplishment must be taken as both an incredible achievement for them personally and a clarion call to us all about what we have to gain by cultivating the talent right in front of us. We could not be more proud of them.”

The 10th annual Creation Nation Art & Peace Parade will leave from Military Park, 51 Park Place, at 2 p.m., and end there at 3 p.m., followed by a Youth Arts Festival in Military Park.  This year’s parade commemorates “Newark 50 Years Forward,” and embraces three themes: 50 years of progress since the historic 1967 civil unrest; the promotion of peacekeeping through partnerships between communities and police; and a public celebration to “Save the Arts,” recognizing the blossoming of art and culture in Newark. 

Media contact: Carla Capizzi, capizzi@rutgers.edu