Left- Gene M. Eng of Verizon; 2nd from the right- Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Brotherhood Crusade with teams of debaters
William Allen Young (center) with debating team
Family and friends enjoy the event while participants wait to go on stage.
The Brotherhood Crusade and Verizon making history togetherBy Yussuf J. SimmondsSentinel Managing EditorVerizon Foundation, the Brotherhood Crusade and the African American Unity Center teamed up with students from Manual Arts, Foshay Learning Center Horace Mann Junior High, Obama Middle, Audubon Middle, Lou Danzler, Jordan High and other area schools to engage in a lively evening of debates reminiscent of the movie, the Great Debaters.The event was an academic showdown, the culmination of a 16-week preparation for the competition. On hand to observe the event were families of the participants, friends, special guests, celebrities, representatives of the various sponsoring agencies, moderators and judges. They get together in teams of four and five respectively, and went at each other verbally for almost three hours at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. In true debate style, the young girls and boys held a lively discussion on the pros and cons of "Why youths who commit heinous crimes should or should not be tried as adults." Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade welcomed the guests, participants and the judges. Adai Lamar, radio personality KHLH; and William Allen Young, actor, community activist (of Moesha fame); acted as moderators/MCs and ushered the teams onto the stage in preparation for the showdown. The judges were Alexandra Warnier (manager, American Honda Foundation); LaPhonza Butler (president, SEIU ULTCW); Gene M. Eng (vice president Strategic Programs, Verizon); and Yussuf J. Simmonds (managing editor, Los Angeles Sentinel).After each team debated, the written results were turned in by the judges to Young and after one session, there was a tie and he (Young) had to recuse himself from breaking the tie because one of the teams was his. An old fashioned toss-of-the-coin settled the matter. Then George Weaver engaged the teams in a fast-paced question-and-answer session where each participant on opposing sides had to press a button to signal having the answer and would lose points if the answer was wrong or any other rule of the game was broken (something like Jeopardy)At the end of the evening, selected students were called to receive outstanding recognitions for above average and excellent performances. In addition, they were each given a $75.00 gift card - very likely, one of their highlights of the evening. So did the Brotherhood Crusade; it received a $75,000 check from Verizon.Thinkfinity Bowl is the brainchild of the Brotherhood Crusade and it is an academic competition that is used as a vehicle to engage community youths, promote academic improvement, builds personal character and social skills, encourages team building and fosters cultural appreciation, acceptance and tolerance. The watchwords are: Remember--There are four kinds of people who always fail: the undecided; the unlearned; the unfocused; and the unexcited. Let's continue to work to keep our youth disciplined, well-educated, goal-oriented, and engaged by creating a thirst for knowledge and for life.