Hey everyone! As the second half of Freedom Summer 2019 begins, we’re super excited about the upcoming trips and travels for our Freedom Fellows! Fellows’ first taste of the summer travel schedule was last Friday, when they headed to the Rhetoric Competition at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, for a day of fun, friends, and personal achievement.

The Rhetoric Competition has been a staple of Freedom Summer for years now, and Freedom Fellows have prepared all summer for Mock Trial and Speech competitions with the Meridian Freedom Project. While the competition always adds an exciting aspect to the day, the focus was on the Freedom Fellows from both Projects and their opportunities to connect with each other, take on challenges independently, and rise to the occasion.

“Being able to witness both Freedom Projects come together and perform and compete against each other but it still be a friendly environment is always one of the best parts,” Kandace Stevenson, the Director of Experiential Learning and College Access at Sunflower, said. “My favorite part is when the competitions are at a slow point and we have people who aren’t in the final rounds together, they’re able to do games with each Freedom Project. They’re able to talk with each other. They’re able to share chants. They’re able to just build bonds beyond just their location. It becomes a big Freedom Project.”

The Sunflower A team won the Mock Trial Competition overall, and Ms. Rash and Mr. Stanford were awarded for the performances as Top Lawyers. Mr. Harris and Mr. Hall took home honors as Top Witnesses for their ability to stay collected and stick to the case under pressure.

In Speech, Sunflower students showed out, with Ms. Powell, Mr. Sumner, Ms. Higgins, and Mr. McKenzie nabbing the top four spots, in that order. Meanwhile Ms. Jackson (2nd) and Ms. Stevenson (4th) both placed in Literary Interpretation. Ms. Stevenson also placed 2nd in Impromptu alongside Mr. McKinney, who placed 3rd.

We asked the Freedom Fellows how they felt about the competition and how it felt to reach goals they had worked towards all summer.

“I really liked the questions, the questions were fun. Like when they asked me certain questions, it was easy to answer some of them,” Mr. Earvin, a witness on the Sunflower A team, said. “[During cross-examination questions] they asked me about stuff I didn’t even know and I was still able to answer because they taught me how to answer questions I don’t know.”

“I was nervous at first, but then after I kept saying [my speech] I wasn’t nervous,” Ms. Jackson said.

When asked what ran through her head when she first stepped up to give her speech, Ms. Powell said, “A bunch of words that I can’t say.”

On a more personal note, it really was amazing to see Fellows step up and simply own the stage.

Ms. Smith rocked during the final round of Mock Trial, calling out out objections left and right and grilling witnesses on cross-examinations to get them to slip-up in a way that truly demonstrated the confident, intelligent young woman she is.

Ms. Jackson took Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminist” and made it her own, putting a power behind her voice that made the audience want to stop, listen, and stand up and cheer.

Ms. Stevenson focused her energy in such a positive way during her Impromptu speech, with her eagerness and quick thinking really helping her get her ideas across in such a short time in this format.

Mr. Byrd showed real perseverance when his Mock Trial team ran into a situation they hadn’t seen before, and his ability stand up and give his best effort showed true maturity and poise.

Ruth Fetaw, a Rhetoric TA, might have best summed up the Fellows’ performances on Friday.

“They worked so incredibly hard. They were passionate. There are so many different storytellers out there, whether they were doing Mock Trial or Speech, and all of their pieces were beautiful,” she said.

“I just want them to know that we appreciate them, that we love them all, and to keep on working and keep on doing great things.”