Support Scroll.in Your support is crucial: India needs independent media and independent media needs you.
Zaila Avant-garde, a 14 year old from Louisiana, on Thursday became the first African-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States – breaking the 12-year spell of students of Indian descent winning the competition.
A spelling bee is a contest in which participants must spell aloud words announced by a judge. The high-profile Scripps National Spelling Bee is closely followed by students and their parents across the US and the finals are broadcast on prime-time television. This year, the winner got a cash prize of $50,000.
Of the 11 finalists of the Scripps spelling bee held in the ESPN Sports Complex in Florida’s Orlando, Florida, nine were Indian-American. In the final round, Avant-garde was pitted against Chaitra Thummula from California, who dropped out after being unable to spell “neroli oil” correctly.
Avant-garde scored her victory after spelling the word “murraya”, a genus of tropical Australian trees.
Zaila Avant-garde is the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/eNsy35ctcW
As it turns out, Avant-garde excels at much more than spelling. She holds three Guinness World Records for her skills in dribbling six basketballs simultaneously, the most basketball bounces and bounce juggles.
#8thgrader #Middleschooler Zaila Avant-garde, ⚡️💨. pic.twitter.com/fyjKQI4rME
Zaila Avant-garde the FIRST African-American to win the Scripps National #SpellingBee. 👸🏾🏆
She’s also really good at basketball and holds a Guinness World Record‼️
Here are some of her 🏀 highlights from middle school. #blackgirlmagic pic.twitter.com/W8E6QtqGTo
The teenager is a champion basketball player and has said that she hopes to compete in the Women’s National Basketball Association when she grows up. Ahead of the spelling bee finals, ESPN shared a video of Avant-garde playing basketball.
Zaila Avant-garde is an elite middle-school basketball prospect AND a 2021 Spelling Bee finalist 🏀🐝
Look out for her and other Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists TONIGHT!
📺: 8 PM ET on ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/ce0wmADJv9
Since members of the Indian-American community have been winning the competition since 2008, Avant-garde’s win stood out. There has been only one Black winner of the competition so far, a student from Jamaica in 1998.
Avant-garde – whose father changed her last name from Heard as a mark of respect to jazz musician John Coltrane – said she hoped that more members of the African-American community will be inspired to participate in the competition.
“Maybe they don’t have the money to pay $600 for a spelling programme, they don’t have access to that,” she said told the Associated Press.
After her victory, Avant-garde said that had taken up competitive spelling only two years ago. “Spelling is really a side thing I do,” she told the Associated Press. “It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.