zaila: an avant-garde spelling bee champion
(I am always amazed at how children’s names often seem to fit them to a tee.)
A wonder teen from New Orleans, became the champion of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The winning word: murraya, “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees (family Rutaceae) having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”
She is the first Black American to be crowned winner of the Bee. She attends Clover Lane Homeschool and was sponsored by New Orleans Chapter of The Links.
Zaila’s home community in New Orleans celebrated like a true village supporting one of its own. The music, the drumming, and the dancing represented a celebration for the Black community across the nation.
For me her story brought home the nostalgia of watching the 2006 film, Akeelah and the Bee, with my then younger children. For me Akeelah was like the black panther of words. The scenes in the movie where the community supported and encouraged Akeelah, cheering her on—these are the things that come to mind as I watched the community celebrate Zaila. This is as it should be. It takes a village to raise a child also means the village must celebrate that child in their accomplishments, cheering them on as they grow and dream and reach new heights.
Dribbling While Spelling. How many kids do you know can dribble three basketballs while spelling “machiavellian”? Or dribble six basketballs while spelling “amaryllis”? Or dribble three basketballs while standing on a foam roller and spelling “portmanteau”?
This delightful teen rocked it on the Jimmy Kimmel show when asked to do multiple tasks involving dribbling while spelling. Her personality swept the audience off its feet along with the host and Bill Murray.
Guinness Book of World Records:
As of July 9, 2021, Zaila Avant-garde holds the world record for:
- The most basketballs dribbled at one time (six) — set in Westwego, Louisiana, on Jan. 26, 2021 (equalling Joseph Odhiambo’s August 2000 record)
- The most bounce juggles in one minute, using four basketballs (255) — set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Nov. 2, 2020
- The most bounces of four basketballs in 30 seconds (307) — set in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 2019
What’s Next for Zaila? With her gifts, talents, passion, and Black girl magic, I’d say just about anything her heart desires! I hear she aspires to attend Harvard University, play in the WNBA and is considering a career at NASA. Can’t wait to see the fruit she bears…
THE PURPOSE OF THE BEE. Our purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.