I think at this point it would be hard not to call Madison a national powerhouse on the African American History Challenge Bowl scene. This past weekend, Wright Middle School brought home Madison’s 5th national championship in 23 years, emerging victorious at the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. 31st Annual International Conference and National Competition in New Orleans.
“On top of the five championships, I think we’ve come in second at least three or four times, too,” says 100 Black Men of Madison’s Enis Ragland, who has been involved with the Challenge Bowl since its inception more than 20 years ago. “We’re known now as one of the national powerhouse chapters of the African American History Challenge Bowls.
“I was very excited when we won. We were all jumping up and down. It was a close competition for a while,” he adds. “It was very exciting and a very rewarding experience. It was cool to see one of the smaller chapters of 100 Black Men of America excel.”
The African American History Challenge Bowl is a contest for students in a quiz show format where students are asked questions from a prominent African-American history book. It is a challenging and fun way for both middle school students and high school students across the nation to expand their knowledge and appreciation of African-American history in a highly competitive event. Wright Middle School emerged victorious in the Junior Division.
“I can’t take much credit, the kids did all the work. We are very proud of them,” smiles Ragland. “The coaches and the parents deserve some credit, as well.”
The winning team — Pawan Baral, Jaden Wynn and Micah Asplund — are eighth-graders at Wright Middle School on Madison’s south side.
“They were all very sharp. It was a pleasure to spend time with them. They were fun to be around,” Ragland says.
The team from Madison, as it usually is, was very diverse – one white, one black, and one Nepalese-American.
“We were one of the first chapters to bring a diverse team to the AAHBC,” Ragland says. “Initially, when we brought a mixed team there was some criticism, but the national president of the 100 Black Men supported us. We believed that everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity, should know and understand our African American history.
“We’ve noticed that other chapters have started to bring diverse groups of students, as well,” Ragland adds. “So, we started a trend. And I think it’s a good one.”
Wright Middle School’s coach was social studies teacher Robert Kilburg who has been helping the students study for months in preparation for the African American History Challenge Bowl. Longtime 100 Black Men of Madison member Emanuel Scarbrough has also been working hard with the kids to prepare them for the national conference after they were victorious in the local Challenge Bowl competition at the MMSD Doyle Administration Building earlier this year. The quiz questions were based upon the core text, “Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African-American History” by Henry Louis Gates.
The 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc. was established in 1994 as a nonprofit civic organization with the mission to make a positive difference in the lives of area youth through mentoring, education, health and wellness and economic development programs. The 100 Black Men of Madison are affiliated with the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. The overall concept of “100” began in New York in 1963, when a group of concerned African American men began meeting to explore ways of improving conditions in their community. The group eventually adopted the name “100 Black Men Inc.” as a sign of solidarity.
Enis Ragland is the founding president of 100 Black Men of Madison. “I was doing research on black male organizations and I came upon the 100 Black Men of America and I thought it would be great to have African-American men step up to the forefront and help our youth,” Ragland remembers about starting the Madison chapter.
“I called some other brothers together – Kaleem Caire is one of the founding members. Ed Murray, Perry Henderson, Derrick Smith are all founding members,” he adds. “We’ve maintained that core of people who are founding members for 23 years, and that says a lot because there are some chapters that only have one or two or even none of their founding members who are active.”
Right now, the 100 Black Men of Madison currently have 49 members.
Since the 100 Black Men of Madison became a chapter, Ragland has been attending the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. Annual International Conference and National Competition for 23 years, missing the event only twice. On top of the Challenge Bowl, students also compete in the 100 Black Men Dollars and $ense Youth Investment Competition.
“The conference is fun because you develop friendships and relationship over that time and it’s revitalizing to come to the national conference and see these black men and all of the youth together at such a positive event,” he says. “It’s a wonderful experience and I look forward to it every year.
“New Orleans is always a nice place to visit for me. They say you gain a pound a day eating down there, which I believe,” Ragland adds, laughing. “But it’s always an amazing event. This year’s theme was suited around health and wellness and they had plenty of workshops for the adults and the youth. They take the young people out on excursions and it’s a very good experience for the students.”
The trio of Wright students was a little nervous for the first round, Ragland says, but gained confidence as they went through the tournament before defeating the greater Charlotte team in the finals.
“Greater Charlotte is a very good team. They are always very competitive. They actually had teams in both the junior and senior division. They lost the junior division to us [in the finals] but they won the senior division this year against New Jersey,” Ragland says. “Donald Lewis is the brother who runs the program for greater Charlotte and we’ve been very competitive over the years and we always say, ‘if we don’t win it, we’d like them to win it,’ and they tell us, ‘likewise.’
“Even though the Wright Middle School kids were very nervous at first, we told them that we were very proud of them and that they were winners just making it here and that all we wanted them to do was their best,” Ragland adds, ” … and they did!”