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Spelling it out with Zaila, Jody-Anne, and Akeelah

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We have taken a beautiful flying leap from prestidigitation to murraya.

“If you want to get there you can’t be a shrinking violet.”

Dr. Joshua Larabee, I can happily tell you that Zaila Avant-Garde is no shrinking Violet.

Zaila’ story is inspiring. When I heard it, I immediately thought about Akeelah and the Bee, the movie that introduced me to Keke Palmer.




While reading about Zaila, I learnt that while she is the first African-American winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in its 96 year history, there was a Black winner in 1998, Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica.

Zaila has other talents too. She told CNN she is good at whatever she does and she holds 3 Guinness World Records for basketball dribbling.



How much of a natural talent is she? Well, while other spelling bee champs, start young, as early as five, fourteen-year old Zaila, has only been training for two years.




Last week, it was Sha’Carri Richardson in the news. Another inspiring story, which had an unfortunate twist. I agree with Etan Thomas. We need to re-evaluate the rules.



“… that I am not supposed to be afraid of me.”

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About Life Notes

Life Notes is my online notebook; a place to put my digital ‘newspaper’ clippings, bits of my journal, observations, and other stuff all with the ultimate aim of find tools, resources & ideas to help artists thrive.  Read about how it came about here.

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