Big love goes out to 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Louisiana, who crushed the Scripps National Spelling Bee and made history in the process. Zaila is the first Black American to win the championship, which has been running for nearly 100 years. Jody-Anne Maxwell, from Jamaica, was the first Black and non-American to win back in1998.

“Murraya” was the world that Zaila won on, granting her the grand prize of $50,000 and a new trophy. Zaila is no stranger to trophies.  She also holds three Guinness world records for dribbling, bouncing, and juggling basketballs.

“Now I get to get a nice trophy, which is the best part of any win,” she said in an interview on ESPN. When Zaila first got her final word, she seemed a little confused. She was given the definition, with the pronouncer explained to her that it meant a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves with imbricated petals.

“Does this word contain like the English word ‘Murray,’ which would be the name of a comedian?” Zaila joked, referring to Bill Murray. She earned laughs from the judges before spelling the word correctly. Zaila told Good Morning America that she wished to see more African American students “doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee.” The competition, for her, was a “gate-opener to being interested in education.”

 

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