Sencion and Ervin Become First Black Women Win National Debate Championship

Nevaeh Rita Sencion and Saidah Ervin from Baltimore City College High School won the National Catholic Forensics League’s Grand National Tournament in Chicago, establishing history. The school’s policy debate team won the national tournament, marking a first for African-American women’s teams.

Ervin told WMAR2, “They announced second place first and we heard the other team, and we were both just like in shock. Like we knew we had it in us, but like being able to hear in front of a room that big and hearing all the cheers for us is a really, really big feeling.”

Sencion and Ervin competed in five two-hour debates against top speech and debate teams on the topic “United States federal government should substantially increase fiscal redistribution by providing a federal jobs guarantee, increasing social security, and/or providing a basic income.”

Sencion expressed her gratitude for their success and said, “We have the very unique responsibility—and almost indebtedness—to other Black debaters, other Black programs, the legacy of Black debate that’s come before us that has opened the doors for us to be able to continue to advocate for ourselves, for our communities.”

“We talk not just about the policies but about being students in inner-city Baltimore and being Black women in this activity,” she said, adding that this is one of the reasons they got into debating.

Since middle school, the two have participated in debate teams and have expressed how much they enjoy the activity. Sencion shared, “I grew up a really opinionated kid with a lot to say all the time. so I needed an outlet to really channel that to where would be productive for me and that became debate for me.”

Ervin stated, “I like arguing. I wanna be a lawyer. And I really like research. Research is one of my favorite things to do. Daniels [Patrick Daniels] always says that debate is a competitive research activity.”

Daniels, Baltimore City College’s director of speech and debate, has led the school’s Speech and Debate Society for than 20 years and garnered multiple prizes.

He told the newspaper, “It’s an incredible accomplishment.” Not only for the city of Baltimore, but also for the debate community to provide change and a vision for the future that goes beyond the traditional view of debate as an all-white, all-male pastime.”

According to him, Sencion and Ervin worked hard to get to the top. COVID-19 prompted them to practice on Zoom until his wife permitted them to use their home as a quarantine summer debating camp.

The girls intend to continue their college debate careers after graduation. Ervin will study leadership at the University of Kentucky, while Sencion will pursue a debate scholarship at Wake Forest University.

They will also soon be serving as judges and coaches for the Speech and Debate Society at Baltimore City College.


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