TSU’s Debate and Forensics Team members seated l-r: Aliyah Holmes, Marshaun Adams, Akyra McDougal, Sanae Chestnut, Ashlynn Freeman, Mark Twyman, Deja Thomas, Ayana Nichole, Chase Garrett and Maya McClary; Standing l-r: Mariah Brown, De’Traelyn Hubbard, Elizabeth Ward, Dwight DeBerry and DezNeshia Glasper

By Emmanuel Freeman 

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — The Tennessee State University Debate and Forensics Team is number 1 among HBCUs in the nation. At the recent 5th Annual HBCU National Speech and Debate Competition at Prairie View A&M University, TSU walked away with 10 national titles, 50 total awards and the overall tournament championship, making them the top HBCU in the country for the third consecutive year.  

“I started three years ago not winning at any tournament and now to being a three-time national champion is phenomenal,” said team captain Maya McClary, a senior mass communications major from Orlando, Florida. “My experience on the team has been life changing. Forensics has taught me to use my speech as an outlet to express myself.  I would not change anything or anyone on this team.” 

Ashlynn Freeman, a sophomore and first-year member of the team, said this championship is special because it gives her a voice she didn’t have before. 

“As a young African American woman, I feel constantly that I have no voice in the world because I am shown not to be heard,” said Freeman, an agricultural science major from Kansas City, Kansas. “With the platform that speech and debate give me, I’m being heard.” 

This year, the tournament returned to in-person, after going virtual the last two years due to the pandemic. Other institutions participating in the tournament April 1-3 included Howard University, Texas Southern University and North Carolina A&T.  

Prof. Sean Allen, director of forensics in the TSU Department of Communications, is the coach of the TSU debate team. He attributes the success of the group to the “hard work” of the students and to the support of the communications department. 

“This win was a group effort,” said Allen, who has been with the program at the university for the last six years. “This couldn’t have been achieved without the support from the communications department and university competitions like the Robert N Murrell Oratorical Competition, where I recruit top talent.” 

Dr. Jacqueline W. Mitchell, professor and chair of the Oratorical competition, congratulated the team for their championship, and thanked Prof. Allen for his commitment. 

“The TSU Forensics Team, #1 nationally ranked, consistently outranks competing HBCUs year after year under the coaching of Professor Sean Allen,” said Mitchell, who also chairs the Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest. “Because of this national reputation which we’ve held for several years, we attract annually the top high school debaters across the nation to our freshman class. They all want to be a part of a top-seeded winning team, which TSU provides at the highest level.” 

For more information on the TSU Forensics and Debate Team, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/Communications/forensics.aspx