UConn’s African American Cultural Center (AACC) held their Mr. and Miss AACC Pageant Friday night, showcasing the talent of students in the pageant and student performers through music, poetry and more.
Chrishima Richards, fourth-semester landscape architecture major, and Keith Guerrant, fourth-semester marketing major, will represent the AACC in next year’s Homecoming Pageant as Mr. and Miss AACC.
The crowd of about 150 enthusiastically supported each other throughout the entire pageant, showing the strong sense of community within the AACC. Many students came to support their friends who were performing or participating in the pageant.
Terry D’haiti, sixth-semester psychology major, came to support her friend Blayne Valentine, who was performing. She said it’s important UConn holds events like Mr. and Miss AACC because it helps bring people together and showcase the talent students have.
“It’s important everyone feels included and it builds a sense of community,” D’haiti said. “There’s some really talented people here.”
Richards’ performed a gymnastics routine and impressed the crowd with back handsprings, handstands and roundoffs. Guerrant, also president of hip-hop dance team Encore, won big applause from the audience after a hip-hop dance routine to songs by Missy Elliot and Korede Bello.
Other contestants showed their talents through singing, spoken word, poetry and even makeup application.
Maman Cooper, eighth-semeter political science major and one of the MC’s for the pageant, praised the students for expressing themselves at the pageant.
“I didn’t realize we had so many hidden talents in the AACC. Don’t hide it,” Cooper said.
The pageant was broken up by student performances, including dance, music and poetry.
Marlene Kabeya and Leroy Collier, both second-semester students, delivered an emotional performance of “Glory” by John Legend and Common, from the movie “Selma.” Members of Nubian Foxes delivered a captivating African dance performance.
Corey Moore, sixth-semester finance major, earned snaps and applause for his spoken word poem “Ode to Eve,” which celebrated and thanked black women, while acknowledging the “double-edged sword” they face due to both racial and gender discrimination. Eighth-semester students Blayne Valentine, Steve Cartagena and Brett Steinberg performed original songs about equality and unity.
The pageant was held as part of the AACC’s Black History Month Closing Ceremony. Along with the talent showcased, the pageant also celebrated the black community and facilitated discussion about issues facing black students.
Drew-Asia Keating, second-semester accounting major, said culturally-oriented events are important to educate students about cultures they aren’t exposed to otherwise.
“[Students] may not be part of this culture, but still have access to it,” Keating said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who aren’t necessarily of African American descent but still celebrate and come out.”
During the Q&A portion of the pageant, many contestants spoke about race issues in society.
Diante Felton, second-semester business management major, was asked what skills he possesses to positively impact society. Felton answered he believes his intergrity and drive to do what is right are his strong skills.
“In today’s society we’re going through all this systemic racism… It’s still up to us to be able to bring change in order to bring any upward mobility to our society, to our people, and not just minorities,” Felton said.
Taylor Caldwell, fouth-semester english and human rights major, was asked what her goal in life was. She said she wants to change the way people see black women portrayed in the media. Her answer caused the audience to erupt in applause.
“We are dynamic people. We are not just the sassy side girl,” Caldwell said. “We can be emotional. We can be exciting. We can be more than just neck-rolling and finger-popping.”
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.