UMKC sophomore Bianca Gantt was crowned this year’s Miss Black and Gold at the pageant hosted by the Delta Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The honor will also include a monetary award to assist Gantt in paying for her education.
There was a full house, and the audience was in store for a memorable night of fashion, entertainment and anticipation. The contestants opened the show with a routine number that excited the crowd.
Alpha Phi member and Master of Ceremony Eliott Nelson conducted a Greek roll call which resulted in several enthusiastic chants and shout-outs from the audience. He then welcomed to the stage Delta Rho’s current President Fred Avery.
“The pageant showcases the intelligence, talent, leadership and unparalleled beauty of women of the UMKC campus,” Avery said. “It serves as an opportunity for young women to display their self-confidence, communication skills and captivating beauty. This year, the brothers have nine incredible young women who will participate in the pageant and represent various communities.”
The judges included Briauna Hawthorne, Christopher Arthur, Lee Rembert, Simone Stewart and Stanley Taylor, all Esteemed members of their communities. Gantt was the first contestant to introduce herself.
“I believe that you must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gantt said. “I am studying pre-law with an emphasis in business management with hopes of becoming an attorney, and showing young girls that the ultimate lady not only possesses beauty, but brains as well.”
All of the contestants prepared brief introductions including their achievements and goals. It was an opportunity for the judges and the audience to get to know them. They learned that senior Jazmine Cooper is passionate about helping people and about her faith. Judges then discovered junior Breonica Scott has dreams of beginning a non-profit organization for abused and neglected children. Sophomore Kelsi Washington revealed she doesn’t buy into the idea that it’s “a man’s world,” and that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to.
“The question isn’t ‘who’s going to let me?’” junior Cierra Mitchem said, addressing the crowd. “It’s ‘who’s going to stop me?’”
In some aspects, the pageant was traditionally structured. During introductions, participants modeled business attire. There was also a swimwear show, a talent show and finally, a Q&A session during which the contestants wore formal gowns.
However, the pageant was not conventional in attitude. The show lacked the artificially polite, curl-and-twirl response from the contestants. Those involved dedicated a lot of time and hard work to the event, and definitely let their powerful, individual personalities shine through onstage.
During the talent portion, Gantt performed a monologue about her budget as a college student who receives financial aid.
“Over the past few years of college, my communication skills have experienced tremendous growth,” Gantt began. “How could they not when you’re around such brilliant students, professors and faculty all the time? However, there are still three words that I cannot say. Three words that, every time I muster up the courage to express, I chicken out. Three words that I dare not utter to even my closest friends.”
There was a long pause, and the sweet and delicate tone that Gantt’s voice had possessed until this moment changed, as she was finally able to get those three words off of her chest.
“Bitch!” she said into the microphone. The audience gasped.
“I’m broke,” she finished. The audience laughed.
Gantt had her peers shouting, “Preach!” and, “That’s right,” as she elaborated on what it’s like to be broke. In a comically good-natured manner, she explained that she substitutes going to the movies for Netflix and hitting the club for twerking for free in her living room. She recited her weekly coupon clippings routine and managed to connect with the audience in a relatable and honest way.
“I get paid on Friday, but between meals and bills, baby, I’m broke by Tuesday,” she said.
By the end of it, she had encouraged all audience members to turn to their neighbor in the seat next to them and admit that they, too, were broke.
The Q&A segment did not prompt the participants to give cliché responses about world peace and wishing upon a star. The questions posed were current, practical and open-ended. Each question was printed on a slip of paper, which each contestant withdrew to be handed blindly to Nelson only moments before answering.
Participants were asked about how influential the media is on public opinion. They were asked about the history of slavery in the United States. They were asked about social media and cyber-bullying. They were asked about how the government shutdown has affected the trust Americans have in elected officials.
Junior Jasmyne Haymon was asked whether or not rappers should have a greater responsibility in the content they deliver in their music.
“I believe that rappers should not have to monitor their content when they’re making music because music is creative expression,” Haymond said. “And because we have the freedoms in our country, we can control what our children listen to and other concerns that people have about this.”
Haymon placed First Runner-Up in the pageant.
Nelson also serves as Step Captain of the Books-Not-Bars Mentoring Program, and as part of the evening’s entertainment, the team performed for guests, receiving a standing ovation. Some of the young boys involved in the program don’t have fathers at home, so Nelson serves as a role model and guide, encouraging them to plan for successful futures.
“These young men excel not only on the stage, but in the classroom as well,” Nelson said.
He explained that some of the boys already knew what colleges they wanted to attend, the price of tuition, the scholarships available and even the organizations on those campuses.
“I’m going to support kids when they want to mimic any Greek organization,” Nelson said. “We [the Greek community] have people that diss us, [but] these boys are not growing up Crips and Bloods and all that… They’re growing up to be fraternity brothers.”
As the judges determined the results, the contestants gathered backstage to touch up makeup and discuss their performances.
“I’m very excited,” said junior Ra’Chell Richards. “I’m very grateful to have worked with eight other beautiful, educated women on UMKC’s campus, and whoever wins, I’m just glad that I got a chance to be a part of this.”
Erika Pearson shared Richards’ feelings, moments before she was named Second Runner-Up.
“I feel like the Alpha pageant was a success,” Pearson said. “I feel like it was a great opportunity and experience for the young ladies.”
Jazmine Cooper was awarded Miss Congeniality. But whether the contestants “placed” in the competition or not, there was a shared feeling of appreciation for simply being involved.