SGA Diversity Committee hosts first Afro-Caribbean Pageant since COVID-19

Maegan White

Elm Staff Writer

On Saturday, April 29, the Student Government Association hosted the Pan Afro-Caribbean Pageant in the Alonzo G. and Virginia Gent Decker Theatre for the first time since the start of COVID-19. This event showcased students’ cultures and talents in the form of a pageant. 

Former SGA Secretary of Diversity and pageant director junior Hailey Sutton planned the pageant for the past few months with the help of her Diversity Committee. Sutton shared that the event aims to celebrate students’ different cultures and traditions through food, talents, questions, and large group dance.

“It is important because often these cultures and students from these cultures are not broadcasted on campus,” Sutton said. “They deserve a place where they can be themselves while we can also learn from them about what makes them who they are.”

A reception was held before the pageant at 6 p.m. with traditional Ghana cuisine. Attendees tasted the food and mingled in the Underwood Lobby until the pageant formally began at 7 p.m.

Freshman Lillian Elgayar and junior Jude Souazoube emceed the event. The competition judges included Cleopatra’s Sisters President senior Kayla Cash, former Student Events Board President senior Hernan Torres, SGA President sophomore Miranda Parrish, and sophomore Precieux Tshibangu.

To start the pageant, all participants walked onto stage wearing their countries’ traditional attire and holding their country flags. The participants included senior Eberechi Chimezie and junior Rosemary Onyema, who both represented Nigeria, sophomore Tiana Edwards, who represented Jamaica, senior Shannon Salandy, who represented Trindad and Tabago, and junior Silvana Tipson, who represented Sierra Leone. 

Each participant answered a series of questions from the judges which included what makes their culture unique and issues facing their country. After the question round, each participant performed a talent. 

Onyema performed a chant, Edwards read two poems that she wrote, Salandy and Tipson performed a dance, and Chimezie sang a song. 

The final act of the performance was a nearly ten minute-long dance that was choreographed by Chimezie. The dance included a wide range of genres, styles, and traditions. 

Based on all the performances, the judges awarded superlatives and top three prizes. Salandy took third and a $50 Visa gift card, Chimezie took second and a $100 gift card, and Edwards finished in first place with a $150 prize. 

Tipson said that she was incredibly proud of being able to participate in the pageant and showcase her culture. 

“I think having a pageant like this on campus is really important because it showcases cultures that people who go here might not have seen,” Tipson said. “It is meant to represent different cultures of people who they go to school with and for people to see where they come from and what other cultures are out there.”

Elgayar, who also chairs the SGA Diversity Committee, worked closely with Sutton on planning the event.

“Planning any event can be stressful, especially when there are a lot of moving parts,” Elgayar said. “We had to figure out judges, participants, dancers, and so much more. It was extremely difficult because the event has not happened since before COVID-19, which meant we did not have a lot of information to go off. There was a lot of improvising but a lot of room for creativity.”

All organizers and participants have expressed hope that the event continues to grow and develop in future years under the supervision of the Diversity Committee.

Photo by Maegan White

Photo Caption: Hosts Elgayar and Souazoube would regularly encouraged crowd participation throughout the pageant.

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