Handing down the crown

By Linda Luk

An upcoming African cultural pageant will highlight African countries and showcase the talents of contestants vying to be the next Miss Black NIU.

The 19th annual African cultural pageant will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Holmes Student Center’s Duke Ellington Ballroom.

“The pageant is a way for girls to express themselves culturally,” said Shavonne Tompkins, queen mother and Miss Black NIU of 2002.

This year, five women will compete for the title of Miss Black NIU. To partake in the pageant, the participants need to have a 2.5 grade point average, need to be a sophomore or higher and must not graduate this school year.

Contestants will be judged in five areas: business wear, formal wear, talent, question and answer session and their presentation on an African country.

“For a part of the pageant, they research a particular country and creatively present it,” said Nikisha Watt, princess regent, second place winner of last year’s pageant. “They wear African garments during the Africa presentation,” she said. “It will educate the audience about Africa.”

Nekika Skinner, a senior elementary education major, is a contestant in the pageant.

“The pageant was a test of courage for me, to get myself to do things that otherwise I would not do,” she said. “If I won, it would prove to me that I could do anything I set my mind to.”

The five participants have practiced extensively for the pageant.

“We practice early January twice a week and toward the end of January every day of the week,” said contestant Nikkita Gardner, a junior corporate communication major. “We practice our country, our talent, being comfortable to talk in front of people and being confident.”

This year, the pageant is sponsored by National Panhellenic Council, S.I.S.T.E.R.S. and the Center for Black Studies. The winners of last year’s pageant organized the pageant for this year.

“I am happy to pass on the crown, and putting on a pageant is not easy,” Tompkins said. “My time has come to give someone else the opportunity.”

NIU faculty members will be the judges for the pageant, and the auditorium is expected to be packed, Tompkins said.