As I mentioned last month I'm a pageant fanatic. My love for them also extends to an event that was 'must see TV' when I was growing up, the Miss Black America Pageant.
The pageant was created by J. Morris Anderson as a protest noting the dearth of African-American contestants in the Miss America pageant. The first one was held on August 17, 1968 and went national the next year with contestants from 42 states participating. A decade before Vanessa Williams broke through and won Miss America, sistahs were showing the world their grace, beauty, intelligence and talent on the Miss Black America stage. Many Miss Black America contestants have gone on to greater success in other arenas, such as Oprah Winfrey, Kathleen Bradley, T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, BernNadette Stanis and CeCe Peniston. The 1969 pageant, held at Madison Square Garden served as the venue for the Jackson 5's first national television performance.
I also love the Oath of Positivity that all Miss Black America contestants take that was also penned by pageant founder J. Morris Anderson:
My physical appearance will always reveal my positive mental attitude toward life.
My head held high will indicate the mental and spiritual strength that lives within me.
My straight, cheerful manner of walking will exemplify the positive direction my life has taken.
My eloquent manner of talking will always relate the positive mental, spiritual and physical forces that reside within me.
My illustrious smile will always express the pleasure I receive from living.
The positive look in my eyes will always indicate the self confidence and positive spirits inside me.
I CAN perform any task;
I CAN sell any product;
I CAN succeed in any job;
I CAN cause any relationship to thrive;
I CAN overcome any obstacle;
I CAN accomplish any objective.
I AM a positive mental, spiritual and physical person.
I AM spiritually capable of succeeding.
I CAN successfully compete on any mental level;
I WILL succeed on any physical level of activity in which I engage.
It was also great for kids of my generation to see the women that they grew up with recognized for their beauty and talent just like the white women whose images we were bombarded with on a daily basis.
The pageant was sorely needed in an era where you still had some Black parents who idolized white standards of beauty. Some forced their kids to walk around with clothespins constricting their noses in an attempt to get the 'narrow' white nose instead of our broad African ones. Too many of us growing up heard the comments of our elders and our peeps in which dark-skinned people were shunned and light skinned people with 'good' hair were the beauty gold standard.
The pageant helps remind all of us that all Black women are beautiful, no matter whether our skin color is vanilla creme light or ebony dark.