Miss Black Western pageant continues 40-year tradition

Joanna Williams

Forty years ago, the Miss Black Western pageant was created because at the time, black women weren’t allowed to run for Homecoming Queen at WKU.

“This gave them an opportunity to be recognized,” said Nashville junior Erica Tharpe, co-chairwoman of the event.

Tonight, the annual pageant continues at 6 p.m. in Downing University Center.

The 17 contestants will compete for the title and a year-long book scholarship, she said. They have been working since late February on their walk, choreography and introductions.

Nashville freshman Jasmine Morgan said the practices have been grueling, but at the same time, they’ve brought the women together.

“It’s been a growing process,” Morgan said. “But it’s been a fun bonding experience.”

She said she’s never been in a pageant before and it gave her the opportunity to try something new.

“I feel like this is one of the premier opportunities to showcase our black women on campus,” she said.

Tharpe said even though black women are now able to run for Homecoming Queen, she thinks the Miss Black Western pageant is still necessary.

“I feel like it gets young ladies to come out of the box and meet new people, form new relationships and have their moment to shine, because a lot of these women have never had that,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity to learn who they are.”

“I don’t think you can have too many events where women are able to show who they are and be recognized for it,” she said.

Nashville freshman Jamye Hardy said the competition is stiff for the pageant and winning carries impact.

“The first Miss Black Western pageant was a very courageous thing,” she said. “I think it would be a great honor to be the face of that.”

Hardy said that no matter who wins the title tonight, the friendships she’s made through the pageant are what counts.

“I think we’ve become a big family and we’ve all become sisters,” she said. “I knew two girls at the beginning and now I have sixteen other sisters.”