Junior crowned as Miss Black EIU 2018


Tolu Solomon

Maxie Phillips (left), a junior English major and the second runner-up for Miss Black EIU, Raven Gant (middle), a junior biological sciences major and winner of Miss Black EIU and Rajah Matthews (right), a sophomore kinesiology and sports studies major and the first runner-up for Miss Black EIU, pose after Gant was crowned Saturday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. After being crowned Miss Black EIU, Gant said she surprised herself with what she was able to accomplish. “Me and all my sisters, we worked very hard. We stuck together through the entire process,” she said. “I’m happy for each and every one of these girls, I know we all put in the effort. It’s just a great experience.”

Cassie Buchman, Editor and Chief

Bullied as a child for her race, Raven Gant, a junior biological sciences major, overcame this challenge to embrace her heritage and become 2018’s Miss Black EIU Saturday night.

Six contestants competed in the pageant on Saturday, which included a “creative expression” segment, where they portrayed struggles they have gone through.

During her creative expression portion of the pageant, two girls came out on stage with Gant. All of them were in checkered blue skirts and white shirts in the style of school uniforms.

The two girls sat down in front of and behind Gant, and they all started to pray before the girls started to pick on Gant.

They pulled her hair and pushed her around, until Gant finally yelled at them to stop.

“Classmates, why is it that you always see me for the color of my skin?” she asked. “Why is it that you can’t see me for what I have within?”

Gant recounted instances of bullying for the audience, including an incident where she wore long braids that went down her back to school, only to have the other children tie them to her desk.

She was so tired of this treatment she ended up chopping the braids off, so they did not even reach her chest.

“You held me as less because of what I appeared to be,” Gant said.

Gant originally did not want to speak up because she did not want to be seen as the one “black girl with an attitude.”

“Being a black woman in a world that’s against you is all about holding faith,” she said.

During their own creative expressions part of the pageant, other contestants revealed to the audience their struggles with mental illness and how they overcame them. One contestant talked about the pain of losing her mother, while another talked about how her mother was her role model because of her strength.

Contestant T’amber Sherrod, a junior sociology major, portrayed a scene depicting her talking to her father in jail, with a student acting as her dad.

She talked about seeing him get discouraged because he lost 20 years of his life to a drug charge.

“My father, a man who was once filled with so much positivity, a man who was once so sure of himself … lost every bit of that when he made the unconscious decision to become a slave to the system,” she said.

She asked black men, when they look in the mirror, if they see the negative stereotypes society does, or if they see themselves as unbreakable and intelligent.

“Black men … Above all else I need you to declare yourself as a free male … No more being comfortable with your negative status in society,” she said. “The most dangerous thing in this world is an intelligent and educated black man.”

Later, during the talent portion, Sherrod performed a praise dance. At the end of her dance, the man portraying her father came out, and she put a crown on his head.

Other contestants showed off their modeling, dancing, hair styling and even their DJing skills.

At the African Garment/Heritage Speech part, each contestant modeled traditional African clothes to a pre-recorded speech on what their heritage means to them.

Each woman competing received enthusiastic applause from the audience, with friends and family cheering loudly for their loved ones on stage.

After being crowned Miss Black EIU, Gant said she surprised herself with what she was able to accomplish.

“Me and all my sisters, we worked very hard. We stuck together through the entire process,” she said. “I’m happy for each and every one of these girls, I know we all put in the effort. It’s just a great experience.”

Though the women were all competing with each other, they were still able to become close friends.
“We spent so much time together. We cried together, we prayed together,” Gant said. “These girls are like real sisters to me. I’m just so grateful for this experience, for my sisters.”

First runner-up Rajah Matthews, a sophomore kinesiology and sports studies major, said she was excited to just be competing.

“It was hard, a lot of time and dedication, a lot of focus, lot of vulnerability,” she said.

Second runner-up Maxie Phillips, a junior English major, said though the women only had two months to practice and prepare, she was able to accept the challenge.

“(Miss Black EIU) really gave me confidence and helped me grow as a woman,” she said.

Special Recognition awards, which included a $50 scholarship and plaque, were given to contestants.

Gant was chosen by audience members via Twitter to win the Campus Choice award.

Sherrod won the Queen’s Choice award, the Judge’s Choice award, Miss Enterprise and Miss Ebony.

Matthews won Miss Togetherness, and Gabby Bersamin won Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].