Dressed in colorful garments unique to their African countries of origin, three young women strode across the Goldstein Auditorium stage all with the same goal: to be crowned Miss Africa.
The Miss Africa Pageant was held for the first time by Syracuse University’s African Student Union. SU students represented countries such as Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Guinea as they educated the audience about their African cultures and how their career aspirations can help various African countries.
The pageant showcased the differences between African cultures along with the individuality among African women, said Nneka Akukwe, president of ASU. “Women’s empowerment is the new black,” she said during her introduction to the show.
“We want people to see there’s more to African women than, you know, being domestic and things of that nature,” Akukwe said.
Three past ASU executive board members judged the competition, including Tiffany Sarpong, Stacy Omosa and Chloe Etti. Sarpong and Etti are both SU alumnae, while Omosa is a current senior at SU.
The night began with an introduction of the contestants, who each carried their country’s flag across their shoulders as they danced and walked out to the upbeat music blaring from the auditorium speakers. Each woman began her introduction with the language of her culture.
In honor of both of her countries of origin, Louisa Williams represented Ghana and Liberia as a first-generation student in her third year at SU. She said she chose to embody both countries because they each helped her become the woman she is today.
Ifechukwu Uche-Onyilofor, who represented Nigeria, performed a dance on stage during the talent portion of the pageant.EMILY STEINBERGER | DESIGN EDITOR
Meanwhile, SU sophomore Ifechukwu Uche-Onyilofor, an economics and finance major, represented Nigeria. Miss Guinea, Nafissatou Camara, is an SU freshman who is undeclared in the College of Arts and Sciences with hopes to major in business entrepreneurship.
Aminata Sanogo, an ASU e-board member who helped organize the event, said each contestant is uniquely different. “They all are prideful of where they come from, and they all have different dreams,” she said.
In the career portion, each contestant shared how they will use their education at SU to help create change in Africa with visuals and skits. Miss Ghana and Liberia said she is the only Black woman in the supply chain program at SU and hopes to use her privilege to create change against the loss of lives and resources from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
The contestants then showcased their talents to the audience with acts such as reciting poetry and dance. Miss Nigeria was joined by two back-up dancers on stage in an African dance, while Miss Ghana and Liberia recited a poem called “The Skin That Never Sheds.” The poem explained the layers of her identity that permanently mark her in society, such as her culture, skin color and being a woman.
Between each section of the pageant, individuals and groups such as SU’s African dance team, ONEWORLD, performed as the contestants prepared for the next segment.
In the segment dedicated to traditions, each contestant explained the purpose of their clothing as it pertained to their cultures, along with causes for which they advocated.
Akukwe said this section is her favorite in the show because it shared the traditional meaning of the garments and why they are worn during different events.
Nafissatou Camara represented Guinea at the pageant. Contestants walked out and danced to upbeat music with the flags of the countries they represented during their introductions. EMILY STEINBERGER | DESIGN EDITOR
“Sometimes I feel there is a tendency to appreciate clothing without necessarily understanding the meaning behind it,” Akukwe said.
The last section of the show was a Q&A. The judges asked the contestants two questions regarding how they would address current issues affecting Africa and the African community at SU.
One judge asked Miss Guinea how she, if named Miss Africa, would uplift the Black community on SU’s campus with regard to the current protests by #NotAgainSU. She took a long pause to compose herself before continuing to emphasize that students must keep fighting together and change will come.
In response to the events occurring on campus with #NotAgainSU, Akukwe said the pageant offered a space for students to destress and not be reminded of what is going on for a couple hours.
At the conclusion of the show, Miss Ghana and Liberia — Williams — was crowned Miss Africa.
Sanogo said ASU wants to make the pageant an annual event. She said next year they hope to make the pageant a Mister and Miss Africa pageant.
Sarpong said she admires how each contestant was willing to educate their peers on the diversity of their African cultures in the show.
“That is very important — constant communication and constant education — because a lot of people still have misconceptions about what Africa is, about the purpose of Africa,” Sarpong said.
Credit: Daily Orange