Scholarship Pageant Promotes Unity of Hofstra’s Black Community

The distinguished brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated will hold their 6th Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant at Hofstra University in the spring 2012 semester, and are looking to crown their next Xi Psi Chapter sweetheart complete with confidence, charisma, and poise.

With pioneering spirit, Alpha Phi Alpha was the first Greek letter fraternity established by African Americans, founded in 1906 at Cornell University. Hofstra’s chapter, Xi Psi, was founded in 1980. The brothers of Xi Psi began conducting the pageant in 1998, searching for the best Hofstra women to wear the fraternity colors and represent the chapter on a regional and national level.

“We are looking to showcase the unique and beautiful women we have on our campus,” said Darren Brownlee, 24, a Hofstra graduate student and fall 2006 Alpha initiate. “She doesn’t have to been African American or even a minority… but it takes a woman who has pride in herself and the fraternity.”

When describing the ideal contestant, Brownlee stressed the importance of academics as well as time commitment. With a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5, contestants must attend practice and interview sessions approximately a month in advance of the pageant and be able to display confidence and grace both on and off stage. These, among other regulations, are the reason that the brothers of Xi Psi have at times found themselves with a lack of contestants, forcing postponement of the event. This is the reason behind this year’s pageant being held in spring instead of the traditional fall.

“Whoever decides to be a part of the pageant… it shows real character and dedication, and that can be hard to come by,” said spring 2011 initiate and future pageant co-director, Ricardo Percy, 20, when commenting on pushing the pageant back. Fortunately, holding the pageant in the spring will allow the Xi Psi brothers to fall in accordance with other Alpha chapters like St. John’s Theta Epsilon chapter and Stony Brook’s Rho Rho chapter, who crown their winners during spring semester.

Brownlee and Percy speculate that this spring’s pageant winner will hold the title of Miss Xi Psi and go on to the regional competition, Miss NYACOA, which stands for New York Association of Chapter of Alphas, in fall of 2013, holding a reign longer than past winners.

 Holding the current title from the fall 2010 pageant is senior exercise science major Yazmin Hernandez, who explained her motivations for entering and what she believes set her apart in the competition.

“Truthfully, I really needed a scholarship and this was kind of like a comfort zone,” said Hernandez, 21, whose flashy and fun personality have awarded her the nickname “Gucci” around campus. “I can show my personality on stage better than I could ever write a paper about it.”

Hernandez admits that being the only Latina in last year’s pageant scared her because she thought it would put her at a disadvantage, but believes it gave her “something unique to bring to the table.”

Attributing her win to her “radiance on stage,” Hernandez went on to place third in the 2010 Miss NYACOA. When asked what advice she could give to future contestants, Hernandez posed the question, “If you don’t take a chance, how do you know if you can accomplish anything? I did, and look how far I got.”

Advantages of the pageant go far beyond a scholarship fund for those involved. By holding the competition, Miss Black and Gold creates a sense of community for Hofstra’s black student population.

“We definitely build personal connections with the girls who participate and the acts that perform,” said Brownlee.

“This pageant exemplifies all positive characteristics of young women. That’s why it’s so uplifting to our community,” said junior and spring 2011 initiate Deion Toppins, 20, who will be co-directing the pageant in the spring with Percy.

Adding to similar sentiments, Percy said, “Because our black population is so small, we tend to support each other in the best way we can. Miss Black and Gold shows that our fraternity has different ways of getting everybody involved.”

Beneficial in more ways than one, Alpha Phi Alpha’s Miss Black and Gold Pageant is sure to both entertain and embrace a Hofstra audience this coming spring.

Sidney Madden 

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