The African Student Association, African Unity, will wake up Plattsburgh State after spring break with its annual pageant show “Hulet Negasi” tomorrow night.

The organization invested in a stunning photoshoot featuring cultural costumes and face and body art to represent African countries’ rich culture of aesthetics.
To prepare for the show, eight contestants engaged in a Q&A session with the club’s members, who will be voting for the People’s Choice Award, an event tradition.
Each contestant shared different reasons for why they decided to participate in the pageant.

“I feel like Egypt has been bounded by bad news [and] terrorist attacks,” Mr. Egypt, Antwan Clark, said. “I really want to bring a different, beautiful image of Egypt.”
Mariam Kebe, Ms. Guinea, expressed that she wanted to overcome her stage fright for future pursuits.

“Passion is bigger than fright,” Kebe said.

Rayquan Robinson, Mr. Morrocco, talked about the idea of cultural identity, the reason for his participation in the show.

“I have never really had my own culture,” Robinson said. “I want to get to my own root.”

Abena Boateng, Ms. Ghana, said it’s important to have this event and bring people together with a tense campus atmosphere after a racist Snapchat circulated among students last month.
Mamie Bah, a club member who is not a pageant contestant, hopes many members of the campus community will come to the show.

“I think it will bring more unity if everyone comes out to it, not only us. It has to be a diverse audience, who are willing to learn and be a part of this.”

African Unity Secretary Anthonia Okonta feels this event would not only help outsiders to learn about diverse African cultures, but also serve as opportunity for participants to research and reflect on their own cultures.

“As a pageant coach, I see people network with each other and come to know things of themselves they have never known before,” Okonta said. “It’s about opening up to people because you can bring more people in that way, and you also uplift them, showing them beautiful countries in the world.”

Concerning body image and pageant shows, Okonta said cross-culture pageants such as African Unity’s are actually a powerful platform to bring awareness to and celebrate the variations of beauty.

She argued that since different countries and cultures have different beauty standards and body ideals, contestants should have various features, and all body types and characteristics are welcomed.

Okonta called the pageant a “road to self-discovery.”

“Last year, a contestant came to me saying she did not know what to do because she had no talents. I told her everyone had a talent, you just needed to find what you were passionate about,” Okonta said. “It turned out she was passionate about writing and speaking up for people. She came up with the most creative and beautifully written poem for the show.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. tomorrow evening at the Angell College Center Warren Ballrooms. Tickets are available online and at the information desk in the ACC.

Email Ha Nguyen at news@cardinalpointsonline.com

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