Miss Black Tennessee pageant inspires
by Ashley Anthony, Jackson Sun
Tamira Cole was inspired by positive images of young women at the Miss Black Tennessee Scholarship pageant last year. She wanted to be one of them.
Cole, a 24-year-old Jackson native, will get her chance when she competes in the pageant today in Nashville.
“After watching all of those talented, wonderful young women, I knew that being a part of the pageant could change my life,” she said. “This pageant has so many opportunities for women of color.”
Frustrated with negative images of black women in the media, Cole said it’s refreshing to be in a pageant that uplifts them.
“This program promotes young women to be themselves – healthy, vibrant role models for all to emulate,” she said.
Cole, a graduate student in secondary education at Austin Peay State University, competed in her first pageant when she was 12. Last year, she supported a friend who was in the Miss Black Tennessee Scholarship Pageant.
Cole is one of 11 college women competing in the pageant.
Miss Black Tennessee is a branch of The Miss Black USA Scholarship pageant. Miss Black Tennessee was founded in 1984 to advance educational and professional opportunities for women of African-American descent, according to its Web site. The contestants range in age from 17 to 27.
Competing for the title of Miss Black Tennessee has always been a goal of Chameka Mayes’ since being crowned Miss Lane College in 2004, she said. She is a graduate student with the University of Phoenix.
“I am very excited, and my family is as well,” Mayes said. “They have supported me in every aspect.”
For her pageant talent, Mayes, 26, will perform a dramatic monologue called, “So What If I Am a Black Woman?”
Kristen Herring, Miss Black Tennessee 2007, sang and played the violin for her talent in the pageant. The pageant was a fun way for her to earn scholarship money, she said.
Herring, 26, won a $1,500 scholarship and became the spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Bredesen’s LIFT Mentor Program.
She enjoys speaking with students, especially young girls. She mentors a 15-year-old girl.
“As black women, we are bombarded with images of who and what we should be,” Herring said. “I don’t have control of the media, but I do have control of what I do. The least I can do is get out there and show our girls that they can be something different besides an entertainer or a music video girl.
“Often times, kids don’t know they can be a scientist, and I’ve had the opportunity to tell young girls this,” she said.
Herring is completing a graduate degree in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University. She received her bachelor’s degree from the historically black Spelman College for women.
Balancing her duties as Miss Black Tennessee while trying to finish school was a challenge, but Herring said she will miss it.
“I was at a radio station, recording my farewell, and as I was speaking, I got a little choked up,” she said.
The winner of the pageant will win a $1,500 scholarship and represent Tennessee in the national Miss Black USA competition next year. Last year’s pageant was held in June in Las Vegas.