Miss Black CU contestants exemplify spirit of founder
Valree Wynn's legacy continues to impact the lives of young women at Cameron University through the Miss Black Cameron University Pageant, now entering its 39th year.
Wynn was born in Rockwell, Texas. After graduating from Douglass High School in Lawton she went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Langston University, followed by a master's degree and a doctorate in English from Oklahoma State University. She became the first African American to teach at Cameron university when she joined the English faculty in 1966.
At Cameron, Wynn helped to co-found the Miss Black CU Pageant, which she directed for nine years. The pageant was renamed the Dr. Valree Wynn Miss Black Cameron University Pageant in 1985 in her honor.
Wynn went on to become the first African American to serve on the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges. She was also inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.
Today, the contestants in the pageant exemplify the spirit and tenacity of Wynn through their passion for service and desire to see a difference made in their local community.
Ciera James, the pageant's co-director and a former contestant herself, recognizes that spirit in the 2018 contestants.
"The contestants are ecstatic. They have a lot of energy; it feels different and I love it," James said. "It just shows how the younger generation is interested in the pageant after all these years. Valree Wynn started it and we are still continuing that legacy."
Each student vying for the crown is competing on a specific platform of community improvement. This year's platforms are "Teaching One at a Time," "Body Positivity for Men and Women" and "Find a Happy Place: Promoting Positive Mental Health and Wellness." James explains the thought behind having the contestants create a platform is to ask each of them "what voice do you have to speak on a subject, and, if you are to use the crown, how will you implement it?"
One of the primary duties of the pageant's winner is to implement their platform on campus and around the community.
This year's pageant will be judged by five judges. The judges will score each section and tally the numbers; the contestant with the highest cumulative score will win the title.
In the past, the pageant winners have gone on to the Miss Black Oklahoma Pageant. But this year, James and her co-director, Ja'Lyn Yarbrough, decided to do something different.