By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College will be holding its first Afro-Caribbean pageant, co-sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Affairs.
The idea was first introduced by sophomore Stephaney Wilson, and fostered by Dean of Miller Library Ruth Shoge.
At the University of Richmond, Shoge helped sponsor and put on a pageant of similar idea. Shoge, and Director of Intercultural Affairs Dr. Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina, are serving as advisors and committee members on Wilson’s project, and helping to bring forth more ideas and details for this inclusive pageant.
Wilson had the idea of a Caribbean showcase last year while serving on the diversity committee in the Student Government Association, where it morphed into a pageant rather than a showcase.
“The Afro-Caribbean Pageant is a cultural event that will be celebrating the beauty and diversity of Afro-Caribbean countries. The main goal and aim of this event is to teach people about these countries and to facilitate a greater appreciation of these through a pageantry that will include some of the typical things seen in a pageant—a dance, question portion, and creativity as well as food,” Wilson said.
The pageant, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, will also consist of an educational component.
“We want to showcase a variety of cultures that exist on campus, so it is important to expose cultures and educate the campus to create a sense of awareness,” Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said.
The Global Education Office, as well as Intercultural Affairs, host multiple events that highlight other cultures, such as the Lunar New Year celebration. This pageant, Dr. Laurenceau-Medina said, will “enlighten the campus in other ways.”
“A lot of growth takes place when students start to engage with others who are different from them,” he said.
According to Dr. Laurenceau-Medina, this pageant is about different exposures and perceptions of the Caribbean, and showing that there are more than just the select islands that first come to mind.
“We have so many people here with so many experiences and backgrounds that necessarily don’t have a medium to showcase their love of an Afro-Caribbean culture, so this event is a great opportunity to learn about the culture and to have fun and enjoy with fellow students,” Wilson said.
Students did not have to be of Caribbean descent to sign up for the pageant. There are 28 Caribbean islands to choose from to represent, and 49 African nations to choose from.
Pageant contestants are allowed to wear either traditional or non-traditional clothing, depending on how they feel will represent their country.
“This event fosters an environment where everyone is learning more about each other and learning more about the lives and customs of other people around them, and I think that on a college campus like WC that is very important to have, as many people aren’t always given the opportunity to do this,” Wilson said.