Why does race always have to be an issue? Miss Black Illinois Breaks It Down

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Why does race always have to be an issue? Why must there be a Miss BLACK pageant? Why must you all have separate schools (HBCUs)? Isn't that exclusion or a form of racism in itself? Why can't you all just get over slavery, it happened so long ago?

Why? Because after my ancestors were brought over unwillingly to a foreign place, abused, attacked, stripped of their identity, split from their families, their descendants still struggled and continue to struggle with finding a place in America. Why? Because I see more black women in the media who are publicly exploited or playing to a certain overt narrative than professional, successful, Godly black women. Why? Because we must form diversity and inclusion positions in the workplace, our own organizations, schools, hubs because we were never meant to be included in the majority, and laws and policies are being created daily to keep us out. Why? Because the same way we fight for equal rights with women (feminism), the LGBTQ community, and more, people of color continue to not be provided the same opportunities day after day, after day, after day. Why? Because the color of my skin creates a form of rhetoric that exists to incite fear and say I'm not worthy, I'm less than, and I don't deserve the same success as you. Why? Because the ideologies of naziism are still embraced in 2017. Why? Because we experience modern day public lynchings to black bodies by those who are paid to protect the communities we live in. Why? Because the economy and Wall Street were never meant for us, so we fight and kill each other to try and survive in an economy from which we cannot benefit. Why? Because you try being a person of color for a day. Why? Because in 2017 we still have to say, "the first black president," "the first black senator of...," "the first black ballerina," "A black CEO". Why? Because we've reached a point in time where we must stop fluffing over race issues in America. Racism is real and it's an ideology that is rooted in hate. No matter how you try to put it, it's indefensible and a domestic form of terrorism for those who experience it.

Yes, I'm part of a BLACK pageant system because of these things. I've learned through this process to fully love me - my culture, my skin, my people, my natural curly black hair, the natural shape of my body. I will no longer conform to societal pressures that try to cause me to be something I am not and create self-hate. I felt myself being pulled in that direction to satisfy and be accepted by others, and it completely brought me out of my natural element. I've learned I can walk anywhere with my head held high, and not have to worry about if I am pleasing to you. Why? Because I was created in God's image, made to be pleasing unto Him. You are not my God, and I will no longer dim my light for your comfort. And I hope I can continue to inspire others to do the same by walking in their truth and light as they continue to go after their many dreams.

As I enter into this last day of competing for the @missblackusa 2017 title, I am more prepared than ever to walk into any room with my head held high knowing I'm deserving of the same opportunities and experiences just as any other person. I've been inspired to continue making strides through civic and social works in Chicago, my nation, and other international entities. I will go on to pursue a Masters in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University so that I can join the work of those who fight for the representation and welfare of people of color daily. I will continue in my commitments to teaching young brown girls and boys that there is more to life than what immediately surrounds them in their communities through my work as an arts and education advocate.