This past fall, for the first time in its history, the University of Lynchburg’s Sigma Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. had seven members — the same number of African American college men who founded the national fraternity at Cornell University in 1906.
With that history in mind, Lynchburg’s chapter wanted to do something special. “As we made history this semester, having seven Alpha men on campus, we decided it would be great to start our fraternity’s historic pageant on campus, which recognizes the diligent work of young women within our communities,” Darian Geddis ’20, chapter event chairman, said last fall.
On December 12, 2019, Stephanie Brown ’22 was named the winner of the University of Lynchburg’s inaugural Miss Black and Old Gold Scholarship Competition. First runner-up was Destiny Todd ’22 and second runner-up was Maliyah Harris ’22.
Brown, a communication studies major at Lynchburg, will compete in the statewide Miss Black and Old Gold pageant on Friday, January 31, in Charlottesville, Virginia. If she wins there, she’ll travel to Bermuda for the eastern regional competition. Alpha Phi Alpha’s eastern region includes not only chapters in the mid-Atlantic and eastern U.S. but also Bermuda, Liberia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The Lynchburg pageant was Brown’s first and, to top it off, she and the other contestants had only 10 days to prepare for it. After Thanksgiving break, the contestants, assisted by Dale Morrow ’20 — who had some pageant experience, according to Brown — practiced every night, from 9 p.m. to midnight.
There was an opening dance routine that had to be choreographed and mastered and the contestants worked on their communications and other skills. “It was fun, overall,” Brown said. “It was interesting, because you had only 10 days after break to prepare for it.
“It made me nervous, a little bit. It was all of our first times, being in a pageant. It was nice to see how to carry yourself as a woman and getting to know more about yourself and your capabilities.”
In addition to the opening routine, Miss Black and Old Gold contestants compete in swimwear or active wear, evening wear, on-stage interviews, and talent. In Charlottesville, like she did for the Lynchburg pageant, Brown will perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Often referred to as “The Black National Anthem,” the song was written around the turn of the 20th Century by brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson. Brown, who writes and performs her own R&B and gospel music and has a song on Apple Music, said she wanted “to pay tribute to the African American community and I really like the song.”
Over the winter break, Brown has been rehearsing and preparing for the pageant’s other events. “I bought a new dress and I’m also practicing walking in heels more, to be more comfortable with it,” she said. “Also, the main thing is the questions in the interview portion, going over the ones I had [in Lynchburg] to have a general answer for each one.
“I’m looking at the different things that Alphas actually do, to learn more about their fraternity, their aims, and mission statement, so I have a general knowledge of that. I’m figuring out what to wear for different categories. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.”
Brown said she’s glad to have helped make history at the University of Lynchburg by participating in its first Miss Black and Old Gold pageant and representing the Sigma Pi chapter and the University at the state level.
“I’m excited for Charlottesville, to just meet new people and connect in that way,” she said. “It’s nothing I’ve ever done before and I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone.”