Central District Legacy Takes Center Stage at Miss Umoja Pageant

by Susan Fried

Last Saturday, the MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center saw a packed auditorium for the 2018 Miss Umoja Festival Scholarship Pageant, in which four women competed for $2,500 in scholarship money.

“The Umoja Fest continues the legacy of our East Madison Mardi Gras which started in the 1940s,” Umoja Peace Center representative Wyking Garrett explained, during the pageant. “It’s been Umoja Fest for the last 20 years, keeping the spirit of our community, our parents, our grandparents, that made these institutions, that made the Central District a rich Black community. … We’ve been here for over 130 years and we’re still here and we’re going to be here and be part of the future.”

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Michela Walker pulls a question out of a glass vase held by Pageant MC (Photo: Susan Fried)

Of the four contestants, high schoolers Shakira Brown and Saquoia Jenkins competed for the title of Young Miss Umoja, while Ruzeda Fields and Michela Walker vyed for the title of Miss Umoja Queen. The Central District’s Africatown presented the event.

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Pageant Judges Neela Rajvanshi, Nikki Gane and DeVaughnn Williams (Photo: Susan Fried)

Anttimo D. Bennet, Sr., asked each contestant what winning the respective titles would mean to them. All expressed a desire to further their education and become advocates for their community. Fields said she was interested in working with people affected by HIV/AIDS, and wanted to use the title of Miss Umoja as a “platform, so I can be the voice of the voiceless and help educate, advocate and inspire those to live life free of HIV.”  

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2018 Umoja Festival Scholarship Pageant Coordinator Darci Henderson (Photo: Susan Fried)

The women also put on artistic performances to showcase their talents. Fields performed a traditional African dance, while Walker covered “Rise Up,” by Andra Day.

Following the three judges’ deliberations, Shakira Brown was crowned this year’s Young Miss Umoja, while Michela Walker captured the title of Miss Umoja Queen. Both will go on to represent the community in this year’s Umoja Fest Africatown Heritage Festival and Parade.

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Alana Edwards sings the Black National Anthem (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Saquoia Jenkins performs a Praise Dance during the talent portion of the 2018 Umoja Festival Scholarship Pageant(Photo: Susan Fried)
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Ruzeda Fields performs a traditional African Dance during the talent portion of the 2018 Umoja Festival Scholarship Pageant (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Wyking Garrett with Umoja Peace Center (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Saquoia Jenkins being escorted on stage by 100 Black Men of Greater Seattle member W Michael Brown. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Ruzeda Fields escorted on stage by 100 Black Men of Greater Seattle member, Jefferson Butler.(Photo: Susan Fried)
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Shakira Brown introduces herself to the audience (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Audiance reacts to the crowing of Miss Umoja (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Former Miss Umoja Fest Jasmine La’Shae Hart crowns the 2018 winner Michela Walker (Photo: Susan Fried)
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Winners – Miss Umoja Fest Michela Walker and Young Miss Umoja Fest Shakira Brown (Photo: Susan Fried)