By Joel Hall
For the last four years, the Miss Africa USA pageant has brought together African women, living all over America, with a desire to give back to their home countries through various humanitarian missions.
Before a star-studded audience at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center (PAC) Saturday night, the pageant crowned its new queen.
Nyasha Zimucha, Miss South Africa USA 2008, defeated talented contestants from 16 African nations to become Miss Africa USA 2008. Standing out among top contestants from Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, Zimucha was awarded $2,500 in scholarship money, gifts from various sponsors, and the chance to represent the African Womens Development Foundation (AWDF) on a charitable mission to Africa.
Zimucha's platform highlighted an increasing trend in xenophobia-related attacks on foreigners living in South Africa. In recent years, violent clashes between native South Africans and immigrants fleeing less-stable countries in Africa have led to a number of deaths.
"The xenophobia has started because of the economy," said Zimucha. "People have been set on fire, homes were burned, and people are angry. The last time I saw violent images like this was during the Apartheid era.
"When people don't have jobs or can't find food, they try to find blame, " Zimucha continued. "We need to rise to the occasion. We need to stop this violence and focus on what really matters, growth and education."
With the help of the AWDF, Zimucha plans to combat xenophobia through fashion, creating an anti-xenophobia clothing line. Much like rock-star activist Bono's Red Campaign, which raises money to fight AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in Africa, the proceeds from the clothing line will go toward combating xenophobia in South Africa.
Audience members came from as far as Texas and Missouri to see the contestants display their style, native songs, culture, talents, and hopes for a stronger, healthier Africa. Film crews from Nigeria and Cameroon broadcast the pageant, which was well-attended by local and African dignitaries, as well as the general Atlanta community.
Appearances were made by: Kristen White, Miss Black USA 2008; Camille Sims, Miss Junior Teen USA 2008; and Mikaya Thurmond, Miss Georgia Junior Teen 2007 and daughter of Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner, Michael Thurmond. Mfonobong Essiet, Miss Africa USA 2007, was present to crown Zimucha the new queen.
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), responsible for bringing the pageant to Clayton County, said the event has the potential to do good, not only within the county, but outside of the continent as well.
"It's nice to see a lot of people from outside of the county come and participate in this," said Glanton. It's great to have it here because Clayton County is such a diversified community. It's just another chance to showcase what a great community this is."
Lady Kate Njeuma, a member of Cameroon royalty, founder of the AWDF, and organizer of the pageant, said having the event at the PAC has allowed it to reach a wider audience.
"This is our first time in Clayton County," said Njeuma."We have a beautiful facility and that has allowed us to reach out to a more diverse community.
"In the past, it was heavily attended by Africans," Njeuma continued. "Now, everybody knows about it. I'm very grateful for the support we've received here in Clayton County."
Zimucha said she would use the title of Miss Africa USA 2008 to bring about as much good in South Africa as possible.
"For me, it's not about the crown," said Zimucha. "It's what the [pageant] stands for. Being in this country is giving me the opportunity to give back to my country."