When I first enrolled at Fort Valley State University I never would’ve envisioned myself having such a vested interest in Royal Court. I was always the SGA guy. When I was in high school I was an FBLA Public Speaking champion vying to be the President of my high school’s chapter. I wanted to dress nice with the trends of the early 2010’s but I dreaded dressing up. I was an escort in the cotillion twice, once because I was talked into it by a family friend. I wasn’t even on the Royal Court when I was at FVSU! I served two years on the executive branch and flirted with the idea of running a bid to be SGA President but didn’t. Why am I so enthralled with the Royal Court?
It’s the culture of HBCU life that made me fall in love with Royal Court, especially in my last year at FVSU and post-graduation. The responsibility that elected Kings & Queens have is so powerful. They serve as the faces of the institution, proving the age old saying that representation matters. They’re tasked with recruitment and service in the community. They are thrown coronation celebrations that marvel that of what occurs in some movies. They’re real life King and Queens, devoid of a fairy tale story. Life isn’t always a picture perfect Disney story and the way that these young men and women secure their crowns are a testament of this.
As I rose in the ranks of national HBCU student leadership and HBCU Pulse became a safe space for student leaders I became close with several of the HBCU Queens. I marveled at their beauty but respected their journey to get where they are. I also listened to their problems and the issues that they face on a daily basis. I’ve heard about the clashes with advisors, the rivalries that stem from the variance of personalities on a court, the constant battle to be everything to everybody and the juggle of the responsibilities of the crown and school work. But, most importantly, I heard about the deeper aspects of what it meant to be a Queen. I heard of the battle of finding yourself in the spotlight. The pressure to keep everything together and be perfect when on the inside you’re hurting. Having to keep everything bottled in because no one understands your pain. That’s why I created the “A Queen’s Pain” book. I wanted to help our HBCU Queens confront how they feel.
The Kings have even more of a responsibility. They want to be more than glorified escorts. They want to reign just like the Queens are able to. Kings are often castigated because of the popularity that they have on campus. Their ideas are often stifled. They’re given the instructions to tone down so they don’t “outshine the Queen”. The dichotomy of this is awe-inspiring.
Even moreso, these titles come with a tremendous wealth of power. Campus Kings & Queens have the power to make elementary, middle and high school kids fall in love with HBCUs. They’re the exemplification of what a professional black man and woman are supposed to be. They have the opportunity to impact their campuses and leave an impact that is felt for years to come.
Roland Reynolds (Mister Bowie State University) winning Mister HBCU was more than a symbolic victory. He was the exemplification of hope for his institution. He’s the first that ignites the spark of his HBCU. Taylor Walker (Miss Winston-Salem State University) becoming the International Miss Black & Gold for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated was more than just a pageant win. She showed that HBCU students can perform just as well as those at PWI’s. She showed grace and poise, placing in every competition she was entered in as Miss Winston-Salem State University (4th runner up in the NBCA Hall of Fame Competition of Queens, 1st runner up in the Miss CIAA Competition). Rachel Osinuga (Miss Texas Southern) publishing a book, speaking at the Joe Biden event held at Texas Southern a couple of months ago and being a face of the HBCUs For Joe Biden cohort is more than just a move for her. It’s a showcase of where the crown can take you.
The story of Rachel is something that means so much in such a politically charged time. As onlookers to the Royal Court culture we do a disservice when we act as if our Royal Court members are walking Macy’s mannequins. Their responsibility is immense. These Kings & Queens of this cohort have the power to change the face of the nation. They have the power to drive voter turnout in the upcoming elections. They have the ability to start productive conversations that yield tangible solutions. Minimizing the roles of Kings & Queens as “Walking around with a sash and waving” is a disservice to the weight that the crown holds.
However, if we should not diminish the weight of the crown the members of the Royal Court must showcase that they can shoulder this tremendous responsibility. If Royal Court is more than fly outfits and waving at Football games you must show us. Show us the capacity to make a change and don’t settle. Be uncompromising. Utilize your platform to affect each and every student at your institution. Challenge the issues that face our community. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Make it happen. We’re here for you.