It was after 11pm when I reached my hotel room, heart still pounding, eyes still dampened from tears. As I reached for my hotel room door, I turned around and looked at the ten eyes gazing back at me. One set in particular stood out. In that set of eyes, I could see for the first time a sense of pride. As I reached for the top of my head with my right hand, I felt the piece of metal, the crown that I earned. After five years of battling, I had finally won the war. At that very moment, it seemed as though time stopped in place for me and the universe finally opened its stubborn hands to show me an undoubtable act of favor. I peered behind me. As I opened the hotel door, I caught a glimpse of her eyes again. I stared deeply into them as if I had just broken every generational curse that could have stood in my way. In her eyes were the years of damage of not being able to always provide. In her brown eyes, outlined in gray, were years of self-doubt that reflected on me. But on that night, those curses had been broken. It was the night that I fought my insecurities and walked on a national stage that wasn't always meant for women like me.
As I reflect on the night I was crowned "Miss Black America Coed," I realized that the tingling feeling I felt from the top of head, through the middle of spinal cord, to the bottom of feet wasn't only a feeling of victory for me, but a feeling of victory for any and every person who has been afraid to dream. Fearful to walk in an uncomfortable zone to find my purpose, I realized a year later, that every battle lost while on this journey to self-confidence was preparation for the war I would face. For me, my competition wasn't the beautiful women next to me; it was the damaged woman I was fighting to overpower daily so the woman I wanted to be could be free.
Eight thousand, seven hundred, sixty hours later, as I type this listening to Donny Hathaway’s "A Song for You," I realize my crown was more valuable than a mere piece of metal encrusted with crystals. It was a crown for my mother who, as I stared in her brown eyes outlined in grey, knew that whatever she didn't accomplish had no bearing on what I could achieve. It was a crown for my sister who took on the mother role and instilled resilience in me. It was a crown for my consistent support system as they had dared to go on this journey with me by choice. It was a crown for young ladies who pushed me daily to never give up on my dreams with their sheer belief in me.
Three hundred, sixty five days later, I'm in awe of how much my life has changed after I decided to create the life I desire and deserve, despite my setbacks. I realize that the other women had no idea that I was fighting on stage for, what seemed to be, an effort to take back my life, take back the power to believe that a daughter of a high school dropout who was sleeping on her daughter's floor with her other children, could become anything she wanted to be if she was willing to create the hierarchy that wasn't created it for her. It was then I defined Modern Day Queen.