Posted on October 13, 2009

Crowning of First Non-Black Miss Hampton U Stirs Controversy

Antonio Hawthorne, EMQ Networks Wire, October 13, 2009

Hampton University crowned its first non-African American Miss Hampton University (HU), on Friday, leading to controversy throughout the Hampton University and larger HBCU community.

Nikole Churchill, 22, senior nursing major, competed against nine other women in the annual pageant. Churchill, prompted by the controversy of comments about her skin color, wrote a letter to President Obama, encouraging him to speak at the university about the importance of racial tolerance.

There has even been negative reaction on the letter criticizing her for displaying the school in a negative light as the newly crowned Miss HU.

Student, alumni, and faculty reaction has been mixed. Some have said her win represents the diversity at Hampton, while others have complained that she is not black and have not seen her visibly on the main campus because she attends the satellite campus in Virginia Beach, which has 100 students compared to main campus of 5,700.

As the announcement was made, a number of people in the audience got up and left as news quickly spread on Facebook and Twitter.


EMQ has decided to publish the letter below. {snip}

Subject: Hampton University

To: President Barack Obama

October 11, 2009

Aloha Mr. Obama!

My name is Nikole Churchill, a senior nursing major at Hampton University. This past Friday October 9, 2009, I was honored to be crowned Miss Hampton University 2009-2010. It truly was the best night of my life! With that being said, I am sad to say. . .. . . that my crowning was not widely accepted and many negative comments regarding my win have been shared throughout my campus.

It would be much easier to say that possibly some were not accepting of the news because I wasn’t the most qualified contestant; however, the true reason for the disapproval was because of the color of my skin. I am not African-American. Despite the unfortunate beliefs that some are saying I should not have won, I am desperately trying to focus on those who believe in me and support me and my goal to represent this beautiful, multicultural campus the very best way that I can. I would love your help!

I am hoping that perhaps you would be able to make an appearance to my campus, Hampton University, so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent, but rather be proud of the changes our nation is making towards accepting diversity. People are even nicknaming me, “lil Obama” because of various reasons. This is truly an honor as well!

I am also from Hawaii (Wahiawa) and I am hoping that you can assist me in opening some closed minds and help share some aloha spirit throughout my campus. I feel as though you could relate to my situation, which is why I immediately wanted to contact you. I was interviewed last night at the HU vs. HU football game by news channel 13 and I mentioned how individuals such as you and myself are making changes in hopes people can stop placing so much focus on our skin color by letting that define what we can, cannot, should, and/or should not do. Dr. Harvey welcomed me last night to the family with open arms and I was beyond honored when he told me that he is behind me 100%. I am proud to represent Hampton University and I am so proud having you to represent our home, our country. Your support with my crowning as Miss Hampton University 2009-2010 would be graciously appreciated. Please reply, I will be looking forward to it!

Nikole Churchill

Virginia Beach , VA