Pageant of Culture First Miss African-American Chosen in Celebration of Community

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Byline: Tom O'Konowitz Daily Herald Staff Writer

Jessica Hayes, an 18-year-old from Elgin, says Saturday night will go down in history and be remembered for many years to come.

After all, it marked her hometown's very first Miss African- American pageant.

Sponsored by the Bethesda Community Development Center and Bethesda Church in Elgin, the event presented an opportunity for nine young women to share their talents, learn about their culture and compete for scholarships.

"Especially African-American young females, they need to know there are opportunities out there," Hayes said. "They need to get involved with their community and their culture."

The Miss African-American competition, held at the Marriott hotel in Hoffman Estates, included evening-wear and casual-wear portions, an interview segment, a talent showcase, and dance numbers from the African culture.

Two friends of Hayes - 16-year-old Tuiela Carter and 17-year-old Kamiesha Abbott of Elgin - also participated in the pageant Saturday. They prepared for five months, visiting area museums to learn about their culture. …