A Juan Diego senior was recently crowned Miss Africa-Utah at the April 3 pageant. Eighteen-year-old Tabitha Amani was awarded the state title, as well as won the audience vote.
“It’s more of a cultural pageant where young women are encouraged to pursue their platform and show the beauty and pride of Africa,” said Tabitha, who won a trophy and $1,000 scholarship she plans to use at Westminster College in the fall.
Tabitha, competing as Miss Congo Brazzaville, wore the country’s traditional costume as well as a dress made from the country’s flag. Her talent was sharing a poem she wrote entitled, “Pipeline,” which fit with her platform of ending what she sees as a pattern for many refugee children: a lack of support in school that eventually leads them to prison.
“There are limited resources for them so many are disadvantaged and end up in correctional facilities. I was lucky and had a faculty and private school that have enough resources to help each individual where many public schools don’t have that money,” she said.
Tabitha, who is a member of the Salt Lake peer court, said she serves the community by helping youth learn to restore themselves versus putting them into the corrections system.
“Once they’re in juvenile court, they are less likely to graduate and be on track for their future,” she said.
Tabitha was born in Congo, but left with the outbreak of the second Congo war with her mother and six brothers. They lived in a refugee camp for nine months before moving to the United States. Her father followed two years later.
“I don’t have many memories of my country because I was only three when we left, so I’ve learned more about pride in my country through doing this pageant. I see the beauty and power in Africa as a continent and love myself more. So many people just see the poverty and sadness with Africa, but there is so much more and so much culture,” she said.
Tabitha plans to travel to Rwanda for two months this summer, where some of her family lives. While there, she plans to wear her pageant crown and help serve communities and bring older girls hygiene supplies.
However, before she leaves, she hopes to educate others about her platform through community events, including the May 9 Mama Africa Fashion Show.
“I want to make people aware of the situation so they can help increase resources to end this ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’ There is so much we can do, but first we need to have the conversations and increase awareness,” she said.
Tabitha plans to compete for the Miss Africa-USA title in August 2016.