It was perhaps an odd thing for a church girl to do, but New Birth Oakland member Omie Garba felt God had put it on her heart to hold a beauty pageant for young, African women.Born in Gambia and raised in Sweden, Garba came to the U.S. as an au pair in 2005 and now runs her own day care business in Oakland.
After competing last year in Wash., D.C., she realized the pageant was a way to portray her accomplishments and experiences as an African in America, as well as her hopes for the future.
Garba thought local women would like such a pageant but didn’t know how to do it. She eventually found a partner in DJ Burt, who is renowned in clubs frequented by Africans.
Once the contest was announced, judges and sponsors rapidly came on board.
Recruiting contestants, who had to be between the ages of 18 and 35, physically fit and have one African parent, took Garba well out of her comfort zone.
“I realized the women wouldn’t be in the church house only. I decided to go where the women are.”
That meant clubs like the AU Lounge and Shadow Lounge.
Saturday evening, Jan. 7, the 12 contestants—from Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda—will compete in the talent portion of the pageant, with the crowning in March.
The winner’s prize will be to help her go to her home country to fulfill a need of her choosing.
Charity and service are the guiding themes of the contest, reflecting traditional African values.
“If you look at our logo, it is a woman holding up the African continent. We go back and give to our country, but charity begins at home, whether it’s one child or one village,” Garba said.