Miss FAMU takes a stand for Bennett College

Miss FAMU, Imani Cooper and Miss Bennett College, Brooke Kane together at royal conference.
Photo Submitted by Imani Cooper.

The reigning Miss Florida A&M University, Imani Copper, announced on social media on Wednesday that she and several other HBCU kings and queens had decided to forfeit this year’s Ebony Magazine competition in support of the current Miss Bennett College.

Each year Ebony hosts a competition for its HBCU Queens edition. This year the editors decided to also highlight campus kings as well.

During the fall semester until the beginning of spring family, friends, students and faculty have the opportunity to cast their votes in support of their favorite HBCU kings and queens. The top 10 queens will be featured in both the magazine’s online and printed product. The top 10 kings will be featured only in the online edition.

Being that the competition is so close to being over, it surprised many when Cooper posted a screenshot of a letter disclosing that she and several other campus queens and kings have decided to forfeit the competition in order for the reigning Miss Bennett College, Brooke Kane, to be in the top 10 spot.

The HBCU community was informed recently that Bennett College, one of two all-female HBCUs, is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation, which may ultimately lead to the institution closing its doors.

Bennett was given a deadline to raise $5 million by Feb 1. Many celebrities such as actresses Loretta Devine, Shanola Hampton and Vanessa Bell-Calloway, actors Jussie and Jake Smollett and singer Lalah Hathaway have announced their support in the #STANDWITHBENNETT campaign.

“When the news started to spread about Bennett College on the brink of losing its accreditation, and the recent battle Bethune Cookman fighting for theirs, I wondered what exactly are these publications and media outlets doing to truly support these HBCUs?” said Cooper.

Another campus queen Jada Brown, the current Miss North Carolina A&T, was the young woman who rallied all her fellow queens and kings to take a stance and shine a little on what they believe to be most important.

“It was her idea to donate her Ebony votes to Bennett College and forfeit the competition as a wake-up call to Ebony to do more for our institutions,” said Cooper.

The current Mister Florida A&M University, Myles Millsap, said he is 100 percent behind Bennett College.

“I understood the bigger picture. I didn’t feel like I was losing anything, it was more so like there’s a bigger picture … being a leader is realizing that you have to sacrifice yourself sometimes for the greater good.”

In the letter Cooper includes a list of current queens and kings who decided to forfeit the competition. The list includes Miss Bethune Cookman University, Miss Virginia State University, Miss Spelman College, Miss Tennessee State University, Miss Jackson State University and more. Kings from Fisk University, Texas Southern and Mister Blue and White of Spelman have also joined the rally.

Former FAMU queens have commended Cooper and her fellow royals on taking this stance. Former Miss FAMU Amberly Williams was one of those.

“I heard about it and thought the decision of several queens and thought it’s a very heroic their fellow HBCUs in their time and need,” said Williams. 

Both Cooper and Millsap agreed that while they worked tirelessly to get into the ranks, that highlighting issues within the HBCU community was more important than their picture in a magazine.

“I believe that this is just a start to change what could potential be worse. Like a chain reaction, if one HBCU begins to struggle then so could the next and if we don’t start now with doing all we can to ensure EVERY HBCU’s longevity then who knows how much worse it can get,” said Cooper.

Millsap went on to say that while they don’t aim to burn bridges with the magazine for future kings and queen, he hopes that they too will understand that this is what they believed to be the right thing to do.