Homecoming week begins with coronation
Winston-Salem State University crowned its new king and queen Monday night during an ornate ceremony at the K.R. Williams Auditorium.
Royals from universities across the state were on hand to fete Keenan Easter and Vanity Oakes, Mister and Miss Winston-Salem State University 2013-14. Thirty-six on campus organizations also sent their kings and queens to share in the momentous occasion, which adopted the theme “The Year of the Ram: An International Global Affair.”
“The crowning ceremony is a time honored tradition,” noted Student Government Association President Bryant Bell. “Tonight we are honored to share in this tradition.”
Mister and Miss WSSU 2012-13, Corey McCoy and Ashley Mozingo, greeted the audience one final time before passing the torch to the new king and queen.
“It feels like it was just yesterday that this was us,” said Mozingo, who is now pursuing a master’s at UNC Charlotte. “It was a beautiful night, a night to remember indeed.”
She and McCoy, who was first runner-up in the Mister HBCU Showcase, reminisced about their experiences as ambassadors at the school, where McCoy said “elegant men stand and walk tall,” and thanked their supporters.
The crowning ceremony was the second official event in the school’s weeklong Homecoming celebration, which will culminate with a parade, a football game (against Johnson C. Smith University) and a step show on Saturday.
Dressed in black gowns of taffeta, satin and chiffon, the organizational queens glided onto the stage before a delighted audience, stopping in the center, where each tuxedo-clad escort presented them with a long-stemmed red rose. In keeping with tradition, the couples clasped hands and strode in a slow circle, showing off the finery of their attire as Master of Ceremonies Darius Cureton and Mistress of Ceremonies Dr. Soncerey Montgomery introduced them to the audience.
Four-year-old Medina Shareef and Semaj Reid, both students at the school’s Child Development Center, stole the show when they were escorted onstage to greet the audience as Little Miss and Mister WSSU 2013-14. A chorus of exclamations and adoration rose above the drumbeats as attendees craned their necks to see the children, she in a white gown and he in a black suit, who waved and acknowledged their admirers with a poise far beyond their short years.
When it was time for the main event, the audience leapt to its feet, clamoring for a view of Easter as the spotlight fell on him at the rear of the room. Easter, a member of the WSSU Red Sea of Sound Marching Band and mentor for the Renaissance Male Mentoring Program, made his way slowly down the center aisle bedecked in an all white tuxedo to thunderous applause.
“Keenan Keith Easter… is the proud son of Mrs. Gwenetta Lynn and Mr. Keith Kennard Easter, which has motivated Keenan to strive for the best in higher education,” Cureton said in his introduction of the new king. “…By earning the title of Mister Winston-Salem State University, his platform inspires him to dream, envision, enlighten and lead male students to seek higher academic goals while promoting scholarship and brotherhood.”
Easter, a marketing major, said he plans to use his post to encourage positive change in his community, particularly in the eastern side of the city.
Seated atop a throne carried by four men, Oakes made her entrance to the beat of “The Little Drummer Boy,” an ode to the school’s connection to Africa and the power of the drum. Oakes, a cheerleader and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., wore a one-shoulder ball gown with layered tulle skirt and glittering accents on the bodice.
“Vanity Lael Oakes is … the proud daughter of Van and Aliesha Oakes, the youngest of three,” Montgomery revealed. “Coming from a family of Rams, it was was evident that Vanity was going to continue the legacy at this illustrious institution … As Miss Winston-Salem State University, she promotes he importance of reaching out to the community and claiming the love for our university through her platform, ‘I am my H.B.C.U.: Hope for Building better Communities through University outreach.’”
The new king and queen were seated onstage, where Bell led them in a pledge to “promote Ram pride throughout the community and serve as positive ambassadors,” and Chancellor Donald Reaves made their posts official, placing a glittering crown on Oakes’ head and draping a ceremonial collar over Easter’s shoulders.
“I am so grateful to represent our illustrious university this year and in years to come,” Oakes declared.