Just months before Juneteenth became a national holiday, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation crowned the very first National Miss Juneteenth, Saniya Gay.

After her crowning, Gay was also selected as the 400 Years of African American History Commission’s (400 YAAHC) national student ambassador. The 400 YAAHC is a national organization that creates events and activities to recognize the resilience and cultural contributions of African Americans over the last 400 years.

A recent graduate of Middletown High School in Middletown, DE, Gay plans to attend Delaware State University where she will be studying Mass Communications. She is also a ballet dancer and her platform as National Miss Juneteenth is fighting domestic violence.

Gay spoke at the Black Archives of Mid-America Monday about her platform as national student ambassador.

Gay and the 400 YAAHC stopped in Kansas City on their Midwest tour, which began June 19 and will continue through Aug. 25.  The purpose of the tour is to promote unity and to educate communities about Juneteenth and the 402nd anniversary of the first documented arrival of African slaves into the English colonies.

Even Gay said she did not know much about Juneteenth or the 400 YAAHC until she decided to compete in the Miss Juneteenth pageant. She entered because she wanted to learn more about African-American history and learned just how important it is to spread that awareness.

“As some families lose their connection with their roots, it becomes more important that we understand our common heritage and history,” Gay said at the Black Archives. “My voice and my presence give me the power to represent the importance of learning and sharing our history to and through a new generation.”

Dr. Carmaletta Williams, executive director of the Black Archives said the museum was honored to host Gay and the 400 YAAHC.

“Juneteenth is probably one of the most significant dates in African-American history and to have this young woman be involved in this program brings a special magic to it,” she said. “We have to let our young folks lead the way.”

The 400 YAAHC also gifted the Black Archives $20,000 at the ceremony for their continued dedication to preserving African-American history.

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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