These women reflect on the good they did as Miss Gramblings
‘Once a Miss Grambling, always a Miss Grambling’ celebrated at Chicago Football Classic weekend
The Chicago Football Classic weekend is a homecoming of sorts. Graduates and friends of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) come to the city and Soldier Field to eat, greet and just have fun around this fall classic.
Alicia Reece, a state representative from the 33rd District in Ohio, came to Chicago from Cincinnati for the annual reunion of Miss Grambling queens.
Reece, Miss Grambling State 1992-93, was one of several former Miss Gramblings at Saturday’s alumni scholarship breakfast, believed to be the largest gathering of Miss Gramblings in a single place.
Reece, who said she turned down a chance to attend Brown University, wanted to attend Grambling for the HBCU experience. She applied her mass communication and public relations skills as Miss Grambling, and later as a politician. “It taught me how to be a spokesperson and how to put my degree to work,” said Reece, who was elected to the Cincinnati City Council in 1999 and is in her third term in the legislature.
“I loved having all the students and queens being able to participate in a unified way,” said Reece.
Women have competed to be Miss Grambling since 1950. This year, Miss Grambling State University is Jimmitriv Roberson, who is serving as the 64th Miss Grambling, helping represent the university positively and with grace.
Leslie Randle served as Miss Grambling from 2004-05 yet feels as though she’s Miss Grambling even now. “You always feel that royalty,” she said. “I always feel like I have that title. It was a great life experience.”
Randle also was Miss Sophomore, Miss Cover Girl and Miss Black Louisiana 2006. She is a former human resources director for Dixmoor, Illinois, a small Chicago suburb. Now she is an entrepreneur and author, spending much of her time as a stay-at-home mom.
A Lake Charles, Louisiana, native, she moved to Chicago two years ago after marrying Chicago native Jason Williams, a former NFL player. She treasures the work she did as Miss Grambling with the student government president to get a cafeteria walkway built. “It was one moment,” said Randle, who encourages students to attend Grambling State or another HBCU. “It’s different. You get that experience that’s like no other. You feel wanted. You feel needed. You feel accepted. It’s just a great place to be.”
Ginia Smith, 25, was the youngest Miss Grambling alum attending the Chicago event. Living in Chicago as she interns to prepare for medical school, Smith described her 2014-15 campus queen experience as one of her most humbling. “When I found out that I won, it was Grambling saying, ‘I trust you,’ ” she recalled. “It is something that I will never forget. I just went out for it because I love helping people.”
In Chicago for only a few weeks, Smith was excited to be a part of the Miss Grambling reunion, meeting previous Miss Gramblings during what she described as a mini-homecoming. “I was kind of starstruck,” said Smith, saying she looks up to several of the other queens although she’s had some success of her own.
Smith is participating in the Bridge to MD program, which chooses 20 students to work as interns in hospitals in the Aurora-Chicago area. Once completing this step, she hopes to study abroad at the American University of Antigua. She wants to be an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Marva Nichols Griffin was Miss Grambling 1991-92. Griffin ran against other young women and won by only three votes. She was thoroughly committed to the role, which she described as a job with “serious commitments.” She sometimes traveled alone to appearances and events to sing or speak.
Griffin said it was a challenge and the best experience of her life, sometimes leaving her exhausted.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, LaPrietta Andrews Young was raised in Chicago and now lives in Plainfield, Illinois. She served as Miss Grambling from 1994-95. She started a career as an industrial engineer for UPS and ended her career in logistics and engineering in 2007 to pursue full time her passion to be a foster parent.
Young became a foster parent in 1999, and in 2004 she was featured as an Unsung Hero on Chicago’s WGN News. She said during the report that she had a goal “to stop the cycle of abuse among homeless teenagers, so she opened her home to young girls who were pregnant or with child.”
These days she promotes education for these young women. “I wanted results. Success can be measured. I wanted high school grads,” said Andrews Young, who returned to school to earn a master’s degree in social work in 2011. Under her guidance, seven teens graduated from high school and one graduated early from high school and started at an area junior college. She uses her campus queen experience to encourage the teens.
“My most memorable times during my reign would be traveling from state to state with the president of the university, Dr. [Raymond] Hicks, SGA president David Aubrey and a few times with the famous [football] coach, Eddie Robinson. … I was able to meet a lot of influential people during my traveling that often rendered great words of wisdom,” said Andrews Young.
Charisma Sweat Green was Miss Grambling from 2006-07. A Chicago native, she had a different experience as Miss Grambling because of her size.
“It was kind of groundbreaking for a woman who was plus-sized to become Miss Grambling,” she recalled of her “bigger and better” campaign. “It was not a celebration just for myself. It was for all of these women who had sacrificed their time, their energy, their finances, giving of their spirits to see that happen at that time.”
She said she is most proud of being a part of an effort to get state funding for new housing construction.
“One of the most exciting things I did was speaking in front of the Louisiana board and vying for funds to build dorms,” said Sweat Green, a Chicago-area singer and high school choir teacher. “We were able to break ground on a lot of the new dorms that were built.”
She loved going to Grambling and tells others to explore HBCU options. “People are sending their kids to HBCUs because it’s safer. They feel comforted. They feel welcomed, and we can celebrate our blackness and be free and just love ourselves and everything about ourselves,” she said.
Nichols Griffin was the event coordinator of several weekend activities in Chicago, including the weekend breakfast. She was happy to have her sister queens join her because they share a special bond.
“Once a Miss Grambling, always a Miss Grambling,” she said.