It is a pageant based in history.
Dozens of people entered the Brooklyn Masonic Temple in Fort Greene on Aug. 20 for the 48th Queen of the Bay New York pageant. The pageant, which honors Belizean beauties coinciding with the country’s battle to independence from Spain – crowned a winner for 2016-2017 title.
The highlight this year – celebrating the various ethnic groups that make Belize, such as Mayans, Mestizos and the Garifuna.
“The pageant is solely on theme – the theme this year was the diverse culture of Belize,” said Barbara Betson, pageant coordinator.
Three contestants, Jasyra Franklin, Edna Brown, and Andrea Flowers were up for the Queen of the Bay title, to be judged on their dance style, grace, and knowledge of Belize.
The pageant crowns a queen for the bay of St. George – the location of where the battle of St. George’s Caye, which took place in 1738. During the battle — which lasted from Sept. 3–10 — Belizean bay men fought against the Spanish soldiers who were trying to invade the bay, and defended it. In 1946 when Belize rejected becoming a part of Guatemala, a queen was crowned on Sept. 10 in a celebratory action. The pageant, founded two years later would continue celebrating a queen for the bay.
The pageant came to New York with the Belizean Diaspora, and has been in function since 1968. The contestants are judged on beauty, grace, costume, and their knowledge of Belize’s history, and some contestants felt the pageant excellently provided a space for her to enjoy.
“I felt that this pageant allowed me to express who I am as Belizean born in New York,” said winner of Queen of the Bay New York, Jasyra Franklin. “The title is a special opportunity for me to embrace my ethnicity.”
Franklin, born and raised in Manhattan to Belizean parents, will travel to Belize on Sept. 9, as part of her title to march in the full day parade the following day, Sept. 10 commemorating the Battle of St. George’s Caye.
“I’m very excited – I can’t wait to go to Belize and experience it myself,” said Franklin. “I’ve heard stories about how beautiful it is, and now I get finally get experience it myself.”
In Belize, the Queen of the Bay New York will meet with other Queen of the Bay winners from Chicago and California, as well as the Queen of the Bay in Belize. A coronation will follow the parade and the winners will get crowned by the Prime Minister of Belize.
Although it was a contest for the best, Franklin says the pageant allowing her to be around her community and receiving their support was just as rewarding.
“I liked that I was able to connect and gain friendships with the other girls, and learning more about Belize,” said Franklin. “But with everyone showing up to support us – we had such a supportive crowd and they gave us a lot of encouragement. I had such a great time from the first day of rehearsal until pageant night.”