By Newton-Ray Ukwuoma
Meet the new Miss African Roots 2019, Cindy Makita. Born and raised in South Africa, Cindy Makita has a Congolese heritage. She moved to Miami, Florida in 2014 to attend Florida International University. In 2018 she graduated Magna Cum Laude, as a Worlds Ahead Graduate and as an Honors student.
Miss African Roots is a unique, bi-annual pageant competition which promotes a sense of community, confidence, and pride for the motherland of Africa within the United States.
How does winning an African pageant in the USA makes you feel?
It makes me feel I have more to deliver. This is more than a title for me; it is a platform. It is a platform I intend to use to make an impact in the world. The title is lovely, but there is a lot of weight behind it.
Before we talk about the impact you want to make, tell us how Miss African Roots cultural pageant directly impacts on the question of identity in the USA with your own experience?
I think being born and raised in South Africa, even though I am Congolese and relocated to the United States five years ago; I would say my identity is basically African (no doubts). And I am proudly African. But I know that many years ago, being proud of Africa didn’t use to be a privileged thing in the United States. I have friends who are African Americans who tell me the struggle of being African in America.
There was definitely a disconnect between African Americans, Africans from the continent and people of African descent. There is now a sense of unity among these sets of Africans; people are beginning to take up their heritage. This is why being Miss African Roots ambassador, I am able not only to embrace my roots which is Congolese, but also I am able to inspire some of Africans living here in the United States to continue to embrace where they are from.. I believe this pageant is going to inspire the next generation to connect with the continent and become authentically African.
You represented DR Congo. What other countries were represented in this cultural pageant?
We had contestants for Jamaica, Haiti, United States of America (African America), Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, which is me, among others. But the competition is not limited to these countries. As long as you are of African descent, from the Caribbean, the Bahamas, The Haitians, the Brazilians living in the United States of America, you are qualified to participate.
Do you foresee any new narrative coming out of this cultural pageant about Africa and people of African descent in the United States and around the world?
It is a great way to attempt to connect people from different African nations and different African heritage in the United States. Events like this enable people to showcase where their specific African identity, their cultures, their histories. It also enables young women to educate other people about Africa and to showcase their talents. I believe what it would do is to provide a platform or an outlet for many Africans in the United States who are looking for their roots.
How did you win?
I saw the pageant as a golden opportunity to amplify my purpose, which is to empower women and girls. I went into this competition expecting to do my best and expecting God to do the rest of it. I knew it would be an amazing journey and I really focused on the journey. It was not easy. There were periods of stress and fatigue. And a lot of hard work went behind the final product, which was the grand finale. I think focusing on and enjoying the journey really helped me take the much I could; I learnt a lot about myself, also.
What if you didn’t win?
I went into the competition with the confidence that I would win, but if I didn’t win I also would have had the courage to admit that the right person won. And I would have found joy in knowing that at least, I represented my country (The Democratic Republic of Congo), I would have also used the platform to amplify my purpose. My focus was on the journey and I really enjoyed it. Putting in the hard work, making sure I gained as much as I could and representing the Republic of Congo and rallying support for the cause which is to empower women and girls in Congo helped me to the end.
As part of your talent presentation, you made a speech about the role of Nelson Mandela in Africa; you spoke on women and a solo cultural dance. Do you think a variety of talent exhibition contributed to your overall success?
I think the diversity of my presentation probably gave me more points. As you mentioned, I did a speech, I did a spoken word piece and went into a dance. I wanted to showcase my strong points; I also tried to exude confidence in everything I did. I had practiced my introductory speech; I practiced the question and answers, with lots of rehearsals I was confident that I would deliver to the best of my ability. I think the preparation that went behind it was my strongest winning trick.
Now, what are your plans going forward?
Like I mentioned earlier, the Miss African Roots platform is going to give me the opportunity to amplify the cause for women and girls globally and specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I want to make sure women and girls in DRC are free from violence, that they have equal rights that they are equal access to education and healthcare; that women and girls have equal opportunities to fulfill their greatest potential and that women and girls can live free.
Beside the car and the cash prizes, the Royal Air Maroc will be flying you to any country of your choice. Which country have you chosen to go to?
I will be going to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I would like to stop at Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the places on my list to visit.
Why do you want to visit Nigeria?
Some of my favourite artistes are from Nigeria.