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2019 Mr. and Miss Black OU

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Joya Hegamin and Justin Norris

Mr. and Miss Black OU Look Back at 2019

For the past year, Justin Norris and Joya Hegamin have served as Mr. and Miss Black OU. Last Saturday, their reigns came to an end as they passed on their crowns to Nicholas Nickelberry and Tiandra Forrester. But before that, they reflected on their time representing OU and the impact that they hope to continue to make on not only campus but also in their communities. 

2019 Mr. Black OU – Justin Norris

Justin Norris

As a way to connect with his black identity after growing up in a predominately white space, Justin Norris decided to compete in the Mr. and Miss Black OU pageant.

“I thought, ‘What better way to really push myself out of my own comfort zone and immerse myself in this part of my identity and part of my culture?’” explained Norris, who is from Arlington, Texas. “Then I also got to know so many people who I can now say are some of my closest friends, so I did it to really challenge myself but also to reconnect with my cultural identity.”

Norris’ platform, “Success Mindset,” is all about empowering young black people to be more confident in their pursuit of leadership opportunities, whether that be on campus, off campus, or in a future career. The junior has focused a lot on partnering with other student organizations, including the Black Student Association and Student Government Association (SGA), to be present at events and build relationships with other students through intentional conversations.

While fulfilling his duties as Mr. Black OU, Norris also began campaigning for the role of SGA President. He was elected to the position and began his year-long term at the beginning of this semester. Norris’ platform during the election was “Tomorrow Together,” which he said is meant to help people recognize the intersectionality between their OU stories. In addition to continuing to focus on logistical improvement and academic excellence, Norris said he wanted to make the understanding of others on campus a priority.

“We wanted to look at how we can improve the OU experience for students, staff, and faculty by allowing us to have a better understanding of how we perceive OU through different eyes,” Norris explained. “Everyone experiences the University of Oklahoma differently, but that doesn’t mean that one experience is inherently better than the other, and if you understand someone else’s experience, then you improve both of your experiences.”

In addition to serving as Mr. Black OU and beginning his term as SGA President, Norris works as a tour guide for prospective students and a peer educator in the Gender + Equality Center. Prior to taking on the SGA President role, he worked with Campus Activities Council.

A vocal performance and business marketing double major, Norris wants to eventually combine art with some of his other passions, with the ultimate goal of working for an entertainment company. He’s considering attending law school so he can practice entertainment law and represent historically underrepresented artists in court like minority and gender nonconforming artists. 

2019 Miss Black OU – Joya Hegamin

Joya Hegamin

Her freshman year, Joya Hegamin knew she wanted to get more involved on campus but did not know how and felt scared to put herself out there. Her spring semester, she changed her mentality and sought out ways to connect, which led her in part to the Mr. and Miss Black OU pageant.

Hegamin, who is majoring in women’s and gender studies with a minor in nonprofit, learned about the annual pageant through an OU email announcement. She was first drawn to participating as she read about the chance to create a platform and share her talents, and she thought it would be a good way to meet people. Going through the process, she found even more.

“It was a soul-searching type of experience,” Hegamin shared. “I feel like I found a piece of myself when I was going through that process. It was just amazing to be able to see how you can really make a difference within the community.”

Hegamin, who was born in Turnersville, New Jersey, and graduated from high school in Rockville, Maryland, followed in the paths of her mom and other family members when she came to OU. She wasn’t initially planning to make the move to Norman, but after falling in love with her mom’s alma mater during a campus tour, she knew it was the right decision for her.

Now, she spent the last year as Miss Black OU working to make an impact through her platform, Bloom, which stands for “Build Love Out of Mentorship” and is meant for kids “to come and just be themselves.” A key component of this mentorship nonprofit is literacy. Through OU’s Student Heroes group, which creates change through student-led projects, Hegamin established “Literacy in Bloom.” Each Friday, she and three other students go to Irving Middle School in Norman to read and lead discussions with the students.

“The mentorship part was really important to me,” Hegamin shared. “We didn’t go to the school for the last two weeks because of conflict of schedules and whenever we came back the kids were like, 'Oh my gosh, yes,' so that made me feel good. Even if they don’t feel that excited to read, I want them to be excited to just see us and have that collegiate presence.”

While these Friday reading sessions are a central part of Bloom, Hegamin envisions it continuing to grow into so much more. She’s currently in the process of starting a book club on campus as a registered student organization where participants can not only discuss books but also go into the community and volunteer together. During her reign, Hegamin has also had opportunities to organize hygiene drives and give presentations at schools.

“Bloom is so much more. It’s a lot more than literacy. It’s just being a helpful hand. There are so many needs that people need so I don’t want to limit it to just while the reign is here, I want it to surpass and be able to really help influence other youth and peers like me.”