Student News

Mr. and Ms. Black UK program continues to inspire students, celebrate Black excellence

Mr. and Ms. Black UK 2022
audience at Mr. and Ms. Black UK
Jordan Smith and Aneisha Cox

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 28, 2023) — For more than 35 years, the University of Kentucky Black Student Union (BSU) and the Mu Epsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. have hosted the Mr. and Ms. Black UK event on campus, making it one of UK's longest and most celebrated student traditions.

The annual scholarship program gives contestants the opportunity to portray their talents, elegance, academic performance and communication skills on stage at the live pageant on UK's campus. Each year, the pageant has a different theme, which also gives audience members an opportunity to be part of the fun through games and trivia that adhere to the theme. In recent years, the pageant has been held just ahead of UK Homecoming, so throughout the week, the newly crowned royalty can appear at Homecoming events and be celebrated by the campus community.

Jocelyn Grimsley, a UK senior majoring in health promotion and community and leadership development, is serving her second year as BSU president. Grimsley is passionate about BSU and pursuing Black visibility on campus through programs like Mr. and Ms. Black UK.

“It is important for Mr. and Ms. Black UK to be visible and celebrated on campus because it is not just a ‘separation’ from other students on campus — the whole purpose behind it is representing scholarship and Black excellence,” Grimsley said. "(The contestants) do more than just hold a title — they participate in community service opportunities, continue their academic excellence, and even put on an entire program for the youth.”

The late 1960s ushered in the establishment of pageants created by Black students across U.S. college campuses, with UK's "Miss BSU Queen" originating in 1969. The Mr. and Ms. Black UK pageant in its current form was founded by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. in 1987. With the support of BSU, it has grown into the celebrated tradition it is today.

Kiaura Acklin, sport communication senior and president of the Mu Epsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., says events like Mr. and Ms. Black UK help provide opportunities for students.

“Black History Month, alongside Founders Day, is just a constant reminder of how far my founders came and where we are now," Acklin said. "It’s the reminder that we have to continue to lead/trailblaze on this campus and let future generations see that you can be and do anything. Although I may have not participated in the Women’s Suffrage March like my founders, I have been able to make great strides to open doors for other brown skin girls to lead and be unapologetically them.”

Mr. and Ms. Black UK was the first event Grimsley ever attended as a student. She notes it as one of the first times she felt a sense of belonging on campus.

“It was very elegant, but also had culture behind it when it came to the actual show, the intermission and even when the winners were announced,” she said. “It was unique because I was surrounded by people who looked like me, which was the first time I had that experience at UK.”

Payton Anderson was crowned Mr. Black UK 2019. He graduated in May 2022 from the College of Fine Arts.

“To me, being Mr. Black UK meant representing Black students as a role model that they could look up to,” Anderson said. “It meant working toward creating a more unified campus and working toward initiatives that were much bigger than myself, especially during an event as monumental as the global pandemic.”

Throughout Black History Month, UKNow is featuring individuals, as well as organizations and events, like Mr. and Ms. Black UK, that uplift the experiences for Black students.

“As a Black student leader, Black History Month to me means educating other students about who came before us; not just throwing history at them, but actually putting meaning behind the history,” Grimsley said. “How to continue to carry on the traditions our ancestors started and how to make things better not only for us, but for the ones that will come after us.”

For information on the 2023 Mr. and Ms. Black UK pageant, keep an eye on BBNvolved over the summer.


Throughout the month of February, the University of Kentucky is celebrating Black History Month with a series of events and programs for the campus community and the public. Learn more here. UK’s social media channels and UKNow are also featuring Black students, faculty, staff and alumni who have shared their stories of what Black History Month means to them. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and on digital signage across campus.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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