ST.LOUIS - Men transform into kings and represent their university and ancestors in an annual competition.
Harris Stowe State University hosted the 15th Annual Mister Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Competition in early February.
Elected student leaders from HBCU'S reign as king and queen of the university for the entire school year, and this competition allows their kings to compete for the ultimate title.
Dante West, Mr. Lincoln University, shares why this pageant is so important to his University.
"I am the first Mister Lincoln University of Missouri to compete in the Mister HBCU Pageant, " he said.
He shared what motivates him to do well on and off the stage.
"We were founded by slaves, we were founded by Civil War veterans; they made this institutions so we could have privileges that they could never have. So I think that we should always keep that mindset that we should be the best that we could be," West said.
Shawn Johnson Jr., a former Mr. Lincoln, said as a Lincoln alum and former king this is huge for his alma mater.
"This is a legacy in the making. We have been waiting so long for this to be able to compete with the rest of the HBCU kings," Johnson said.
In previous years the pageant was held at Lincoln,and because they were the host school their king could not compete. Many Lincoln alumni and students were shocked it was moved to another location.
Jerome Offord Jr., Mister HBCU board of directors president, explained the reason for the change.
"Moving it around to other HBCUs would all the HBCUs the opportunity to participate," Offord said.
This year Mister Harris Stowe was unable to compete but hosted the pageant with the former Mister HBCU.
The competitions included an opening dance, recognizing HBCU queens, oratory, talent, and question and answer.
West received second runner up, and his supporters cheered loud for their king.
The tradition of campus royalty for Lincoln began in the 1920's when a student was crown Queen of the Quill, and later the name evolved to Miss Lincoln.
In 2003 the first Mister Lincoln was introduced to the campus.
West shared why is it so important to keep the HBCU tradition alive.
"Being black in America your journey is never easy, you're always challenged. The important meaning of an HBCU, the reasons why we need them so much is because no one can take care of us like our own," he said.
He said HBCU's allow students with similar backgrounds to uplift each other.
"We're targets out here it's up to us to come together whether we come from a broken home whether we come from something mis-fortunate, we're all supposed to come together to make a difference, to apply ourselves, to hold each other accountable. Basically, to live through our founders' dreams," West said.
Jauan Durbin, Spelman College's king and the newly crowned Mister HBCU, vowed to use his title as a platform to motivate other men.
"I wanted to cultivate kings of core, kings who connect obtain,and execute. So I made it my mission to come down here regardless of win, lose, draw, that the kings after me would know that we have a chance to sit at the table," Durbin said.
The location for the 2020 Mister HBCU Pageant has not been announced.