Talladega, Ala. – The recent Coronation of Miss Talladega College 20202021 Patria Gatson was unlike any of the college’s previous coronations.
“COVID-19 has forced colleges to ﬁnd creative ways to maintain their cherished traditions. Our Miss Talladega College 2020-2021 Coronation was held outdoors, and our queen arrived in a horse-drawn carriage wearing a face shield,” said Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins.
“Many people thought the outdoor event was among our most beautiful coronations ever and said the horsedrawn carriage added an extra-special touch. Some suggested that we hold future coronation ceremonies outside. In the midst of the pandemic, measures initially taken as health and safety precautions may actually inspire many colleges to form new traditions,” said the president of the oldest private Historically Black College in Alabama, founded in 1867 by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant.
Anthony Jones, who has served as the Miss Talladega College advisor for over 20 years, added, “In our many decades of holding the Miss Talladega College coronation, the event was never outdoors and our queen never arrived on a horse-drawn carriage.”
While the weather in the small Alabama town was pleasant enough for the November gathering, taking a traditionally indoor event outside presented a variety of unexpected challenges. Had he not set up early, Jones believes the event might have been a disaster.
“The wind kept blowing up the backdrop. We had to pin it down and ﬁnd bricks to hold it in place. We also had to carefully select and secure the greenery to make sure nothing blew away,” Jones said.
The greatest challenge for Jones was ﬁguring out how to make the event, which traditionally runs 1½ hours and attracts throngs of students and alumni, into an elegant 30-minute affair with socially distanced chairs and relatively few attendees. Hawkins applauded Jones for making the event special for Miss Talladega and her Royal Court.
“Miss Talladega College, Patria Gatson, is an exceptional scholar and an outstanding campus leader,” Hawkins. said “She and members of her Royal Court deserved their special day. While I made the difﬁcult decision to cancel Homecoming and many other signiﬁcant events due to the pandemic, I am pleased that Mr. Jones used his creativity to help us safely maintain – and enhance – our coronation tradition."
Patria was crowned by Hawkins, Miss Talladega College 2019-2020 De’Jha Billingsley, and Mr. Talladega College 2019-2020 Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Ndiaye.
Members of the Royal Court included Miss Senior Jordan Dubose, Gentleman in Waiting Robert Walker, Miss Junior Ayala Seaborn, Mr. Junior Kobe Dickerson, Miss Sophomore Chaniaya McKenzie, Mr. Sophomore Trayon Miller, Miss Freshman Christian McKinney, and Mr. Freshman Ulises Rivera Jr.
Miss Talladega College 1994-1995 Terri A. Harvill delivered the invocation, and Talladega College Show Stopping Crimsonettes dancers Yvonne Hamilton and Ranisha Morris performed.