“I think there’s still a lot of work to do, so I wouldn’t say that Black students are necessarily represented,” Peques said. “We are still within a predominantly white institution, so we’re actually underrepresented on campus in every space. I think that it’s important to note that although two years in a row we’ve had students of color, Black students, in these positions, it’s not necessarily representative of the mosaic, that full picture of Carolina holistically.”
One of the reasons Parker became an orientation leader and ran for Miss UNC is because of her nieces and nephews back home. Although she said her crowning means Black students have a space and place at UNC, she acknowledges there is still work to be done.
“I feel like whenever something big happens for Black people, whether it’s President Obama or Miss USA is Black, all of these different things, I don’t think it means we’re in a post-racial era because at the basis of blackness there’s always racism,” Parker said. “There’s always oppression. But I definitely think we are taking steps in the right direction, and we’re continuing to rise.”
During their reign as Mr. and Miss UNC, Peques and Parker will implement service projects funded by the UNC General Alumni Association.
Parker, a native of New Bern and a communication studies and linguistics major, intends to use her platform to combat food insecurity on and off campus. The granddaughter of former sharecroppers and a transfer student, Parker found a special meaning for all of the communities she comes from in the position of Miss UNC.
“There are so many communities that I’ve made so proud, and I’m glad I can make them proud, and there’s so much people have given to me, the least I can do is make them proud and that goes for my grandparents, my ancestors, my cousins, my sister, everyone,” Parker said. “Everything just kind of hit me.”
Peques, an advertising major from Charlotte, is also the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UNC. His service project focuses on cultivating creativity in local youth by connecting them with resources in music, dance, theater, technology, poetry and more from the UNC community.
“Ultimately, I hope to empower local youth and expose them to different ways they can be creative,” Peques said.
To run for Mr. and Miss UNC, students must attend an interest meeting and submit an application including three recommendation letters, a service project proposal, their transcript and their resume, Johnson said.
“Both their service projects are going to be amazing, and I know that both of them are super passionate about their projects,” Johnson said. “I know that they’ve done so much even within the campaign process.”