BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 6, 2018– During the black consciousness awakening period that swept through the colonial society of British Honduras in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, when the cultural group the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) was promoting its “black is beautiful” cultural revolution, there were no difficulties finding beautiful sisters to participate in UBAD’s “Miss Afro Honduras” beauty pageant, which was the organization’s answer to the Queen of the Bay and the Miss Belize pageants, which were usually held. The first winner of the first Miss Afro Honduras pageant was Sheldon Vasquez.
When Dorla Lewis walked onto Kremandala’s compound yesterday, Wednesday, she must have realized that she represented a living part of the glorious UBAD history from 45 years ago. Lewis, 62, is on a visit to Belize from New York City.
In 1973, Lewis, then an 18-year-old and wearing a big, beautiful afro, representing an authentic statement of black (Creole) pride, captured the crown in the Miss Afro Honduras pageant that was held at Birds Isle.
Lewis recalled that she was sponsored by Evan X Hyde. That year, Lewis beat out a number of talented young ladies, which included, Joan McGregor, (deceased), Sonia Lodge, Sandra Trapp and Laura Stamp.
Lewis said that she keeps in touch with a few of the other contestants from the 1973 Miss Afro Honduras pageant. “Julie Clare and I keep in touch, and my cousin, Joan McGregor, she was murdered. I know Sandra still lives in the Mayflower area,” she said.
“From I was very young I used to love pageants. We used to have pageants in our yard,” Lewis recalled.
“We had our pictures in Brodies’ show window. The actual competition had three different parts to it — there was the evening gown, sportswear and the African dance,” Lewis recalled.
“What was the prize like back then?” we asked Lewis.
“I won a trip to Jamaica, but I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time, so I didn’t go to Jamaica. I got the money instead. My title back then was total dignity and blackness,” Lewis said.
Lewis told us that in 1989 she migrated to New York, where she eventually moved her Belizean-born children.
Lewis said that when she first went to New York, she did some babysitting jobs to make ends meet and to support her children.
“But I always loved cooking, so eventually I got a job as a cook with Greater New York and I have been on my job for the past 24 years,” Lewis said.
Earlier during the day, Lewis told us that she paid a visit to the primary school she attended, Wesley Upper School.
Writing on her Facebook page, Lewis said, “I gave back to my school, Wesley Upper & Middle School. I had so much joy in my heart that I put a smile on these children’s faces.”
Lewis brought some school bags for the children.