Fifth annual pageant in Lexington continues to spread awareness about gun violence

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A pageant hosted Sunday night was about much more than winning first place.

Many of the kids who competed and volunteered at the event have returned year after year, keeping the youth involved long after the trophies are handed out.

From introductions to talent, more than a dozen kids were vying for the titles of Mr. and Miss. Essence of Lexington.

"Each year just gets better with the number of people that are coming and the number of children that are involved in our program," Organizer Anita Franklin said.

In its fifth year, the pageant was hosted in a new venue, the William Wells Brown Community Center.

It was an effort to be more accessible to the entire community.

"When we do this, we really do it for the community, so now we're right in the heart," Franklin said.

Though the stage has changed, the pageant's underlying purpose has not.

After losing her son to gun violence in 2014, Anita Franklin became an advocate for youth, reaching out and leading them away from violence in the streets.

"This is just another way for us to reach out to our youth,” Franklin said. “It’s to increase their self-esteem, learn about themselves, and learn about their responsibility for their city and their community."

It's a program that runs much longer than the length of the pageant, teaching life skills and practicing up until the big night and following up with their progress afterward.

"We look for their growth, we look for support if they need it, and we encourage them to go on to college,” Franklin said. “So, it’s not just a one-night thing."

Many of the kids who competed and volunteered at the event have returned year after year, keeping the youth involved long after the trophies are handed out.

"It's important the kids know it takes a village to be successful,” Franklin said. “And, as you can see tonight, our village is growing."

This year the pageant was free to the public, but all donations go to the Antonio Franklin Jr. Violence Intervention Project.



 
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