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My name is Annia Leonard, a Milwaukeean from North 2nd and Burleigh streets. I am running for Miss Wisconsin USA 2021, entering the pageant as a first-timer and taking a leap of faith
So, why run for Miss Wisconsin USA? Why place yourself in an environment you barely know anything about? Why represent?
Frankly, I am running for Miss Wisconsin because winning this prize will help me further my journey to create change in Milwaukee.
Three things that have affected me my whole life: housing insecurity, divesting from youth activities and America’s War On Drugs.
Since I was a kid, I watched my community change for the worse as resources were withdrawn from important community programs and initiatives. Right now, Milwaukee is still fighting on a statewide level for a stronger voice in decisions that affect our entire community.
This past summer, I saw how a need for youth-filled spaces was ignored or controlled. Now, some young people have nothing to look forward to outside of spaces controlled by older adults or engaging in less-than-legal activities.
I see similar dysfunction with Wisconsin’s process of legalizing weed, expunging minor marijuana offenses and lack of alternative housing spaces in inner city communities like Milwaukee.
My mother taught me self-love, but she couldn’t shelter me from the bullies or the “always aware of poverty” mindset. She taught me resilience. Now we are learning together how our resilience kept us strong with others, but weak when we were alone.
I want anyone who sees me to be inspired. To know that you can come from any background and put yourself out there in the best way for you. This is my chance to show all of Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, that they bred a real one. I’m not letting anything stop me from showing the world that Milwaukee has some amazing gems in the midst of the coal.
My community invested in me to be here and I will be heard.
For those who connect with me and my story, I want them to be inspired by my progress. I want them to feel hope for their individual journey. We all have a story to tell, including Milwaukee!
Miss Wisconsin USA takes place on Sunday, May 23.
Annia Leonard is an event coordinator, model, community connector, teacher and youth organizer with Uplifting Black Liberation and Community, or UBLAC.