One of the nation’s oldest Black universities is facing backlash after it crowned a Latina woman as this year’s leading lady.
Keylin Perez, a 22-year nursing major at Coppin State University in Baltimore and a sergeant in the Army Reserves, said it was one of the most exciting times of her life when it was announced that she was awarded the crown as Miss Coppin State University, but the excitement waned within days when news circulated that she had won.
After winning, she posted a video on TikTok titled “When both Baltimore HBCUs Mister and Miss see each other.”
In the video, she is seen hand-in-hand with Mr. Coppin State University as they both confront Mr. and Miss Morgan State University, a neighboring HBCU.
“It was a mixture of me ‘invading their space,’ ‘How did Coppin allow this to happen?’ and that they are ‘confused,’ and ‘Black people can never have anything,’” she told The Baltimore Banner about how people reacted to the video.
As the video began to backfire, she said that she faced cyberbullying, primarily because people did not approve of a woman of Latina heritage being named the “Miss” of an HBCU. Other people, she said, have confused her for being White.
“I knew that it would happen when I first decided to run. I knew it might take this route. I just tried to remain focused on what I have done for the university. It makes me feel better,” she said.
To date, the TikTok video has been viewed more than 400,000 views and has received more than 2,700 – mostly negative – comments, she said. She has since deleted all comments and has restricted anyone from commenting on the video.
This isn’t the first time she has faced discrimination, she said. At Glenelg High School in Maryland, she said a series of racist incidents made her feel unwelcome.
“At Glenelg, where less than 20 students were Black and less than five were Latino, I never felt accepted or welcome. It was very overwhelming. It was a lot to take it,” she said. “All of that was erased when I came to Coppin. I felt very welcome at the student orientation I went to. I went to three of them. Just talking to the students and staff and the culture made me feel welcome.”
She continued: “My parents are immigrants [from Guatemala]. I can relate to people who were first-generation. I was given the freedom to pursue my career. That’s also another reason why I feel so welcome here at Coppin.”
Perez, a senior who is expected to graduate in May, was also named the university’s Miss Sophomore in 2020 and Miss Junior the year after. “She was also elected Miss Coppin State University last spring and crowned in the fall. In addition to being in the Army Reserves and a member of Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Perez has volunteered to perform health screenings in the community,” according to The Baltimore Banner.
Following the controversy, the university released a statement about her win.
“Keylin represents Coppin well in word and deed, with grace, humility, and resilience. She is a great ambassador for our university, our diverse student body, and all we stand for,” the statement read. “Eagle Nation stands with Keylin Perez, and we are proud to call her our 91st Miss Coppin State University.”