MEMPHIS, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — The first Black woman to represent Mississippi in the Miss USA pageant won this year’s crown Monday night.
Asya Branch, the first African American Miss Mississippi USA, was crowned Miss USA 2020 in the competition held at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home in Memphis, Tennessee. It marks the first time that a contestant from Mississippi has won the title.
The 22-year-old will now represent the United States at the Miss Universe 2020 pageant.
Branch, of Booneville, Mississippi, is a student at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, NewsNation affiliate WJTV reported.
For the past few years, Branch has been advocating for at-risk children and criminal justice reform, according to the Miss Mississippi USA pageant. She started “Love Letters,” an effort to help inmates stay in touch with loved ones. She also participated in a roundtable on prison reform with President Donald Trump.
In her final statement Monday night, Branch talked about gun rights.
“As someone who grew up in a home with guns, I learned at an early age how to load, how to fire, and gun safety, and I think that education should be available to everyone,” Branch said. “I believe that we should require people to pass training and safety courses before they’re allowed to purchase a gun, and before receiving a permit. I think it’s important that we not ban guns, because obviously people will find a way to get what they want anyways, but I think it’s our Second Amendment right, and we just need more safety surrounding that.”
Branch was also asked about division in the U.S., and what it’ll take to bring the country together.
“I think this is an issue of trust,” Branch said. “We’ve lost trust in the systems that seem to keep our country running, from the media to business to our government. And it’s all about restoring that trust and coming together and working together to heal and trust in these systems. If we want to continue to be the greatest nation, we’re going to have to set a better example.”