Tyler-Avery Lewis, 22, is the newly crowned Miss Sonoma County. Lewis, a Rohnert Park native, studies dance at Santa Rosa Junior College. We got the chance to speak with Lewis about winning the crown, growing up in Sonoma County and being an SRJC student.
Q: Why did you choose the platform (Miss Sonoma County) to run on?
Tyler-Avery: I started out choosing bullying as my platform topic. However, I changed it because I felt like while bullying is something very near and dear to my heart, I needed a platform that would provide change to my community as a whole for the betterment of all its citizens.
The inclusion of African-American literature in Sonoma County schools is important because I believe that there is a clear division between African-Americans and their Caucasian counterparts when it comes to learning.
When I attended remedial school, I was never really taught about Africans or African-Americans and the part they played in history. This caused me to not understand how important my people were and the price my ancestors paid for me to get where I am today. If African or African-American literature was included in school, the chasm that has been perpetuated between Eurocentric society and that of African-Americans, as well as all people of color, can be closed because we as a whole would understand each other better.
I also am aiming to distinguish the fact that people of color should not be dehumanized in texts, conversations, or in the media. We have a voice too and we are going to be heard.
Q: What was it like growing up in Rohnert Park?
Tyler-Avery: Growing up in Rohnert Park was hard. It wasn’t really something I was happy about doing. I attended schools filled with kids who made fun of me, made me feel less than of myself, spat on me, pushed me, harassed me. I’m grateful for the few people who helped me grow into the person I am today. Most of my family lived in the Bay Area, so I had them to be my backbone and raise me up to be the strong, independent, determined woman I am today.
Q: How did being a student at SRJC help you in the pageant, if at all?
Tyler-Avery: Being a student of Santa Rosa Junior College, I have had the opportunity to be a part of the learning community Umoja and be a part of leadership for the Black Student Union as the vice-president. Having this background before competing had prepared me for the possibility of being Miss Sonoma County. In Umoja and in BSU, we are seen as spokespeople for our community; we speak and try to make a difference in our community.
Being crowned Miss Sonoma County today and throughout this year, I will do this on a larger scale because I am essentially the face of Sonoma County. While it is a privilege, it is also a great responsibility. I am the voice of people who fear they do not have one and the ear when everyone else is not listening; having those experiences at SRJC taught me how and why it is important to be that person.
Q: What are you studying/majoring in at SRJC?
Tyler-Avery: I’m a dance major in the dance program under the direction of our department head, Casandra Hillman.
Q: What does it mean to you to be an SRJC student and from this community?
Tyler-Avery: I am grateful to be awarded this title and opportunity. I’ve lived in Sonoma County my entire life. Twenty-two years of growth and achievements based on my environment. I turned my nightmares into a dream most would love to live and the dream I am excited to see come to fruition.
My time at SRJC propelled me forward in many different ways, giving me different opportunities to apply myself in arenas I never thought were possible until recently. I know that if I were attending any other junior college, I would be without these opportunities, so I am thankful that I am here and that these things are working themselves out for my benefit.
Q: What is the next step for you after Miss Sonoma County? Miss California?
Tyler-Avery: After fulfilling my year of service to the best of my ability, I plan to transfer to a four-year college and fulfill my dreams of getting my BFA, then my MFA in dance.
If I win Miss California, I will aim to be the best representative I can be for my state. However, if I am not awarded the title of Miss California, I look forward to coming back to Sonoma County and finishing out my year, applying myself the best I can and aiding the community in any capacity I am needed.