Miss Mississippi shares inspiring life story with chamber

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Asya Branch, the recently crowned Miss Mississippi 2018, was the keynote speaker of the monthly Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday and spoke about overcoming the perception and ridicule of being the child of an incarcerated parent.

A native of Booneville, Branch said her life changed at the age of 10 when her father was arrested and later convicted and sentenced to the state penitentiary.

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Suddenly, she had to assist her mother with her younger siblings. Her family was nearly homeless and she questioned God why this was happening to her family.

“My Mom was now a single parent raising four children on a teacher’s salary,” Branch said.

She said her family overcame the hardship and she has been able to work towards her college degree, thanks in part to more than $20,000 in scholarship money through the Miss Mississippi organization. She also has a much stronger faith.

“I have learned to appreciate things more,” Branch said.

But her father, who is still incarcerated in Parchman, continues to be her biggest supporter.

“He’s told me not to be just another pretty face, but to make a lasting impact on the lives of others,” Branch said.

That’s why she has used her platform as a Miss Mississippi contestant and now Miss Mississippi to embrace her plight and encourage other parents and children of incarcerated parents to have a relationship. She said there are currently more than 50,000 children in Mississippi of incarcerated parents.

“I’ve told other children of incarcerated parents that your circumstances don’t define who you are,” Branch said.

She has begun a program on the University of Mississippi campus to assist children of incarcerated parents, and has even written a children’s book dealing with the issue.

The Ole Miss junior will compete for the title of Miss America Sept. 9, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.