For the past few months, 28 African-American high school seniors have been practicing — learning to dance the waltz, gracefully; to perform a military-style drill, not with rifles but with walking canes — and learning lines for a musical skit.
At the 36th annual Le Beautillion Militaire at Mobile Convention Center on May 7 at 6 p.m., the young men will be presented at a sort of “cotillion or debutantes’ ball, but featuring young men,” said Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a spokesperson for the event.
This yearly event is sponsored by the Mobile Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., an organization of mothers with children aged 2-19. The mission of the group is to “nurture future African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty,” according to the Jack and Jill website.
The Beaux this year are Lyndon Brown, Irvin Ely Jr., Reidlund Chambliss, DeJaun Crawford, Anfernee Bradley, Antonio Gilchrist, Arthur Shaw, Demetrius Trenier, Kenneth Minor, Kesonn Bettis, Michael Lett Jr. , Andrew Spriggs, Steven Small, Marcale Lee, Eric Massey, Joshua Mollette, Benjamin Archie, Jarvis Davis, Jadrien Reed, Jeremiah Ambrose, David Jones, Antonio Howard, Kelvin Johnson and Jailen Langham.
The Beautillion will feature as entertainment a musical skit, “The Classic Man.”
But the evening has a serious side as well, showing a group of teens who dare to challenge popular stereotypes depicting young black men as lawless, academically challenged or talented only in an athletic arena, Haynes said.
“In order to participate in the Beautillion, they must have good grades and be in good standing in their communities,” she said.
“In preparation for their presentation to society, they’ve spent several months not only learning to waltz, but also participating in community service, cultural and social activities. They’ve volunteered to help out with a festival at a local church. They’ve participated in a seminar on financial literacy,” Haynes said.
And along the way, they’ve had mentors from the mothers of Jack and Jill, who have organized cultural, educational and social events for children, making sure these young men stayed on track — “keeping up their grades, attending rehearsals and learning good manners,” Haynes explained.
Proceeds from Le Beautillion Militaire will be distributed by the philanthropic arm of the national organization, the Jack and Jill of America Foundation Inc., which benefits charities dedicated to health and wellness, family enhancement and education.
Locally, donations have been made to the Sickle Cell Disease Association, the Child Advocacy Center, the Boys and Girls Club and Mobile AIDS Support Services.
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