I recently attended a ceremony for a youth organization called Young Ladies of Distinction, presented by the Churches of God of Prophecy of Districts One and Two, covering about 20 local churches, including the host church, Sure Foundation Church of God of Prophecy in West Park in South Broward.
It was a beautiful ceremony, with each of the 18 young ladies, ages 14 to 21, presented by their dads or another male family member. The ceremony was similar to many other such cotillions, beautifully orchestrated, attended by adoring family members and friends, and geared to helping prepare them to function properly in the adult world by teaching them self-esteem, manners and etiquette. It is a nice gesture and one that will prove to be helpful as the young women go out into the world.
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Presented: graduating high school seniors Ashlee Danielle Pratt, Sarai Campbell, Janae Walters, Tionne Deja White, Angellina Nicole Jones, Kayla Miah Pratt, Kristia Haughton, Skylah Hammonds and Brianna Melissa Cherenfant. Also, Emille Alexis, Kaysia Curtis, Norma Moreau, Jada White, Dreanna Caley, Adrianna Mozell, Jade McQuay, Christina Jones and Brianna Pratt.
The program included a moving keynote speech presented by Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt, who told the young women, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. But my parents always made things work for me and my siblings.” The positive training and love that Noel-Pratt received from her parents was to prove invaluable later, she said, as she suffered sexual abuse from one of her uncles.
“That was one of the darkest times in my life,” Noel-Pratt said. “I shouldered the burden for a long time and even thought about suicide.” But she was able to reach back and remember the teaching and love of her parents and she was able to confront her demons and survive.
“No road is always easy,” Noel-Pratt said. ”But don’t ever blame yourself [for something that was done to you]. Learn to love yourself and be your own person.” She told the girls not to let setbacks in life define who they will become.
It was great advice, especially in the shadow of the #MeToo movement.
Still, as I watched each girl as she was presented and listened to her dreams and aspirations, my thoughts were diverted to the many young black men who are being slaughtered in our streets nearly every day. Some of them, had they lived, would have become contributing citizens to our communities. But their lives were cut short. I couldn’t help but think, ”Who will these beautiful girls marry, should they choose to do so? Where have the young men gone? Many, I thought, are serving time in prison, which somehow seems to be a rite of passage for too many young black men.
The Young Ladies of Distinction program is not alone it its efforts. I know of similar programs for young black males: the 5000 Role Models, the Men of Tomorrow and the Egolloc club programs, all of which are set up to mentor and teach young black men life skills. But somehow, with all their positive efforts it doesn’t seem to be enough to save our boys.
This is where the church comes in. I once heard the late Andell Mickens, who was well known in the black Christian community, say to a group of young women of marrying age: “Go to church, if you want to find a husband. He may not be perfect, but church is where you will find our best men.”
Perhaps Mickens was on to something. Paula Wilson, founder of Young Ladies of Distinction and wife of Bishop Arthur Wilson, pastor of Sure Foundation Church of God of Prophecy, said she and her husband have plans to start a similar program for young men in January.
“We want to teach our young men life skills and help nurture their relationship with God and teach them the importance of family. Many of our men today would rather go to a sports game than attend a church service with their family,” Wilson said. “Some don’t seem to mind if their wives and children attend church, but don’t see themselves in the picture. We hope to change that mindset by starting a church-based organization for our young males.”
The recent program was the second annual cotillion for the Young Ladies of Distinction, which is open to young women in churches in Broward and Dade County. To participate, they must be willing to attend meetings and training seminars, as well as fund-raising events. The must also participate in community services projects. The girls must be ages 13 through 18. The program is also open to older young women, 18-21, who are trained to become mentors to the younger girls. “It seems to work for us,” Wilson said.
Young Ladies of Distinction is a year-long program. Wilson said to help get the funds needed for the program, the group has fund-raisers throughout the year. “We raise the money we need because many of the young women would not be financially able to participate,” Wilson said.
The money raised throughout the year also provides scholarships for graduating high school seniors. “Last year, our first year, we only had one graduating high school senior and we presented her with a $1,500 scholarship,” Wilson said. “This year we have four graduates and the scholarships are worth from $1,000 and $2,000.” She said the recipients have not been selected yet, but the plan is to increase the amount of the scholarships each year.
Community singers, and people who simply enjoy singing for the fun of it, are invited to a “Summer Sing-A-Long” at 2 p.m. Aug. 12 at First Church of Christ Scientist, 410 Andalusia Ave. in Coral Gables.
The musical event will be led by vocalist Carlos Danaan and pianist Linda Kerstein. The songs will be selected from The New Christian Science Hymn Book. Admission is free and all are welcome. Call Liegh✓ Marion at 305-569-9188 for more information.
Things Are Cooking
If you haven’t gotten your tickets for the 18th annual Things are Cooking in Overtown, you should hurry because they’re going fast. The theme is, “Overtown Matters: A Renaissance on the Horizon.”
The gala will be at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 in the Bloom Ballroom at Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, and will feature “A. Randolph & The Smash Room Project” for entertainment. The evening will honor Dr. Nelson Adams III, a celebrated physician and one of the founding members of St. John CDC, who has also served as chairman of the board of directors for the past 22 years.
Adams is also a recognized community activist and an advocate for “paying it forward” in the community where he found his personal and professional success.
Said Adams: “My most significant contribution to the CDC has been the support of and the promotion of the rich legacy of the many ancestors that have preceded us, and that legacy is the ‘Legacy of Service’ We must give back, pay it forward and hopefully be impactful in our sphere of influence through our service to mankind.”
Individual tickets to the gala are $100 each. The event will also feature a reception, dinner, live music and a silent auction. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit stjohncdc.org or call 305-372-0682.