Throughout the 16th annual Hats Off Luncheon, Tracy Wilson Mourning could be seen smiling, both while she posed for pictures with guests and addressed the audience. But when one of Honey Shine’s girls announced she would be attending Howard University, Mourning’s alma mater, she was ecstatic.
“I had no idea, so I feel like I won the lottery,” Mourning said after climbing back on stage.
“She’s a little excited,” host Louis Aguirre, the Channel 10 anchor, said in jest.
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On Friday, Honey Shine mentoring program held its Sweet 16 edition of its annual luncheon at the Hilton Miami Downtown hotel to raise money to send 150 girls to Camp Honey Shine, the organization’s six-week summer camp.
Nigerian actress Sope Aluko, featured in the Marvel Blockbuster “Black Panther” and the event’s guest speaker, told of the importance of raising girls to be queens and to break with norms.
“Let us be queen makers for these young girls,” she said to the audience. “They’re depending on us, they’re looking at us, they’re watching us. Let us not disappoint them.”
She closed her speech with the viral salute, “Wakanda forever.”
Honey Shine honored Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, who spoke of her ability to persevere against adversity.
“It was through my pain and the loss of my son, that he was shot and killed, but it made me stand up as a woman, it made me stand up as a person,” she told the crowd.
The Hilton ballroom featured a pink carpet, where guests posed for pictures with Mourning; a carriage adorned with flowers, pillows and a sign that said, “embrace who you are”; and an interactive magical mirror photo booth. Headpieces ran the gamut, from scarves and tiaras to net fascinators.
Honey Shine also auctioned more than 100 items to raise money for the camp, including a basketball signed by the Miami Heat, an autographed Dwayne Wade sneaker and Bentley, a 3-month-old Maltese puppy who sold for $2,800. The majority of the auctions were held online through BidPal.
The luncheon also consisted of a fashion show featuring eight "Honey Bugs," the nickname for Honey Shine’s girls. The girls strutted down the runway to Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj songs.
For Mourning, the luncheons are about the Honey Bugs. Mourning said she believes women and girls should not give up and expressed her mantra: “Back straight, heart to God, crown on your head.”
“Throughout history, women of color have been marginalized,” Mourning said. “With everything that is taking place, this is the time to shine.”
Camp Honey Shine is held over the summer for six weeks at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. The girls participate in activities such as swimming, yoga and field trips.
Mourning founded Honey Shine in 2002. The not-for-profit also offers bi-monthly workshops and after-school programs. The girls learn about health, nutrition, sex and drug education, and other life skills.
Lashoan Singleton-Phillips volunteered at the luncheon. Her 12-year-old daughter has been a Honey Bug since she was 8. Singleton-Phillips said Mourning goes the extra mile for the girls, providing hugs to girls who might be in need of being embraced.
Singleton-Phillips, a special-needs teacher, said Honey Shine provides its girls real-world experience and guidance, to girls from all economic and racial backgrounds.
“They need to have trust, and Honey Shine gives girls a lot of trust,” she said.
Honey Bugs Tamya, 12, and Olyvia, 10, participated in the fashion show and will attend the Honey Shine camp this summer. The program has taught them about STEM, art and how to swim.
“I’ve been in this program since I was in third grade, and it’s a good mentoring program,” said Tamya, who someday wants to be a cardiologist.
“I got my favorite shirt from Honey Shine,” Olyvia said. “It’s purple.”
Kiana Leger, Miss Black Teen Miami Gardens and a Honey Shine alumna, said the organization has given her confidence and taught her important lessons.
“One thing that Honey Shine has taught me is not to compete with others, but to be your best self,” the 19-year-old said.