Coming-Of-Age Ball For Black Males

Dionne Walker, AP, June 18, 2007

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“I think it’s gonna turn out OK,” organizer Elmer Seay Jr. says.

Seay has challenged statistics showing young black males battling grim rates of joblessness, poverty and unintended fatherhood. He has arranged career forums and corralled the teens into dance classes and etiquette lessons.

By evening’s end, beaus Jarratt Day, Mark Turner II and Kevin Wyatt will emerge as upright, goal-oriented men.

The Links, a Washington-based social group for affluent black youths, has spent 50 years hosting black-aimed coming-out functions—cotillions for girls and increasingly popular beautillions for boys as young as 9.

Today, these events draw black parents seeking opportunities to highlight the good in their sons.

In addition, beautillion participants get scholarships, and contacts.

In a studio, Kevin Wyatt claps and tumbles to African music as the beaus practice a celebratory dance.

“The type of dancing we were doing? Boring, I’m not going to lie to you,” the 17-year-old says after practice.

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It’s five days before the beautillion, and the men of Phi Beta Sigma have met to iron out details.

They’re multi-degreed, representing decades of black male success. They’ve paved the way and worry today’s black men have fallen behind.

“We need black men to look at the home and at the children that are theirs,” says James Quash Sr., 84. “We need them to take a look and do something.”

The men created the Richmond beautillion in 2001, mimicking an event they saw in Washington.

The idea is to recognize young black males who are doing right, while giving them an official ceremony that says it’s time to grow up.

They’ve groomed 42 boys and seen them off to schools like Howard University in Washington and Morehouse College, in Atlanta.

Still, what started as 16 potential beaus this year shrank to eight by the second group meeting. And five of the remaining group—including Julian Alford with his two jobs, church and wrestling—were just too busy to commit.

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