A legacy of pride: A future of promises


Every Friday for the past several weeks, a group of young women ages 14-18 gather for fun and mentoring under the tutelage of Celie Marie Dean, Miss Black USA 2006. The young women are participants in a program series, “The Beauty of You,” that began in November 2007. The 12-week program included many projects that focused on self-esteem, public speaking, physical fitness, and healthy life style changes.

“A Legacy of Pride: A Future of Promises” will be held at Patrick Henry High School, 4320 Newton Avenue, N in Minneapolis on Sunday, February 3 starting with a social hour at 3pm followed by a program at 4pm. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for youths. Refreshments will be served. This event commemorates the culture, history and achievements of African American women who promote positive self-identity, self-esteem and empowerment among their peers.

The proud “The Beauty of You” participants are: Cherysh Wylie, Quintias Sullivan, Chrishellyn Ford, Raina Davis, Lattrese Washington, Brandy Myles, Rodneka Fogg, Saina Ahmed, D’asia Williams, Alana Profit, and Amira Bady.

The young women were selected from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) Youthline program. Youthline is a mentoring program that works with teens to build friendships and develop positive self-esteem through classes, field trips and social interaction.

Sherenia Gibbs, Community Program Leader, explained that in addition to leadership potential, these young women were selected because they strongly expressed an interest in the program, and they demonstrated a commitment to follow through with the 12-week program. They also had a support system from a parent, a mentor or family member, she said.

At Sunday’s event, the young women will honor specific African American women whose leadership has inspired them. The event will also feature stage performances, and a special performance presented by The Art of Dance Studio.

At the mentoring sessions, the young women learned about the accomplishments of African American women in the careers of which the young women themselves are aspiring. They also learned social skills such as how to interact with each other in a respectful manner; how to present themselves positively; and the importance of doing things the right way.

Ms. Dean said her hope for the young women is that, “they learn how beautiful they are as women, that they see their potential, and that when they go out to achieve their own goals, they are fearless and know that they can achieve.” She also believes it is important to present positive messages to counterbalance the numerous negative images the young women face far too often.

Rodneka Fogg said she felt special being in the program and that its effect will last a lifetime. Alana Profit agreed. “Every Friday I spend time with friends doing something valuable rather than just walking around the mall just to be walking around. Here we learn how peers can influence each other in a positive way. I also learned how to respect my background as a black woman, and how to value each day a little more.”

Dean shares with the young women the lessons and beauty secrets she learned as a beauty pageant winner. She emphasized, however, that the mentoring program encompassed much more than a focus on outer beauty. She guided discussions aimed at building self-esteem, confidence and empowerment.

Today’s culture was not ignored at the mentoring sessions. There was time for the young women to dance, sing along with their favorite hip-hop music and eat pizza. As Chrishellyn Ford concluded, “For the most part, it was enjoyment and fun, and we got to meet a lot of people.”

Monies earned from the event on Sunday will go towards funding future programs. Lattrese Washington said, “I’d love to do it again and I’d like to have my sister join it. I love the program and everybody in it. It’s a good environment. It gives me something to do on the weekend. It gives me something to do with my life.”

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Youthline (youth development) offers many girl-specific programs throughout the city.

“We work to empower youth that are involved in our programs to give input on the type of programs they would like to be involved with. This was a popular request on our city’s north side, and we hope to keep this going. We have had a number of girls express an interest in the project,” said Gibbs.

The event is presented by the MPRB, Twin Cities Juneteenth and Miss Black USA 2006 Celie Dean. Special guests include MPRB Commissioner Mary Merrill Anderson, Miss Black MN 2008, Mrs. Liberia MN 2007, Miss Black North Carolina 2007 and Miss Black Washington DC 2007.

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s (MPRB) Youthline program will celebrate February as Black History Month with a series of free special events for youth ages 11-17 at several MPRB recreation centers. Activities include making African flags and ceramics, a cooking class, coffeehouse poetry and an art project. For more information visit www.minneapolisparks.org or call Sherenia Gibbs at 612-490-5510.