In 1980-82, there was a great deal of negative local and national press regarding African American males. Indeed, there was hardly any news coverage in print or on television that portrayed men of color in a positive light. Getting answers regarding why the media wasn't reporting on the successes of African American men was extremely difficult. Our mothers all had personal knowledge of African American families whose sons were honor students, class president, celebrated athletes and committed young men who were dedicated to serving their community and country through voluntarism.
During a Denver Chapter of Jack and Jill mothers' meeting, member June Johnson suggested that we could combat negative stereotypes of African American males by showcasing high school seniors in a Beautillion. We knew that Denver had a well-kept secret that needed to be revealed. Our Jack and Jill chapter could be responsible for bringing to the larger community's attention the misrepresentation of African American men.
Member Winnie Johnson offered to gather information from a Jack and Jill chapter in Ohio that had been presenting a Beautillion. Winnie and June developed a unique plan for the Denver Chapter presentation. The membership voted to try it for one year. The 1984 Beautillion was an overwhelming success! Winnie and June Johnson served as chair and co-chair for the following year.
For 31 years, the dedicated mothers of the Denver Chapter have consistently supported the ideals of the Beautillion. There have been many mothers in this organization who have chaired the Beautillion and each year is better than the previous year. However, what makes the Denver Chapter's Beautillion unique are the dance routines performed by the Beaus and Escorts.
Letisha Williams, along with Berma Benson, choreographed the dance routine for the first Beautillion. Letisha was the choreographer for an additional year and passed the baton to her daughter, Rhetta Shead, who has been the Beautillion choreographer for the past 30 years since that time.
As in years past, we are very proud of the young men who have the honor of being recognized for their efforts in achieving excellence. Young men selected as Beaus since the inception of this program were prepared for success by their parents, teachers and community. The beautillion continues to recognize a small sampling of youth that defy the odds and dispel stereotypes.
As parents and community members, our expectations are high for all children--not just children of the privileged.
Thank you to every community member and mother who continues to believe that valuing our youth is the key to a bright future for all of us!