When 17-year-old Carrson Canady’s mother, Jaimi, told him that he would be participating in a ball to introduce him to society, he was less than enthusiastic about joining 24 other young men in the Beautillion Ball, sponsored by the Missouri City-Sugar Land Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. (MCSL).
“I really wasn’t excited about taking part in a ball. But from the first Beautillion activity, I was all-in,” said Carrson, a junior at Strake Jesuit High School.
Like many of the mothers who participate in the biennial event, Jaimi Canady says her son had to be “voluntold” that he would take part.
“You usually see young women presented to society in this traditional rites of passage. I attended a Beautillion several years ago and it filled my heart with joy seeing these young gifted and talented young men and all of their accomplishments. I wanted that for my boys,” Canady said. “But our sons really don’t get the magnitude of the experience until they’ve begun Beautillion activities. By the end of the event, they’ve forged lifelong friendships.”
Since 1981, the MCSL Chapter of Jack and Jill has sponsored the Beautillion as a way for Black families from across the Houston area to present young men to society. Members of the chapter begin planning more than a year in advance for the event that, pre-COVID, could easily draw 700 attendees. This year’s event, which took place last month, was a hybrid of in-person and virtual attendees. Twenty-five young men from the Missouri City – Sugar Land, Houston, Greater Channel, and South Belt Houston chapters of Jack and Jill all participated. Classified as high school juniors through college freshmen, the beaux were accompanied by escorts, called Belles.
Though the ball is the highlight of Beautillion season, it’s actually the culmination of months of enriching events that focus on educational, personal, and professional development.
The Beautillion Balls are a staple of Jack and Jill of America, an organization of Black mothers with children ages 2-19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty. The Beautillion is a spin on the cotillion, in which young women are presented to society.
“I gained wonderful friends. Our success including years of community service was celebrated in front of our parents. It was a great honor. This was even more special during the time of two pandemics, racism and COVID-19,” said Beau Preston Boyd,
“We hear so much negativity around our young Black men. This event is to the show the world the positive side of our sons,” added MCSL president Tyra McCollum, whose son Micah was among the 25 presented.
McCollum, who has had two older sons participate in the Beautillion, said the event celebrates young excellence and achievements and recognizes parents who laid the foundation for this formal transition into manhood.
“The Beautillion gives us a platform to show the community our greatness. It gives us confidence to grow and be the best we can be for ourselves and our community,” said Micah, a junior at Fulshear High School.
One of the highlights of the event is when the young men, along with their Belles, perform a waltz. They spent 25 hours rehearsing with famed choreographer, Raúl Orlando Edwards, the founder of Strictly Street Salsa.
Another highlight of the evening are the tributes, where the young men honor a role model in their lives. The tributes were written by the young men and were a complete surprise to the person they chose to honor. Some were humorous. Some were thoughtful. All were touching.
The parents, grandparents and stepparents walked onto the stage, each wearing a stole made of Kente cloth, a boldly patterned African textile once worn by West African royalty. After their spoken tributes, they removed their stoles and draped them around the necks of their young men.
“It truly was a night to remember,” Carrson said.
The 2021 Beautillion Class includes: William Hamilton Blakes, Preston Flynn Boyd, Carrson Jacob Canady, Evan David Cole, Jackson Thomas Cormier, Canon Reid Dickerson, Matthew Rashad Edmond, Cameron Evan Fuller, Cameron Joseph Henry, Marshall Alexander Hudson, Zachary Clarence Jones, Dayton Alexander Kendrick, Bryce Adair Louis, Christopher Delano Lowe, Micah Bozette McCollum, Jared Owen Chapman Pressley, Christian Tyler Preston Rogers, Aaron Martin Orion Rucker, Elijah Levanuel Smith, Nicolas Broussard Smothers, Aaron Quincy Spann, Matthew Daniel Thompson, Jacob Douglas Walker, Kaleb Miles Winn, and Chase Allen Dobard Woodard.