By Harry Colbert, Jr.
Seventeen young men – high school seniors – were honored for their scholastic and extracurricular achievements and their transition to adulthood by the Minneapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
The elaborate ceremony, attended by more than 200 people took place March 5 at the Marriott Minneapolis Southwest in Minnetonka. The 18th Annual Rites of Passage Ceremony was the culmination of months of participation in the program that pairs African-American high school senior males with African-American male mentors in one-on-one and group settings to prepare them for college and a life of responsible adulthood. The ceremony mixed traditional African customs with more recent African-American customs to show to the world that the initiates are now prepared for a life after high school.
“We started this program in 1999 and those initiates are in their mid-30s and they are now themselves community leaders,” said Tina Grant, vice president of the Minneapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill.
Combining the past with the present, mentors clad in African dashikis; and along with the parents, looked on as the 17 initiates – introduced as “men of the future” – strolled into the ballroom wearing tuxedos with tails. The initiates removed their jackets and began a step – a choreographed dance made popular by Black college fraternities and sororities. This was most likely an homage to the mentors as many of the mentors are members of one of the five traditionally recognized Black fraternities.
The initiates proceeded to the dais where they joined their mentors who would later bestow them with African robes, hats and Rites of Passage medallions. The 17 initiates then proceed to where there parents were seated and asserted their manhood and affirmed they would adhere to the responsibilities that come with adulthood.
“Your child shall be a child no more,” proclaimed Henry Crosby, the program’s honorable elder.
“These initiates represent to us a strong Black family, a strong Black community and a strong Black future,” said Milton Dodd, activities co-chair for the Rites of Passage program.
The 2016 Rites of Passage initiates are Samuel Abrams, a senior at Washburn High School, mentored by Phillip Hampton, Adeyemi Adewola, a senior at Park High School, mentored by Scott Morris, Brandon Banks, a senior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School, mentored by Darrell Gradford, Jamani Buckner, a senior at Wayzata High School, mentored by Lindsay Benjamin, Michael Crawford, a senior at Edina High School, mentored by Kevin Wright, Chanda Dennis, a senior at Southwest High School, mentored by Dodd, Corrie King, a senior at Wayzata High School, mentored by Lovell Davis, Edward Bransford Lewis, a senior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, mentored by Richard White, Thelonious Madison, a senior at Edina, mentored by Carson Funderburk, Samwel Moseti, a senior at Edina, mentored by Charles Scott, Ore Odujole, a senior at Park (Cottage Grove), mentored by Glentrez Thornton, Tolulope Ogunrinde, a senior at Park (Cottage Grove), mentored by Mike Dees, Trevon Pettigrew, a senior at Hopkins High School, mentored by Terrence White, Kaylan Saffold, a senior at St. Paul Central High School, mentored by Marcus Lebeouf, Winston Ware, a senior at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts Charter School, mentored by Ricardo Grant, Timothy Warren, Jr., a senior at Champlin Park High School, mentored by Rodney Anderson and Evan Weatherly, a senior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, mentored by Chris Majors.
Jack and Jill of America is a national organization founded in 1938 with the goal of bringing African-American children together for social and cultural activities. The Minneapolis Chapter was founded in 1952.