Byline: Denise Barnes, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
This series features the words and works of good people in our community. Their voices are seldom heard in the torrent of sensational news, their successes are seldom noticed publicly, but they contribute mightily to our quality of life. We present this forum at least twice a month to recognize and support their good deeds.
Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Rudolph Harris, vice president of the Mu Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and founder of the Beautillion program.
Question: What is a "beautillion"?
Answer: A beautillion is a rite of passage in which young men move from one stage of their lives to another. And it is where they come together and share ideas and learn certain things about life. It all comes together when they are presented to the public and we tell the public about their achievements. Girls have always had debutante balls and men have had rights of passage in certain circles. In the Jewish religion, they have bar mitzvahs. The beautillion signals a young man's coming of age.
Q: What are the benefits for young men who participate in the Mu Lambda Beautillion program?
A: Well, I thought it would be wonderful to have a program that offers young men a variety of workshops and at the same time allows them an opportunity to come in contact with fraternity members.
This way, they have someone else to talk to in addition to their family members, and fraternity members can serve as mentors to the young men. Oftentimes, young men who play sports receive all of the recognition, but there's a bevy of black males who don't get those types of accolades and they, too, are deserving. The beautillion program is really a take-off on the debutante balls, where young ladies are exposed to different workshops and seminars culminating with a cotillion.
Another aspect of the program is that we award scholarships to the young men who participate in the program. We explain it all when the program begins so that they know what the potential may be.
Q: How does the chapter get the word out to young men and parents who might want to participate in the program?
A: In our first year, we sent out letters to both public and parochial high schools and churches in the metropolitan area. That year, we had 10 high school seniors who completed the program and were introduced to Washington society. We usually begin mailing letters out to the schools in late August or September. It's a six-month program, and in late April or early May, we host the annual Beautillion Extravaganza.
At our first session the young men attend, which usually takes place in December, we invite their parents and fraternity members. Fraternity members talk a bit about themselves and what they're doing and the potential beaus get an opportunity to tell us about themselves and their goals for the future.
The young men have input about some of the activities they would like to participate in during our first meeting and we pair them with mentors at that time. They also learn about what the program entails and what is expected of them.
We hold meetings every two to three weeks. Each class, however, must participate in a service project as a group. This year, the seniors worked at an area soup kitchen.
Projects change from year to year, and this is a way, they can come together and bond. The purpose of the service project is for them to unify and think as a team. They are helping one another and they are responsible to each other. The point we're trying to impress upon them is that you are your brother's keeper and no man is an island unto himself.
Q: What types of workshops do the young men attend?
A: Well, for example, we host workshops on how to apply for college scholarships, how to properly fill out …