Several young women received pearl necklaces that represented their uniqueness and attributes during the Talented and Educated Leading Ladies banquet and showcase.
The annual event took place Saturday at the Liberty County Community Complex in Midway.
TELL is a youth development organization for young women that teaches leadership and social skills. Protégés volunteer in the community, go on field trips, host events, coordinate fundraisers and plan sports.
Parents, friends and community leaders gathered to honor the young women. Program coordinator Shawn‘tell Greene and TELL mentors presented the protégés with pearl necklaces. Mentor Michele Freeney-Washington said the pearls represent each young woman’s individuality, that the ladies are precious to God and that “their worth comes from recognizing their God-given talent.” TELL rotégé MéKaiyla Bain was named “Most Improved Person.”
Trailblazer awards were also presented to female community leaders: Sara Swida, director of Keep Liberty Beautiful; Lily Baker, Liberty County Board of Education chairwoman; and Vicky Nelson and Diana Reid, Hinesville City Council members.
The guest speaker was Dr. Chanté Baker-Martin, an associate professor of English and African-American literature at Savannah State University and native of Midway. Her speech focused on TELL’s theme of the year, “Sparkle and shine, you are in control.”
She started by saying, “Every product has a process.”
“The theme for this year’s banquet, ‘Sparkle and shine, you are in control’ offers two powerful commands, expressed as one affirmation,” Martin said. “Sparkling and shining are natural actions that occur when a jewel, like a diamond, finds itself in the presence of light. The sparkle and shine a diamond uses is really its ability to reflect the light that has been projected onto and filters through ... On the other hand is the reminder that you are in control. The idea is that a woman or girl has the ability to decide how much she, a figurative diamond, sparkles and shines. Involuntary actions on one side. Individual authority on the other … How can one control that which cannot be controlled? How does a diamond make itself shine?”
Martin said when she thought about the theme the “self-proclaimed, flawless diamond herself — Beyoncé” came to mind. She talked about the symbolism of Beyoncé’s new album, “Lemonade.” Martin said the artist took the sour moments of her life and combined them with the sweet memories of her past and hopes for the future to create a contrast that can be described as “lemonade.”
“Whether it’s moving from heartbreak to healing or failure to success or from having nothing to having it all, we must remind our daughters and sons that our lives are a blend of that which is bitter and that which is sweet. And the combination of these elements make us who we are,” Martin said. “The Bible says that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. That blessed assurance alone lets us know that the best and worst days play an equally important part in producing in us and through us the purpose and plans that God created.”
She talked about Renisha McBride, an African-American woman who was shot and killed in Detroit when she knocked on a door for help after getting into a car accident, and Amy Joyner-Francis, a high school student in Delaware who died after a fight with girls in a school bathroom. Martin said the mothers of those two young women never dreamed that they would lose their daughters to senseless violence and that their daughters’ deaths might save someone else’s daughter. Martin said mothers can share these stories to better prepare their daughters for life’s challenges.
“This is why TELL is such an important and necessary program, because it understands that empowerment and enlightenment go hand-in-hand as we empower our girls for greatness, encouraging them to sparkle and shine,” Martin said. “We cannot be afraid to tell them that tests and trials will come, but they come to make us stronger.
“The world tells our daughters that brilliance requires too much. It requires too much discipline. It requires too much time, prayer, patience and perseverance. … But the world does not know that brilliance is not a credit to what we have done,” Martin said. “… Rather, it is a product of what has been done in and through us by God. … What we reflect is only possible because we have allowed ourselves to go through the process of life, letting a power that is higher than ourselves use everything that is in our lives.”
Martin then answered the questioned she posed at the beginning of her speech.
“Sparkling and shining are not actions any of us can control,” she said. “The only control that we have is in our willingness to yield to God’s process, trusting and believing that he will be with us every step of the way.”
The showcase also featured a monologue by the mistress of ceremonies and local actress Taikha Gilyard, a dance performance by TELL protégés, and the protégés each saying what they are in control of in their lives, such as their attitude, health, emotions and choices.
As guests arrived, “transcenders” of The Eleven Black Men Inc. ushered guests to their seats, and the banquet was catered Lady J’s Catering.
The program was dedicated to TELL founder and mentor Spencer Clark, who died the day before the banquet.