by A. Batson
The Jacksonville Chapter of Jack and Jill is presenting 17 young men as part of the 15th Bi-annual Les Beautillion Militaire, which will be held in March. One of the major requirements for the six-month program designed to assist young Black males in reaching their full potential is engaging in community service. Participants, dubbed “Beaux”, recently conducted a self-planned and directed project at the historic Mt. Herman Cemetery in northwest Jacksonville. Historically, Mt Herman Cemetery was one of few burial options for blacks in Jacksonville during segregation. Long neglected, the cemetery now more resembles a deserted park than a final resting place.
For several hours during the weekend, the Beaux raked, picked up debris, and removed tree limbs and leaves from the gravesites. Although the cemetery is in a state of disrepair, several funeral processions occurred as the young men dutifully cleaned the grounds. The Beaux remarked that the experience was humbling, but felt encouraged that their efforts would help assure that those buried there may be “gone but not forgotten . . .” as was inscribed on a nearby tombstone.
The Les Beautillion Militaire leadership program is aimed at enhancing the leadership skills of African-American young men during their junior or senior year of high school while recognizing their achievements. In its 15th year, the program features a series of leadership and career workshops, social activities, and a service project in support of participants and their journey into manhood. The culminating activity will be the “presentation” of the Beaux and their Belles (dates/escorts) at a formal dinner and dance.
Les Beautillion Militaire is a major fundraiser for the Jacksonville Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., benefitting the Shannon Smith McCants’ Memorial Scholarship, an educational fund established in 2008 in memory of a dedicated member of the Jacksonville Chapter, and local charities in the Jacksonville community. A portion of the funds raised will also benefit the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, Inc., which supports programs across the nation that build leadership and character in youth.