LANSING, Mich. — Les Meres et Debutantes was formed in 1962 by nine African American Lansing moms who wanted to give their daughters a good start in life, and it's still carrying on this rich tradition.
Their goal was to fill in a void for young African American women who, at the time, weren’t allowed to join other cotillion clubs.
A’Lynne Dukes went through the debutante program. Her daughter, Reese, will be presented to society this spring. Dukes says she is proud of what the nine founders took on 60 years ago.
“African Americans specifically need to be prepared to enter society just like anyone else. When they began the club, we were not allowed to learn those skill sets anywhere else. So they said, that’s fine. Our daughters deserve this. We’ll start a club,” Dukes said.
She said that, when people think of cotillion balls and debutantes, they mostly think of elegance, but there’s more to the program.
“A debutante is a young lady who has gone through an art program, charm and etiquette classes. Table manners. Sit, stand, hands. Understanding how to put a program together, an invitation together. All of the things that prepare you for life,” said Dukes.
Dukes’ daughter, 17-year-old Reese Robinson, says the program has helped her in ways she didn’t expect.
“This process has been extremely helpful to me, especially coming from Lansing Catholic. I’ve attended there all four years. Coming from there and being pretty much the only African American female in my class its been very beneficial being around and learning from people who look like me,” said Robinson.
The Les Meres et Debutantes debutante program will present its 57th class this spring at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.
Six young ladies will be formally presented to society.
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