The 2023 Class of Debutantes for Christ made their debut on April 29 (from left to right): Jordan Rose, Autumn Weaver, Jeae Parker, Raven Smith, Dana Ellis, Olivia West, Carmen Winchester and Jamiyah Harris. (Courtesy photo)

By Marnita Coleman,
Special to the AFRO

Under the leadership of President and First Lady, Rev. Monique T. Carter, The Ministers’ Wives Alliance of New Shiloh Baptist Church hosted the debutante tradition a 21st-century, spiritual makeover this year in Baltimore. 

The 2023 Debutante for Christ Luncheon introduced an eight-member graduating class that included Dana Ellis, Jamiyah Harris, Jeae Parker, Jordan Rose, Raven Smith, Autumn Weaver, Olivia West and Carmen Winchester. The event was held on April 29 at 3 p.m., in the Elizabeth Adams Banquet Meeting Hall of New Shiloh Baptist Church. 

Family, friends, and church members gathered to esteem the class and commemorate their accomplishments.

Debutante balls have been an elegant means of presenting young ladies to society dating back to the 18th century. This rite of passage allowed aristocratic gents an opportunity to glimpse and take notice of suitable brides. In many African-American communities, debutantes were prepared for life outside of their social circles with a focus on education– not their family name and prestige. 

Cynthia West, a Ministers’ Wives Alliance coordinator and mother of a graduating debutante, weighed in on the importance of the rite of passage. 

“Through this program, we are putting a spin on the traditional debutante, and hope that they will be inspired to live a life of holiness and purity. They will be instructed on integrity, grace, obedience and self-esteem,” said West.

In October 2004, the pastor’s late wife, Dr. Weptanomah Carter, established the Debutante for Christ program which is now headed by Rev. Monique T. Carter. The debutante program is designed to help 16 to 18-year-olds navigate their spiritual journey with Christ.

The debutante program does not feature young women making a formal entrance into society or prescribing a mate for marriage, but rather fosters “positive values and builds on a strong foundation of Christ.”

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the program resumed with its first post-pandemic class.

Jeae Parker, a student at Howard County Community College, spoke about the programming available to debutantes.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a class on mental health since it’s usually a sensitive topic. I found out why I have the habits that I do, like perfectionism. I was open and figured out more about myself through stuff like that,” said Parker. 

She also stated that the money matters class was very beneficial.

“It taught me about banking and managing money correctly,” she said. 

Parker also praised the social etiquette class for teaching her how to conduct herself in an elegant setting.

Over the past three months, the girls have engaged in virtual and in-person workshops. 

The program began with biblical teachings, which are the foundation and purpose of the program. The classes included “Biblical Teaching,” “My Body, My Health,” “Emotional Health” and “Money Matters.” There was also training on career planning and social etiquette. The Ministers’ Wives Alliance consistently observed the girls’ development and spiritual growth within the church community and through their active church involvement.

Olivia West, a senior at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, shared that the main takeaway for her was learning “when you put God first, everything will fall into place.” 

“It hasn’t been easy,” said West. “I feel like I am still trying to grasp that we live in this world where media tells women and girls how we’re supposed to act and how we’re supposed to look. Those environmental factors can cause you to doubt yourself sometimes, but relying on what God says about you, grounds me and pulls me back.”