Les Meres et Debutantes of Greater Lansing


Top Row: Left to Right: Devin Carter, Reese Robinson, and Sharon Davis

Bottom Row: Left to Right: Jordyn Byrd, Manessah Naval, and Haniya Shareef

The Les Meres et Debutantes Club of Greater Lansing is set for “An Evening of  Elegance” on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at 6 pm at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, MI.

LANSING, MI – In 1962, a group of nine African American mothers, Esther Abrams, Hortense Canady, Lela Eaton, Mattie Foxall, Robbie Harris, Catherine Harrison, Estella Saunders, Shirley Wills, and Dorothy Wilson created Les Meres et Debutantes Club of Greater Lansing. Formed at a time when white social clubs refused membership to African Americans, these nine mothers sought to present their daughters to society by preparing them to fulfill roles as productive young women.

The organization was unique because Les Meres ‘the mothers’ provided all of the programming, mentoring, and funding for the debutantes, the daughters. This ‘coming of age’ process began in the seventh grade and culminated in a formal ball ‘The Cotillion’ in the twelfth grade. Cotillion ceremonies can be traced back to African ancestry in the traditional tribal “Rites of Passage.”

This club is about more than being able to wear a fancy cotillion dress; the young women that complete this program are given tools for long-term success. In addition to what they learn in school, they are taught proper manners and how to conduct themselves in different social settings. They are also taught to serve their community with kindness and humility. Participants in the club are given access to information on how to succeed in their chosen careers and a key to life that will unlock so many doors for them.

Since its inception, the club has met the needs of hundreds of girls and has welcomed the daughters of former debutantes. The club’s alumni include many successful women such as Alexa Irene Canady, the first and youngest African-American woman neurosurgeon in the United States and a 1989 Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame Inductee; Anita Riddle-Johnson, the first African- American woman General Motors Executive from Lansing; and Luanne Wills-Merrell, the first African-American female aviation safety inspector hired by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Everett High School

Devin is a 12th grader at Everett High School in Lansing, MI. She is an honor roll student, a student ambassador, and a member of the National Honor Society. She is the team captain of the Everett Senior Dance Company. She studies ballet and pointe at Danceworks of Michigan and contemporary, tap, hip hop, and lyrical at Dance City West where she is also a member of the competitive dance team.

Additionally, Devin is a company assistant with the Children’s Ballet Theater (CBT) pre-professional ballet company. She has been a company member since she was 8-years-old. She was cast as the Snow Queen in CBT’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’ for the 2021 season. She is a recipient of Everett’s Performing Arts Award and an Emerging Artist Senior Title holder at Starquest Dance. She enjoys 90’s rhythm and blues, anime, and K-pop (Korean pop music) in her spare time and aspires to own a dance studio.

Devin will be escorted by Larry King III. He attends East Lansing High School. He is the son of Mr. Larry King, Jr. (post escort) and Mrs. Jayme Angela King (post debutante).

Lansing Catholic High School

Reese Robinson is the daughter of Emanuel Dukes and A’Lynne Dukes. She is a 3-year Varsity Cheerleader (side-line and competitive). She has participated in marching and ensemble Band for three years, as well as, playing the flute since the 5th grade. Tennis, track, and softball have also been activities that she has participated in during her high school career. As a Lansing Catholic High School ambassador, she had the opportunity to represent her school by interacting with future students and parents, donors, and community leaders.

Reese has been in the club since the 7th grade, serving as club vice president, Secretary, and Chaplain. She is currently president of the 2022 grade level, a position that I’ve held since the formation of the grade level. Other previous involvements include Delta Gems, Go Ye Ministry, and Mime-N-Motion. She is considering Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and Howard University for future academic pursuits in law or veterinary medicine.

Reese will be escorted by Dedrick Pete. He attends Waverly High School. Dedrick is the son of Mrs. Wendi King and Mr. Eric King. Escort Anthony Stewart is the son of Mr. Tony Stewart and Mrs. Tina Stewart. Anthony attends Lumen Christi High School in Jackson, Michigan.

East Lansing High School

Sharon is the daughter of Michael Davis and Jennifer Nelson and a senior at East Lansing High School. She is active in Black Student Union, French, Orchestra, and Varsity Cheerleading. Sharon joined Les Meres et Debutantes in the 7th grade and served as Debutante President in 2019-2020, Debutante Vice-President of grade-level 2022, and currently serves as Debutante Chaplin.

Sharon started All Star Cheer, which is a high-energy, team-based, performance sport that is athletic, artistic, and acrobatic at the age of 2 1⁄2. She is also a founding member of WILDCATS Cheer Pride. Participating in All Star Cheer competitively for over 15 years, she competed in the 2021 Cheerleading Worlds at ESPN in Florida. She is currently a junior coach with East Lansing Junior Trojans and WILDCATS Cheer Pride.

Sharon is a member of Lansing South Church of the Nazarene and has participated in several mission trips and community service programs. She is the recipient of the 2020 Alpha Phi Alpha Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Citizenship Award, the 2021 Debutante Outstanding Community Service Award, and is a member of the Delta Gems.

Sharon plans to attend college and major in law. She enjoys reading, watching anime, and learning about other languages and cultures.

Sharon will be escorted by Justin Dixon. He attends Haslett High School. Justin is the son of Mr. Fidencio Palacio and Mrs. Dominica Palacio.

Waverly High School

Jordyn is the daughter of Anthony and Tawanna Byrd. As she reflects on the last five years, as a debutante she has a true understanding of sisterhood. The club taught her to step outside of her comfort zone and allowed her to continue building on her strengths. Her experience has taught her self-confidence and leadership. In the 2021-2022 program year, she is serving as the Debutante Club Vice President.

Jordyn said, “God has gifted me with the passion to serve and I will continue this through my life’s journey. My future goal is to attend a Historically Black College or University where I will major in pre-medicine to prepare for a career as a pediatrician or anesthesiologist while playing basketball on the next level.”

At the start of the next chapter of her life, Jordyn said that she will forever embrace Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do all things through Christ.’ No matter how difficult the obstacle is in front of me; hard work, faith, and support from family and friends, I will accomplish my goals.”

Jordyn will be escorted by Cassius Blankenburg and Commodore Joy. Cassius attends Holt High School. Cassius is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James and Crissa Blankenburg. Commodore Joy is the son of Mr. Commodore Joy, Sr. and Ms. Tasia Clay. Commodore is a senior at Lansing Sexton High School.

Lansing Everett High School

Manessah Naval is the daughter of Toidnex Naval and Arthuria Watkins. She plans on attending the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on becoming a pediatric neurologist. She enjoys drawing and painting. With this God-given talent, she showcased her artwork at the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union’s headquarters for an entire year.

Her journey as a debutante has taught her to value others’ opinions and build leadership skills that she can use professionally and personally. I look forward to my debut and starting a new chapter in my life.

Manessah will be escorted by Christopher Fountain. He attends Holt High School. Christopher is the son of Ms. DeLisa Raye and Mr. Llvester Sharp.

Mumford High School

Haniya is the daughter of Rahman Shareef Muhammad and Tamorah Shareef Muhammad. She enjoys martial arts, singing, and acting. Her passion is serving her community by helping special needs children and cooking. During the 2020-2021 program year of Les Meres et Debutantes, she served as the club’s second secretary now she is serving as the treasurer.

The reason why she joined the Les Meres et Debutantes Club of Greater Lansing was to break out of her shell and learn new things such as public speaking, etiquette, how to become a future leader, and to join a sisterhood. During her time as a Debutante, she has broken out of her shy shell and said that she adores her debutante sisters. Upon graduation, her goal is to attend Eastern Michigan University, Central Michigan University, or Henry Ford College to major in culinary arts.

Haniya’s escorts are Benjamin Brown and Wesley Davis. Benjamin is the son of Mr. Benjamin Brown Sr. and Mrs. Darlene E. Brown and he attends Okemos High School and Lansing Community College. Wesley Davis is the son of Ms. Antonea Embry and the nephew of Mr. Kenneth Frazier. Wesley attends Holt High School.

Parent Tamorah Shareef Muhammad said, “Les Meres et Debutantes Club has lasted for more than half of a century, and we have no plans of stopping the work any time soon. It has been hard during the pandemic. However, our debutantes recognize the work that needs to be done in the community and recently collected laundry soap for the Lansing School District.”