HE'S TOO MODEST to admit it, but Anthony O. Williams is a born leader. Now 18 and a recent graduate of Jenkins High School, Williams will head to Morehouse College in August. Just before he leaves, he will be inaugurated the 2008-09 Mr. Black Teen of Savannah.
“I want to make a contribution in life, to motivate people, to raise their aspiration levels,” Williams says. “I already work with kids as a lifeguard. It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. Maybe people will look at me and say, ‘Maybe I can achieve the same thing.”
The youngest in his family, Williams has four older sisters. He plans to become a certified public accountant, and knows that serving as Mr. Black Teen will look good on his resume.
Williams hopes that other young men discover the competition. “I’d definitely like to see more people get involved, especially the private school sector,” he says. “It’s not just a competition. We get to bond with all the other guys in the competition. The relations we are building in the competition will last a lifetime.”
Alvin C. Edwards knows where Williams is coming from. In 2004, he was chosen the first Mr. Black Teen of Savannah. A graduate of Savannah High School and an MVP basketball player, he graduated with honors from Savannah State University on May 10.
“Being Mr. Black Teen was a really good experience,” Edwards says. “I think I set a pretty good standard.It really gave me the opportunity to display my talents and abilities outside of sports, and also encouraged me to do well academically.”
Currently, Edwards works for the Department of Criminal Justice as a probation officer. “I took the law school exam two weeks ago,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ll be going to law school.”
Being Mr. Black Teen helped prepare Edwards for his future. “It definitely gave me great inspiration,” he says. “It gave me more responsibilities, put me in role-model perspective and really made me settle down and study.”
During his tenure, Edwards had certain duties to fulfill. “I made appearances and did community service,” he says. “I did public speaking and community relations. I had the opportunity to go to the mayor’s office and meet the mayor.”
The pageant was developed by Lester Lec’k White, local radio personality and founder of My Dream Productions. “I thought too many of our African-American boys were getting a bad rap in the media,” he says. “I knew some fellows who were opposite of what was being featured.
“When I’d see these images, I’d think, ‘Why don’t they do something positive and try to spotlight the good boys, the positive ones?’ One night, I thought, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ Everyone was waiting for someone else to do something.”
The idea for a competition clicked when White was asked to be a judge for a local pageant. “I was looking at those young ladies, and wishing someone would do this for the boys,” he says. “When we were leaving the event, a man came up to me and said, ‘I think you should do something like this because you work with young people.’ I believe that was my confirmation to start this thing.”
At first, White wasn’t sure what the response would be. But the program has been a success, not just with the young men, but also their parents.
“At first, we were feeling our way,” White says. “This is our fifth year, and more people are aware of what we’re trying to do. When we first started, some people thought we were trying to create a division. But more people are understanding now and we’re getting more support. We had a 9th grader this year who said he’d been waiting a long time to be part of this. He’s staying on the right track to be a role model.”
In between Edwards and Williams, there have been three other Mr. Black Teens. “Kenneth Wright is at Georgia State and wants to be a lawyer,” White says. “Damon Scott is at Morehouse College. Anthony Gordon is at Allen University in South Carolina. They’re all doing well.”
There is no coronation. Williams will be inaugurated on Aug. 4 from 6-8 p.m. at Savannah State University. At that time, he will be awarded several prizes and be introduced to community leaders. “Each year, we have a different judge come in and swear Mr. Black Teen in,” White says.
“I would definitely encourage youth to get into the program,” Edwards says. “It gives them the opportunity to display their talents and abilities most people are not aware of. It gives them an opportunity to network and encourages positive choices in life. Get involved, and keep the dream alive.”