Local youth deliver powerful message

Published 12:02 pm Saturday, February 27, 2010

AHOSKIE – Success breeds success; that’s the driving force behind an effort orchestrated by local adults who are striving to make a difference in the lives of young children.

Despite an early morning snowfall, one that dumped nearly three inches in the local area, a warm and cozy atmosphere awaited guests as they arrived for a recent Saturday afternoon performance at White Lilly Lodge #326, located on Hayes Street in Ahoskie.

There, a dozen or so children fidgeted in their seats as they waited for the proverbial curtain to rise on a performance that they hoped would send a positive message to their peers. That message targeted a problem that plaques so many Americans, both young and old – the use of drugs.

From the back of the stage area emerged “Smokey” – a young male who found himself as part of the drug culture. He had opted to skip school for a day; instead of busying himself with reading, writing and arithmetic, he indulged in beer and drugs.

As his young friends passed by, “Smokey” attempted to lure them in to his deceitful web…offering a swig of alcohol while trying to make money by selling them an assortment of his illegal drugs.

Wisely, each potential buyer refused…they were too in to “life” – rather choosing the simple pleasures such as advancing their education, participating in athletics or seeking a higher power by attending religious functions.

In the end, a powerful performance by the “Victory of Praise” dancers opened Smokey’s eyes, as well as his heart, as he turned from his wicked ways, freeing himself from the chains that had restricted his growth into a man.

The play – “Drug Free – That’s Me” – was performed by the District II Youth Council #526, a group that is part of I.B.P.O.E. (Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) of the World.

Under the watchful eye of Daughter Lucy Holloman, two young women – Tina Holloman and Daughter Yvette Flood – orchestrated the play. Both drew praise for their efforts.

“They have the caring, the wisdom and the patience to work with children,” said Lucy Holloman who serves as the Council’s Youth Advisor and is also commissioned by the I.B.P.O.E. to oversee the activities of District II Youth Council #526.

Lucy Holloman added that the parent organization (the Elks) blessed the formation of Youth Councils in an effort to pass down the history and legacy of the national association.

“We want to show them that they are the future leaders, not only within the local community, but at some point they will be the next generation of leadership of the Elks,” she stressed.

A positive sign that the efforts of the Elks are paying off was the number of parents and grandparents in attendance at the local performance.

“There are three generations here today,” Lucy Holloman noted. “They’re here encouraging their children and grandchildren to lead healthy lifestyles and become good stewards in the local community. That type of support enriches the lives of our young people and demonstrates to them that there are positive and constructive avenues they can take that will build their character and lead them to a bright future.”

Tina Holloman and Flood are helping to shape that future.

“We are trying to get these children to become more aware of the environment that surrounds them,” said Tina Holloman. “We want them to be aware of the problems associated with drugs.”

All totaled, there were 10 youngsters, ages 4-15, involved in the play, one written by Tina Holloman and directed by Mina Harrell. That group included William Holloman Jr., Tomika Flood, Tomicina Flood, Deshawn Mizelle, Sharlena Brown, Isaiah Cherry, Kenya Harrell, Ammena Harrell, Sharesa Harrell and Jaquiala Cherry.

“My goal is if we can turn one child’s life around, then I’ll feel good about our efforts,” Tina stated. “We also want to send a message to other children to come and join with us. We want to show them there are other avenues in life they can take.”

The District II Youth Council encompasses Hertford, Bertie, Northampton, Chowan and Washington counties. The group is involved in spelling bees, oratorical contests and field trips as well as conducting a local King and Queen contest where the winners move on to compete against other youth councils statewide. They also have at least one featured speaker to come in annually to address a topic of interest.

“Our focus is on physical, social and intellectual activities,” said Lucy Holloman. “We also involve our youth in church-related activities, including, on occasion, a prayer breakfast.”

All of the youth activities are approved by the I.B.P.O.E. leadership – Donald P. Wilson, the Grand Exalted Ruler, and Margaret Scott, the Grand Daughter Ruler.

Neither Tina Holloman nor Flood are resting on their laurels. Both women have a vision of the future of the local Youth Council.

“For starters, I’d like to see our group grow in number,” Tina said. “I’d also like to see us eventually have a youth choir.”

“I would like to see those who are in attendance today at our play invite our youth group to perform this play in their church and help spread our anti-drug message,” Flood stated. “There are so many cases where drugs have ruined not only the lives of those choosing to use them, but ruined entire families as well.”

The efforts of the local youth, as well as their adult leaders, drew praise from Brother Danny Greene, the Exalted Ruler of Home Base Lodge 1691.

“You kids…you have it going on,” Greene told the group following their performance. “The positive aspect of your performance traces its roots to the way you were raised. It stems from your teachers, your parents and your friends.”

Greene challenged the youth to establish goals in life.

“Life is a short path, what you do between birth and death is your destiny,” he said. “You will be forced to pick and choose those you look to for guidance. May I suggest that you pick your parents…they will guide you and help you to keep your focus.”

Greene also addressed one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the life of a young child – peer pressure.

“Today’s youth seem to be caught up with all the materialistic things in life,” he noted. “Well, you can’t take those things with you when you die. Don’t let materialistic things rule your life. Get an education and put God first. If you make yourself a better person then the world will be a better place. Get hooked on yourself and leave drugs alone.”

Several parents in attendance shared remarks after watching the children send such a powerful message through their performance. Some said they had been in “Smokey’s” shoes earlier in their lives.

“The street doesn’t care about you; it will eat you up and spit you out,” one parent said. “Remember that God is good; a quality education is good; have pride in yourself.”

“I like what I’m seeing here,” said another adult. “This is a place where young people can come together, encourage each other and be positive roles models to each other.”

Perhaps it’s that last comment that solidifies the motto of the District II Youth Council – “Building Character, One Youth, One Mind at the Time.”