They call him Mr. Majestic

Jeremy Williamson, one of the contestants, speaks during the "Mr. Majestic, A Scholarship and Recognition Affair," an event sponsored by the Gainesville chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.

Thirteen sharply dressed men strutted the right stuff as they competed for the title of Mr. Majestic — all for the purpose of raising scholarship funds — at the inaugural "Mr. Majestic, A Scholarship and Recognition Affair" sponsored by Gainesville chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

James Speer, principal at the Horizon Center, an Alachua County Public Schools alternative school for students in grades 6-12, was crowned Mr. Majestic at the event, which was held last Friday at Lincoln Middle School and attended by 200 residents.

Debra Fields, a member of the sorority and the event organizer, referred to the Mr. Majestic event as a cotillion-style presentation that included the contestants and their partners dancing the waltz.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout and the event," said Fields.

Christopher Chestnut, a Gainesville attorney who served as master of ceremony, recognized sorority members for their contributions in raising money for scholarships.

Sorority members Carmela Bright-Phillips and Katherine Hannah served as co-hosts. Bright-Phillips gave the occasion and provided a brief history of the sorority. "It's an honor to salute men in our community who are doing the right thing," said Bright-Phillips. Powerful spoken word presentations were delivered by Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, a University of Florida professor, and also Ambrose Cavender, a Gainesville poet.

During the event, Paul Thompson, a senior at Buchholz High School, was introduced as the first ever male recipient of a Zeta Phi Beta Sorority scholarship. Fields said Paul and other recipients will be awarded their scholarships at a luncheon in May.

Speer won the title by helping to raise the most money for scholarships through event sponsorship and ticket sales. Fields said each contestant was assisted in his fundraising effort by two sorority members, and during the ceremony, each of the contestants shared their "mission in life."

Speer said his mission in life is to be the best husband and father and to inspire others to do the same.

The other contestants were:

— Michael Bowie, a member of the executive board of the Alachua County branch NAACP, president of Black AIDS Services and Education, and director of recruitment, retention and multicultural affairs at the University of Florida, said his mission is to develop funding for educational activities for children in Alachua County.

— Blas Brown, business coordinator at Shands at the University of Florida, said his mission is to continue to work in health care. "I want to work my way up, where I can impact the quality of health care for our people," said Brown.

— Jamal Cheeseborough, firefighter for the city of Gainesville, said his mission is to recruit more men and women into the firefighting profession.

— Von Fraser, Alachua County tax collector, said his mission is not to sell homestead properties, especially mom- and pop-type properties.

— Charles Keel, a heavy equipment operator, said his mission is "to become a better person and get back to the church."

— Darry Lloyd, criminal investigator in the Office of State Attorney 8th Judicial Circuit, said his mission is to continue working with young people and to allow God to use him as a vessel to carry on good works.

— Minister Darrell Mobley, group manager of Herring Group Homes in Gainesville, said his mission is to share the love of Jesus Christ.

— Larry Pryor, quality assurance analyst at Nationwide Insurance, said his mission is to "pay it forward."

— Jamal Sowell, special assistant to University of Florida President Bernie Machen, said his mission is to ensure that black males have a future as role models and father figures in the home and that they will change the world for the best.

— Akeem Thompson, show director at Magic 101.3, said his mission is encourage black males. "Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do."

— Byran Williams, pastor of Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in High Springs, said his mission is to preach the gospel and live the gospel.

— Jeremy Williamson, resident life coordinator at the University of Florida, said his mission is to inspire others to service and leadership.

"Behold these men within our community," said Hilliard-Nunn during her presentation. "Strong and gentle, precious because of the blood that makes you African and black."

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