Debutante Ball gone bad in Alexandria, Louisiana

I was extremely sad to open my newspaper to see a story about a debutante ball gone bad.

I was so hoping that I would not have to hear about such in Central Louisiana. Yet, I recalled that this kind of debacle happens all of the time when it comes to Cotillions and Beautillions.

It never fails. When money is the determining factor of who becomes queen of the ball, there’s always going to be problems, which leads to hurt feelings and anger among family and friends. To make matters worst, these feelings can last a lifetime.

The latest upheaval regarding a debutante ball involves the Ebony Elite Civic and Social Club Inc., a nonprofit social organization whose mission is to “promote character, development, poise, scholarship, self-esteem, confidence, self-respect, and respect to others and the desire to help others among the general citizenry of the City of Alexandria and its members,” according to the legal records involved in the case.

19 years, the organization has been working its mission through the annual debutante cotillion in which “it invites and encourages young women who are seniors in high school to raise money for Ebony Elite, some of which will be given back to the participants by the club as part of the debutante cotillion; in fact, these young ladies are encouraged to raise as much money as possible for the club.”

The above quote was taken from the civil lawsuit, “Jaleesha Rundell and Janet Rundell vs. Ebony Elite Civic and Social Club Inc.” The lawsuit was filed March 5, 2007, following the 18th annual Debutante Cotillion that was held Feb. 17, 2007.

What happened? What went wrong? Why the need for a civil lawsuit?
Well, apparently the mother-daughter team, Janet and Jaleesha Rundell, claimed the social organization broke the rules by naming Tekedra Martin queen when Martin didn’t raise the most money. The Rundells believed Jaleesha should have been named queen because she raised the most money. Thus you have one heck of a mess surrounding an event that is supposed to be a defining, life-changing event in a young woman’s life.

In the organization’s defense, the organization admits “participants are encouraged to raise money for the Debutante Cotillion, but denies that it is the sole criteria for participation in the Cotillion or being awarded the honor of serving as queen.

Personally, I have no idea what it takes to be the queen of this Debutante
Ball. However, I would venture to say that money may not have been the sole criteria, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that money plays a big part of capturing the title.

The social organization also claims in its response to the civil lawsuit that Janet, who was the group’s treasurer, also worked at the same bank where the club’s money was deposited. The organization asked Janet to move the money to another bank in order to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing. Janet allegedly did not do so.

The organization also claimed that Janet had access to the area in which the tallying was done “although forbidden to do so; . . . and used her position as treasurer in order to procure an unjust advantage for her daughter.”

Those are tall allegations that I’m praying are not true. If they are, shame, shame, shame on all parties for not having the necessary safeguards in place. I believe that Janet should have been removed as treasurer for the entire year that her daughter was an active debutante participant. It was not smart for her to continue in that role. Maybe, some of these allegations could have been avoided altogether.

How do we move beyond this black eye and continue the rich tradition of “coming out” balls for our young women?

Cotillions and Beautillions are beautiful if they work in favor of the participants and not the organizations’ coffers. I know that for many social organizations, these functions are major fundraisers for which the money is used to offer great community services.

Just in case it matters to someone, here’s my suggestion about any and all debutante balls and such: Get rid of naming the queen of the ball. Make every girl the queen of the ball.
Since every girl is raising money, why not give each girl a percentage of what they bring in to the organization. That way each girl will walk away with something. That way, the competition goes away and girls and their leaders can focus on making sure the girls have the necessary skills needed to maneuver in an ever-changing world.

It is all about the girls, isn’t it?
Got a comment about what I had to say or what I didn’t say, go to leave your comments.

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