By Farrah Turenne
This Saturday, April 28, a formal High Tea will launch the Black American Princess (BAP) School of Charm, Chicagoland’s new 21st Century etiquette and finishing school for young ladies in grades 8-12.
The Inaugural High Tea is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Charles Hayes Center, located at 4859 South Wabash.
Guest speaker for this special event is Grammy Award-winning artist, Broadway actress, and the Land of Lincoln’s very own Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny’s Child. Mistress of Ceremony for the Tea will be The B.O.S.S. Network’s CEO & Founder, Cameka Smith.
The (BAP) School of Charm is an eight-week etiquette course that starts Saturday, May 5, 2012 and will conclude with a formal “charm” ceremony, officially presenting the graduating girls to social life.
BAP is the brainstorm of Syreeta Talbert, a financial specialist who also created the non-profit Urban Wellness Project, which produces the BAP School.
Talbert explains that she intends BAP “to “empower our young ladies to be poised, powerful, and productive. We want to build their self-confidence and self-esteem, and educate them on the point that the image they project is how people will accept and respect them. If their image projects an ‘I don’t care,’ then people won’t care how they treat them.”
The idea came alive, Syreeta says, when she was looking for a charm school for her 5′ 9″ niece, “since the noted Ms. Cleo’s Charm School closed after 50 years.”
Though she posted requests on Facebook, no one could recommend a new place. “But I received quite a few messages from people saying, ‘Syreeta, you should start a charm school yourself!’,” she recalls.
“I blew off the thought for a while, but after much prayer – and a convo with the Man upstairs – I accepted the calling and started putting thoughts on paper, and thus The Black American Princess School of Charm was born.”
“So, disappointed by the limited opportunities for young ladies of color in the Chicagoland area to find a fun way to learn and practice proper etiquette and learn about confidence, poise, grace and manners, the BAP School of Charm was created to provide a uniquely wonderful education experience.
Syreeta says she was also inspired to move on the idea because of one of her favorite quotes, by Tina Turner, which she believes young ladies need to hear: “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go, purge yourself . . . If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”
Talbert says the mission is: ”Embracing, Educating and Empowering young ladies of color with the rules of etiquette and social grace. We are taking them from Sass to Sophistication.
“The goal is to empower our young ladies to be poised, powerful and productive and to enhance their self-confidence to build a personal image that will mean success throughout their personal and professional lives. Our curriculum has been designed to inspire, empower and cultivate our young ladies.”
Talbert herself attended the Rose McGill Charm School in Harvey while growing up, and says she even took ballet classes “just to teach me posture.”
As for her own students, Syreeta says that “right now, we are working with young ladies in 8th through 12th grade. We want our classes to be a mix of young ladies from all different family, financial and educational backgrounds.
“Our goal is prepare the young ladies for the real world without feeling they are limited on what they can accomplish because of where they come from.”
By January of 2013, Talbert hopes to launch junior charm school classes for young girls in K-7th grade, as well as to obtain an additional location to go along with the original charm school at 74th and Euclid on the South Side.
“The BAP School of Charm will be held every Saturday for eight weeks between the hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Syreeta says. “And each course will conclude with a ‘Charming Ceremony’ in which the young ladies will be presented with a charm bracelet, with each charm symbolizing each week that she has learned something.”
(Note: The High Tea is only $20 and tickets may be purchased online at http://bapschoolofcharm.eventbrite.com/. For more information, call 773/451-5161.)
(More information can be found at www.BAPSchoolofCharm.com, and Talbert is asking the public to make a small contribution towards the organization by tweeting this event. #BAPChicago.)