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Talented Teens, A Big Deal

When I was coming up, Hal Jackson's Talented Teens® Contest was a big deal. In New York, we heard about it on WBLS and WLIB, African-American owned-and-operated radio stations. We knew young women who participated in the contest. They were honing their skills, getting their hair done, among other things; they were elated, and so were most of those surrounding them. Why? Because to be in such a contest was -- and still is -- a big deal.

So you will better understand, let me offer a little background. Harold Baron Jackson, born in 1915, founded Hal Jackson Talented Teens, a competition that promotes Culture and Education through the Performing Arts. Now in his nineties, I'm happy to report: Mr. Jackson is yet going strong. A disk jockey/radio personality, he is a true African-American pioneer, one who demolished color barriers in American radio broadcasting. Born in Charleston South Carolina, he grew up in Washington DC, where he attended historically black Howard University. Mr. Jackson even broadcasted Negro League baseball games! Among the multitude of legendary things he's done, he also hosted an interview program showcasing jazz, blues, and celebrity conversations. This was heard nightly, by four million listeners. Actually, I still love to listen to Mr. Jackson online. He yet hosts Sunday Classics on WBLS radio each Sunday with his wife and another host. It’s sexy and informative radio at its best.

But back to Mr. Jackson and the creation of the Talented Teen scholarship Competition; he did so because parents asked. They suggested he use his expertise and contacts to create a forum whereby minority young women would be able to display their talents, because at the time, such an assembly did not exist. Now, young women of color can enter a forum that promotes diversity, offers training, musical programs, and educational as well as travel opportunities.

Back in 1971 in Atlanta Georgia, the competition was called 'Miss Black Teenage America.' Now known worldwide as Hal Jackson's Talented Teens International [HJTTI] this contest, a big deal, awards scholarships to young ladies aged 13 to 17, to assist with college education. The contest, a big deal, places emphasis on diversity, and is open to all ethnic groups. This competition aids youngsters to develop not only their artistic talents, but also their leadership skills. I love that it helps build self-esteem and self-confidence by encouraging youngsters, and by exposing them to many different aspects of the performing arts.

Hal Jackson's Talented Teens International® Talent Contest is a big deal too, because it is not a beauty pageant, although the contestants are lovely to look at. However, the contest is so much more. Its main focus is not the superficial, the way someone looks. Those who participate are enrolled in training sessions. They are critiqued on demonstrations of academic intelligence, talent, and stage presence. Corporate sponsors include Hal Jackson Productions, Seton Hall University, William Paterson University, and American Airlines, to name a few. Contest winners receive monetary prizes in categories such as: Highest GPA [Grade Point Average], Personality, Creativity, and Congeniality.

Ethnic Beauties, this competition whose home base is New York City, has been held at the prestigious Madison Square Garden, the Famed Shubert Theatre, the Waldorf Astoria, the Apollo Theatre, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It has been held in Jamaica, West Indies, St. Thomas, and in the Bahamas. During its 40 year existence, The Talented Teens Competition has awarded over a million dollars -- $1,500,000 -- in scholarships and prizes to participants. One past winner is Vanessa Williams. Scores of celebrities also get involved; Alicia Keys, Bill Cosby, LL Cool J, and Stevie Wonder are just four whose names readily come to mind.

If you are, or have, a female talented teen; why not look further into this contest? If you'd like to volunteer or become a sponsor, you too should check it out. As I’ve said, this competition builds self-esteem, and leadership skills, among other highly sought after qualities. In short, Hal Jackson's Talented Teens really are...a big deal!

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