Winner has a message for youth; Dawn Moss: Miss Black 0) USA 1996 is a college student, class president, athlete, businesswoman and radio talk-show host.
A lightness of being lofts Dawn Moss into the coffee shop, where a roaring cappuccino gizmo and booming stereo don't mess with her tranquil air.
In February, Ms. Moss, a Baltimore resident, bested 27 other contestants to became Miss Black USA 1996 at the seventh annual scholarship pageant in Washington.
This, of course, is a great thing, and will provide her the cash needed to finish school at Morgan State University, where she enrolled on a basketball scholarship at 18. But don't assume the victory is the high point of Ms. Moss's young life.
Class president, field hockey and basketball whiz, prom queen, inner-city businesswoman, radio talk-show host, beauty queen: Ms. Moss has entered and gained insight into many, often opposing social realms.
With her crown comes the opportunity to do what she has long felt called to do: speak to African-American youth about the things her elders never told her. Things that could help in an unstable, uncertain world.
"I always wanted a platform, to speak and teach people the right questions to ask," she says.
Growing up in New Jersey, sheltered by family and church, Ms. Moss never got accustomed to obeying orders with no explanations. "No one ever said why you do [the things you are asked to do] in church. You do your work; no one says why. They said, 'Don't do drugs,' but no one said why."
Ms. Moss wants to tell kids why they shouldn't do drugs or participate in other harmful activities. She may not have all the answers to all their questions, but she does have unwavering advice for those who may feel trapped in urban poverty, crime and despair.
"The only thing that is concrete is choosing whether you want to live or die," she says more than once in that noisy coffee shop. Ms. Moss wants to help youth choose life.
Pub Date: 4/28/96
When Cathy Drinkwater Better was a 10-year-old in Timonium, her parents would drop her off in the book section at the Hutzler's in Towson while they shopped. One day, she found a best-seller written by a 14-year-old girl.
She vowed to do the same. Oh, well, better late than never.
At 44, Ms. Better has her first book in print -- "Don't Hit Your Brother With Your Mouth Full," a collection of humor columns -- and is about to publish a book of Japanese poetry. And while best-sellerdom has yet to happen, Ms. Better has managed to be true to the writing dreams she had as a child.
She also has a pretty good track record for getting published, two-for-two so far. When she decided to compile her columns, most of which appeared in Baltimore-area weeklies, she turned to the A's in her "Writer's Market" and found Acme Press in Westminster. Her manuscript went out; a contract came back.
For her poetry book, she targeted Los Hombres Press in San Diego, Calif., and received another contract in return.
A free-lance writer for 10 years, Ms. Better also works for the Maryland Classified Employees Association as a writer and communications specialist. She continues to write her column, now seen in the Mount Airy News and the Sykesville News. Her three children -- Josh, 23, Zeb, 18, and Heather, 14 -- have been generous in providing material over the years. And Josh has just made her a grandmother.
"I feel like I'm doing something I've always wanted to do," she says. "I consider myself a poet first and foremost. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a stand-up comic. I guess I do that in the
columns, without having to get up on a stage."