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Hip-hop, fashion guru speaks in Morrow

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Derek Watkins, also known as Fonzworth Bentley, "The First Gentleman of Hip Hop," hosted a book signing, and spoke to the congregation at Traveler's Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Morrow on Sunday.

The umbrella-toting entertainer, who rose to fame being Sean "Diddy" Combs' personal assistant, chose not to speak about the rap game, but rather faith, style, and manners. He also promoted his new book, entitled, "Advance Your Swagger," which shows young adults how to use confidence and finesse to get ahead in social and career settings.

Watkins, a south Atlanta native and a graduate of Morehouse College, is currently the executive producer of an upcoming album with hip-hop icons Kanye West, André 3000, and Faith Evans. However, speaking to an audience of young and old, he said that many people have a misconception of the music industry and what it takes to get ahead.

"You can be stylish, but if you're rude, nobody's going to want to be around you," Watkins told the congregation. "If you don't know how to dress for the proper occasion you are not going to gain entry.

"There are a lot of very basic things that I just think are being missed," he said, explaining why he wrote the book. He defined "swagger" as a combination of "manners, confidence and style" and said that "to truly have swagger, you have to represent in all three."

In his book, Watkins uses pictures and step-by-step diagrams to show people how to conduct themselves at the dinner table, how to be a polite guest, how to tie a tie, or a bow tie, and how to move up in the work place.

"In Motown, you had to go to charm school and learn how to use the proper silverware, and eat at a white-tablecloth dining room, before you even left to go perform," said Watkins. "That's not being passed down. You can be a firm believer in God, a tither, extremely intelligent, and have all those book smarts, but there are still going to be some things that are going to keep you behind in life, if you don't know.

"This is universal, international business attire, so whether its your thing or not, it's important for you to know how to do that," he said.

Arthur L. Powell, the pastor of Traveler's Rest Missionary Baptist Church, said, while Watkins is the most well-known artist from the secular mainstream to speak at the church, he was impressed by Watkin's message.

"It is something that our young people needed to hear," said Powell. He said Watkins uses the word "swagger" to reach youths and "bring them back to the center, which is etiquette, manors, and right living. What that says to me is that, even though he is in the mainstream, he knows where his faith lies."

Lauren Jennings, a sixth-grader at Morrow Middle School and a member of the church, purchased the book a few weeks earlier and said it has been helpful.

"I think it's good for when you actually go out somewhere, so you can have tips on what to do and what not to do," said Jennings. "If you eat too fast or you stick a whole roll in your mouth, it looks bad."

"The book has changed the way my daughter and I have dinned," said Claire Jennings, an associate minister at the church. "It's an easy read, it's easy to implement and its positive. If we can teach our children how to have the same kind of confidence, then there is nothing they cannot do."