Present in Spirit Summer Tea

Even in the midst of this heat and seeking cool comfort for ourselves, we should still think about helping others. This tea has no address, no scheduled time or date to keep. It takes place in the strong hearts of the women of the Tiara Tea Society. We are requesting a gift for our 2011 child, Ceniyah Dotson. Tiara Tea is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit Society and donations are 100% tax deductible. To make a donation, please see our donations page.

Photo by Jim Weber: Commerical Appeal

About Ceniyah

As you may recall, our 2011 Princess, Ceniyah Denae Dotson, was the youngest survivor (only a baby at the time) of the Lester Street massacre in 2008. Since then, Ceniyah has already become a beacon of hope and healing at the age of 3 years old. We ask for your continued support for Ceniyah for our “Present in Spirit” Summer Tea, so that Ceniyah can continue with her healing physically and most of all, emotionally, as she becomes more aware of the impact of her survival. As always, we thank you for continuing to celebrate the gifts of phenomenal women and the princess in all of us, through your support!

Judeline (left) & mother, Edeline happy to be together in their new home.

Judeline update: Judeline is back in school and her mother, Edeline is now working as a cook. In March, construction on their apartment was finished and they have a new home. Judeline walks and uses both hands without pain.
They visited the hospital where Judeline lay for 262 days as a patient and no one recognized her! Dr. Bruce and Mary Ann Minkin are in touch with her often. Bless you for making this possible!

Carol Prentiss, 2011 Grande Dame inductee

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2nd, 2011, Carol Prentiss will be inducted as Grande Dame of the Tiara Tea Society at a special tea in her honor. We will also be celebrating the conclusion of our 5th anniversary, so mark your calendars and we’ll plan to see you there!

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Youngest Lester Street victim gets playful physical therapy from Ballet Memphis class

By Barbara Bradley: Features reporter for The Commercial Appeal

Photo by Jim Weber: Ceniyah Dotson is placed in a pose by classmate Hannah Rogers during dance class at the Ballet Memphis studio.

The big studio with its towering windows at Ballet Memphis must have looked like a new world to Ceniyah Dotson, 3, who arrived for dance class Thursday in Cordova wearing her new pink ballet costume.

Ceniyah was smaller and younger than most of the girls, and the only one who had never studied dancing. But quietly, shyly, sweetly, she got a handle on it. Attentive to the two young teachers and fascinated by the other girls, she mimicked their movements, saying nothing until the students, engaged in a stretching game, were asked to wiggle their fingers down their legs as if they were bugs. “I hate bugs!” she offered.

Barely detectable under her tights was the cruel scar left after she was impaled with a knife at the age of 2 months by her uncle, Jessie Dotson, in the worst mass murder case in Memphis history.

Ceniyah is the youngest survivor of the notorious 2008 Lester Street murders in which Jessie Dotson shot and killed her parents, Cecil Dotson and Marissa Williams, shot and killed two other adults and stabbed and beat to death two of her brothers, then ages 4 and 2.

Her brother “CJ” Dotson, then 9, and Cedric Dotson, then 5, who survived the attack, were also viciously stabbed and all three survivors were beaten.

Photo by Jim Weber: Ceniyah Dotson, the youngest survivor of the 2008 Lester Street killings, gets excited about her class Thursday at Ballet Memphis in Cordova. The company scheduled the four-week course with Ceniyah in mind and is taking her on scholarship.

Ballet Memphis scheduled the special, four-week, summer mini-course with Ceniyah in mind and is taking her on scholarship. The idea is to give  her physical therapy in a way that will seem to her like play, said Eva Lynn Bishop, a founder of Tiara Tea Society of Memphis, which chooses one girl in dire need each year to assist. Her injured thigh needs strengthening. If she likes dancing, Tiara Tea will fund an additional 16 weeks of lessons, said Bishop.

Ceniyah and her brothers live with their maternal grandmother, Ida Anderson, and another   granddaughter, Alandra Adrine, 12, in Anderson’s home in Southwest  Memphis. Anderson turned her den into a bedroom for the boys, and Ceniyah shares her room. It’s cramped. “We have good days and stressful days,” she said.

Alandra is Ceniyah’s best friend, tends to her and takes her to the park. Ceniyah is a “girly-girl” who changes her clothes every time she spills a drop on them. At a recent visit to a dancewear store, she threw herself on the tutus, boas and other frilly things. But she also rough-houses with her brothers and dances with them to hip-hop music.

Her brothers are in summer school and making good grades, said Anderson. They will enter the 6th and 3rd grades in the fall. CJ loves computers and Cedric likes math. She hopes to interest them in swimming.

Ceniyah is still trailing glory from  Tiara Tea’s March 20 tea party in which she was crowned a princess. She wears her crown around the house. She shows everyone who visits the framed photo of herself from the party that appeared in the newspaper. She is already media-savvy and knows, when a camera appears, it is for her. She does not understand why.

Ceniyah is like her late mother, Marissa, in her love for music and dancing, said Anderson. Marissa  was a high-stepper majorette at 4 years old. When she was older, she joined her school’s marching band and learned to play three instruments. The family bought a piano for Ceniyah and individual women with Tiara Tea have offered her piano lessons as well as swimming lessons.

What Ceniyah is learning is not yet ballet, but more creative movement, said Janet Parke, Ballet Memphis School and Junior Company director. The children practice gross motor skills, simple concepts of movement, using their imaginations, working with props. Through ballet, dancers learn to express with their bodies feelings they can’t put into words, she said.

In one exercise, teachers Hannah Burton and Erika Holme paired the children and asked one to be the sculptor, physically changing the position of the other.

Ballet Memphis instructors Hannah Burton (center) and Erika Holme (second from right) teach the tiny dancers, including Ceniyah Dotson (second from left), to hold a pose. The class helps the children learn gross motor skills.

Here Ceniyah’s rough-housing paid off. While some girls were hesitant, she immediately took her partner’s head in her hands, gently tilted it to one side, and smiled. At the end of class, when the other students had left, Ceniyah raced back to the studio, coming out with a handful of colorful scarves she hoped to cart home. It didn’t work out. But the tiny dancer will almost certainly be back.

© 2011 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Little survivor: Tiara Tea Society celebrates youngest Lester Street victim at fundraiser

Ceniyah applauding her own coronation!

By Jody Callahan: Reporter for the Commercial Appeal

On Sunday afternoon, the ladies of the Tiara Tea Society honored the pretty young girl in the pink dress, who was wearing a pink bow in her hair and a pink bracelet circling her wrist. Ceniyah Dotson, now 3, stole the hearts of everyone in the Le Pavillon building in East Memphis.

“She is oblivious to what this is all about. That’s a wonderful thing,” said Circuit Court Judge Gina Higgins, who presented Ceniyah with her own tiara on Sunday.

She was just 2 months old when her uncle, Jessie Dotson, killed her parents, two brothers and two other people in what has become known as the Lester Street Massacre.

“She’s obviously a special child,” said Ray Lepone, who, along with fellow prosecutor Reggie Henderson, persuaded a jury to sentence Jessie Dotson to death. “She’s got such a great personality.”

The society, formed in 2006 to help at least one girl a year in dire need, hoped to raise at least $3,000 on Sunday to help with Ceniyah’s physical therapy as well as any work she may need with a child psychologist.

“We knew in our hearts it was the right thing,” said Eva Lynn Bishop, one of the society’s founders. “This is about helping a little child who’s trying to survive.”

Since she was so young when the attack happened, Ceniyah may never remember a thing about it.

At least, that was the fervent hope at Sunday’s tea party.

“Her older brothers, they can remember,” said her grandmother and guardian, Ida Anderson. “But she does not. This is a blessing.”

The women gathered Sunday watched her, fierce smiles on their faces, their protective instincts ignited. When one of the speakers mentioned what happened that day, Ceniyah’s aunt, Cassandra Adrine, kissed her softly on the cheek.

“She is oblivious to what this is all about. That’s a wonderful thing. She’s just a little girl,” said Circuit Court Judge Gina Higgins, who presented Ceniyah with her own tiara.

Sunday was all about celebrating the beautiful young girl who radiated such joy, even if she seemed slightly bewildered about the fuss everyone was making over her.

Clutching her teddy  bear, Ceniyah smiled every couple of minutes, a grin that quickly swallowed her face. Then she’d scrunch up her eyes just so, a happy finish to that beautiful smile.

A stranger waved, Ceniyah waved back. Then came that grin. She sat patiently in her seat, shimmying in happiness every couple of minutes. Her grandma gave her a sip of tea and a funny-looking piece of food. She gingerly tried both. Then another grin.

“She’s a happy 3-year-old who loves to sing and dance, watch TV and terrorize her brothers,” her grandmother said. “Ceniyah’s a survivor.”

Donation information

For more information on how to donate, visit the Tiara Tea Society, visit our donations page or call 901-210-3516.

© 2011 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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TTS interview on Fox News

Tea table setting at La Pavillion, hosting Ceniyah’s coronation

Coronation Tea for Ceniyah Dotson

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – This is a chance for high tea for a great cause and a chance to pull out your inner princess. Eva Lynn Bishop, president of the Tiara Tea Society, and Vicki Arnold, with Victoria’s Traveling Tea Parties join FOX13 with more on the ‘Tea’ for Ceniyah Dotson.

Coronation Tea for Ceniyah Dotson
Sunday, March 20th
1052 Brookfield Road

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Young Lester Street Massacre survivor is princess for a day

2011 Princess Ceniyah pictured with co-founder of TTS, Eva Lynn Bishop.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - By Lori Brown - bio |

The Tiara Tea Society offered its resources to Ceniyah Dotson, the only young girl to survive the Lester Street Massacre. “She is Princess Ceniyah the Eighth,” said Judge Gina Higgins of Shelby County Circuit Court. Ceniyah Dotson was just three months old when a jury said her uncle tried to kill her.  It happened in the worst mass murder in Memphis history. “She had a very wounded leg.  It’s very usable, but needs a whole lot of work,” said Tiara Tea Society President Eva Lynn Bishop.

“She’s doing good,” said her grandmother Ida Anderson.  “She loves to play, and she loves music.”

Ceniyah Dotson’s uncle, Jessie Dotson, was convicted of killing her mother, father and brother, along with three other adults and another child.  He also tried to kill her other brothers, ages five and nine at the time.

Anderson is now raising the three survivors.  She said three-year-old Ceniyah Dotson enjoys being a princess.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.  “These are her colors, she loves purple and pink.”

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder said Ceniyah can be an example to all.

“I see examples of courage every day in people who simply will not let their circumstances dictate who they are or who they will become,” said Holder.  “We need to look no farther than Ceniyah to know what courage is.”

The Tiara Tea Society reached out to Ceniyah Dotson’s attorneys a year ago, but they urged them to wait until after Jessie Dotson’s trial.

The society formed five years ago to help girls in dire need.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved


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2011 Princess, Ceniyah Dotson

Ceniyah in intensive care, recovering from her brutal attack

Our very special little girl this year is a native Memphian, Ceniyah Dotson.  Ceniyah was just a few months old when she was seriously wounded at the scene of a brutally violent crime in Memphis, in March of 2008.  The baby girl is now a three year old little lady. She loves to wear ruffles and clomp around the house in her grandmother’s high heels. Definitely a Tiara Tea lady! Our esteemed keynote speaker is Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, Janice Holder. The Honorable Mayor Wharton will crown Ceniyah personally. This event is a new and healing start for Ceniyah Dotson, her family and we hope, for the City of Memphis. We will be celebrating this amazing little survivor and raising funds for possible psychological therapy and rehab for a deeply scarred leg. Please join us in this beautiful and positive occasion and help us sponsor this child. As always, we thank you for continuing to celebrate the gifts of phenomenal women through your support!

Continued blessings,

-Eva Lynn Bishop

President & CEO of TTS

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