By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton County native Antione Mercer recently got his first part in a major motion picture, but it’s only one of many roles he’s played.
He grew up in Cheapside, raised by his grandmother, the Rev. Bertha Lloyd, who was an assistant pastor at St. Stephens AME Church in Cape Charles prior to her retirement.
He attended Northampton public schools, where he found much of the inspiration that still drives him today.
Gloria Johnson, who taught middle and high school civics, chaperoned a school trip to the Bahamas during Mercer’s ninth-grade year. It was his first trip outside the U.S., and it “inspired me a lot,” he said.
“To be able to do that and see the world was very impressive.”
Dianne Davis, who taught business and typing, helped Mercer develop his leadership skills through her role as an advisor for Future Business Leaders of America.
Sharon Bull, an English teacher and forensics coach, fostered Mercer’s “natural love of public speaking.”
He also loves accounting, which he attributes to accounting teacher Judy Stewart.
His teachers’ influence can be found in many chapters of his continuing life story.
Mercer graduated from Northampton High School in 1998 and won an American Legion scholarship. He attended George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va.
His college forensics teams placed fourth in an international competition.
Mercer graduated from George Mason University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in international politics.
Then he co-founded a church called Fresh Anointing that served the George Mason University campus. Mercer was ordained in 2005 and served the church a total of 13 years, primarily as a youth mentor.
He was answering a call to “give back to the community and minister to the heart and mind,” he said.
At college, before he changed his major to politics,Mercer studied accounting and worked part time as an accounting specialist, which helped him get his first full-time job – also in accounting – after graduation.
The job wasn’t related to his degree, but he treated it as an opportunity, not an obstacle. That led to a higher-paying accounting job with a major healthcare provider, in Richmond, Va.
Mercer has now worked in the healthcare sector for 15 years.
The next career step he wants to take is in healthcare management, helping people obtain access to care.
He models in his spare time, and since 2015, he has worked with Richmond designers like Phatz Williams.
While performing at a fashion show in Richmond, sponsored by a nonprofit to raise awareness about domestic violence, he learned that the movie “Harriet” – about former slave and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman – was being filmed in the city.
Mercer seized the opportunity to experience something new and submitted a photo and application for a chance to work on the film.
He received a callback and spent a day on the set. Mercer was awarded his first acting job, a small, non-speaking role. He can be identified in “Harriet” in a church scene, on the left, wearing a beige suit.
Mercer said it was an exciting experience and he would love to do it again.
His next adventure will be as a contestant in his first bodybuilding competition in May 2020, the Organization of Competitive Bodies, in Richmond.
Mercer has been working out regularly since 2015. He decided to compete in bodybuilding after his fitness coach, who is also a bodybuilder, encouraged him.
Mercer was not deterred by his already busy schedule. “You make time for the things you want,” he said. For him, that means working out several times a week at 4:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
His outlook and ambition are a reflection of his upbringing, he said. Mercer was surrounded by positive influences growing up, from his grandmother to his teachers.
As an adult, he maintains that positive energy by surrounding himself with “forward-thinking” people with a similar, “creative and innovative” drive.
“I never want to be labeled or put in a box,” Mercer said.
He has never forgotten his family. He continues to care for family members and they continue to build him up.
He maintains a multi-generational home in Sandston, Va., near Richmond, where he and his mother help each other caring for his grandmother, who is battling dementia.
He also regularly returns to the Eastern Shore to visit extended family, like his doting aunt, Senora Lewis, of Exmore.
She beamed as she listed her nephew’s accomplishments.
“Everything I do at church, he helps,” she added. Mercer will be a guest speaker at a Black History celebration Feb. 16 at Lewis’ home church, Ebenezer AME Church, in Capeville.
He isn’t embarrassed by the praise heaped upon him by his aunt; he welcomes it.
“I appreciate the love and support,” Mercer said. “It’s people like her that talk you up” and open more doors of opportunity for “exploring and trying different things.”
“It’s not about the year you were born or the year you die, it’s about the dash in the middle.”