Georgia high school seniors fight racial segregation with first integrated prom
Members of Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, amid some opposition, are raising funds for the integrated prom.
By Shelley Ng / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Students at one Georgia high school are still fighting racial segregation.
A group of black and white teens at Wilcox County High School in Rochelle have banded together to organize the school’s first-ever integrated prom almost 60 years after the landmark court case “Brown vs. Board of Education” declared separate was inherently unequal.
Even though they share the same classroom, historically, there have been two separate proms and homecoming — one for whites and one for blacks.
“We’re embarrassed, it’s embarrassing, yeah it’s kind of embarrassing,” a group of four high school seniors, who are part of the team organizing integrated prom, told WGXA-TV.
The teens, Stephanie Sinnot and Keela Bloodworth, who are white, and Mareshia Rucker and Quanesha Wallace, who are black, said they have been friends since the fourth grade and want go to prom together, a quintessential end-of-senior-year event.
“We are all friends,” said Sinnot. “That’s just kind of not right that we can’t go to prom together.”
This year, there will still be two proms - one white and one integrated.
Wilcox County High School does not actually sponsor either dance, and the event relies on private donations, fundraising efforts and organization from parents and students. Because the event is privately funded and not held in the high school, organizers can choose who enters the dance.
“I think it’s more of the personal opinions of those involved,” Rochelle City Councilman Wayne McGuinty told WGXA-TV. “I don’t think there is an effort made to keep black kids out of the white prom and to keep white kids out of the black prom.”
McGuinty said when he was a student, there were three dances, a black prom and two white proms because students could not agree if they wanted a live band or a disc jockey.
But Bloodworth said if a black person attempted to walk into the white prom, organizers “would probably have the police come out there and escort them off the premises.” Just last year, a biracial student was turned away from the white prom, according to WGXA-TV.
There are hints of change.
Last year, instead of electing two homecoming kings and queens, the school decided to elect one. But there still two separate homecoming dances.
Wallace was elected homecoming queen.
“I felt like there had to be a change,” Wallace told WGXA-TV. “For me to be a black person and the king to be a white person, I felt like why can’t we come together?”
Even though she was homecoming queen, Wallace was not invited to the white dance.
Wallace and her friends are cooking up creative ways to fundraise for their integrated prom, like selling barbecue chicken dinners for $7.
So far, the seniors, who have 400 students in their class, have sold 50 tickets and raised $1,000 for the dance since fundraising started in January. But those numbers are likely to skyrocket, as a Facebook page they set up on Wednesday, which also includes a link for donations, has already garnered more than 4,000 likes.
“I just donated!” said user Meaghan Curran on the page. “You all are so lovely and I hope that you have the best prom! Prom should be a time when everyone can come together and have fun!
The comments on the page have largely been positive, and words of encouragement have come from as far away as Australia and Japan. Their cause caught the attention of the WK Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Healing Initiative, who donated T-shirts to the students, according to WALB-TV.
It’s still an uphill fight even among the student population, as posters for the integrated prom have been torn down from walls.
“I put up posters for the integrated prom, and we’ve had people ripping them down at the school,” said Bloodworth.
But seniors supporting the integrated prom are undeterred.
Rucker told WALB-TV she would like the actions of the Class of 2013 to serve as a precedent for future graduating classes and inspire change at the school.
“Hopefully, it rubs off,” Rucker said. “I feel like they will carry it on and keep doing the same thing so that we won’t fall back in the ways we were previously.”
The News’ calls to Wilcox County High School and the integrated prom organizers had not been answered yet Thursday. But a school board member told WGXA-TV he wants the school to stay clear of prom for liability reasons.
Another report from the station stated the school offered to host an integrated prom, but would allow private segregated proms to continue.
The integrated prom will be held on April 27 at the Cordele Community Clubhouse.
For more information and to support the integrated prom, you can “like” the Facebook page, where there is also an option to donate to the cause.