A mixed-race group of students at Wilcox County High School in south Georgia received worldwide attention earlier this year when they raised money to throw the area's first racially integrated prom after the school refused to fund the event. (Yes, in 2013.) Although it seems that few white kids deigned to dance at the prom, the night still had monumentous implications for the school and even the state's future.
"Part of living in the South is you don't see too many white and black kids getting together after school to go out and have fun," Wilcox County High School junior Kameon Peavy told Buzzfeed before attending the first-ever racially integrated prom. "You don't see blacks and whites at each other's houses too often."
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like too many white kinds wanted to come to the nationally publicized prom, either. Buzzfeed reported that the few education leaders that attended were black; "white teachers and administrators are nowhere to be found." There were only a "handful" of interracial couples that showed up (and were swarmed by media) out of around 50 couples and more than 100 friends, family, and administrators in attendance. That said, at least those interracial couples were given the opportunity to attend prom together as they damn well should.
But the pressure the school received to fund the prom wasn't in vain: the school recently (and very quietly) announced on its website that it'll host a sponsored prom in 2014. Will that decision end racism? Of course not, but that's still huge. And the controversy blew up all the way to the Governor's office:
The discussion surrounding the integrated prom soon devolved into political turmoil among state officials and pundits. Better Georgia, a progressive advocacy group, stirred the pot by calling on elected officials to use their positions of power to advocate for change. Some conservative officials initially rebuked the group, but it ultimately backfired after Gov. Nathan Deal's spokesman told a local television reporter via email that the "leftist" group had pulled a "silly publicity stunt." Some opponents interpreted the comments as the governor actually condoning segregated proms.
"We saw a complete lack of leadership over the state for the time he's been governor," Better Georgia executive director Bryan Long said. "How he's managed this issue is symbolic of how he's managed the state, just hoping the issue will take care of itself and somebody else will deal with the problem."
Last year, Harriet Hollis, who runs the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education's racial healing program, asked African-American students from Wilcox County High School to imagine what utopia would look like. They brought up the segregated proms. "I feel great being a part of history," Peavy said. What a night to remember.
Image via Instagram.