Earlier this month, TakePart reported on the efforts of a group of high school students in Georgia to raise funds to hold their county’s first multiracial prom—otherwise known as regular prom in the rest of the country.
Last night, those kids got their wish at Wilcox County's first-ever "Integrated Prom," where students of all races were welcome. By all accounts, it was a remarkably successful event.
According to local crews, the entrance to the dance was so swarmed with news cameras, it resembled something closer to a Hollywood red carpet event, rather than a high school dance. Students made their way in front of reporters, stopping for pictures, while throngs of parents cheered them on and held back tears.
Quanesha Wallace, one of the students responsible for organizing the event, told one news reporter, “It turned out really well. I didn’t even know this many people were coming. I didn’t even know this many tickets were being sold.”
Wilcox County, GA, has had a segregated prom system since the school was racially integrated just several decades ago. The school's dances have always been privately funded and held away from school grounds, allowing for the segregation to continue without any legal consequence.
But this year, a group of students at Wilcox County High School decided it had had enough, with one teen in particular, Keela Bloodworth, explaining to WSFA, “It’s embarrassing to know that I’m from the county that still does this.”
That’s when Bloodworth, Wallace, and a goup of their friends decided to raise funds on their own to hold an integrated prom. While their initial thoughts were of local bake sales and car washes, those became unnecessary once online news sites got ahold of their story. Just two days after that story broke, those students reached their funding goal, according to their Facebook page. Then they quickly surpassed it.
Since then, they’ve continued to collect donations from supporters across the country, with the excess money going towards their own college scholarships, as well as to funds for two unidentified local families, each of which have recently “suffered a major loss.”
In the weeks leading up to the dance, the students reported some community backlash, mostly in the form of their fliers getting ripped down and disappearing.
And though several of Georgia’s lawmakers publicly championed the students’ efforts, Georgia’s own governor, Nathan Deal, initially refused to comment on the events because he didn't "want to take sides," according to a statement released by his spokesperson.
Nonetheless, after several weeks of mounting public pressure, Deal did release a carefully worded statement, which concluded with, “I think that people understand that some of these are just local issues and private issues, and not something that the state government needs to have its finger involved in.” And that may explain why segregation is alive and well in Georgia.
While their governor seemed content to sit this one out, these very determined high school students took it upon themselves to effect change in their county, one that will hopefully be recognized for generations to come. In the meantime, if these are the kids who are representative of our future, we might be okay.
What would be your response if you found out that your county held segregated proms? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com.