I have said it before, but for argument’s sake, I will say it again: We do not give young people enough credit. They are so often the ones among us able to show love, acceptance and upstanding moral character in the face of injustice on a much higher level than the adults who are supposed to be teaching right from wrong. Proof that America’s youth represent a great deal of the good in the world popped up in south Georgia this past weekend, when Wilcox County High School students attended their first integrated prom; all thanks to four seniors who challenged modern day segregation.
Yes, you read that right. It has been nearly six decades since the Supreme Court ruled that separate was not, in fact, equal; apparently, not everyone got the message. The integration of races was not necessarily a notion accepted by all at the time of the ruling, but we have evolved as a people since then, for the most part realizing the error of our ways. Many argue that inequality and racism still plague our society in various ways and they would probably be right; it is hard to boast a differing opinion after hearing that actual segregation is still being taught and accepted. Until four teenagers took matters into their own hands, separate but not equal was still a way of life for the small southern county thrust into the spotlight. Until this year, 59 years after our leaders declared that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal, WCHS students attended two separate proms; one for white students and one for black students.
In recent months, the school board was approached by the president of the Georgia chapter of the NAACP about the way the school dance was being handled, inquiring about a more inclusive solution. It was clear that integration was not a top priority as their attempt at a solve was to survey the students over the coming months in hopes of brainstorming a school sponsored solution for the following year. While it seems the administrators were apathetic, four senior members of the student body refused to stand by and wait for the school to right the wrong, sit idly by and forfeit their opportunity to experience this teenage right of passage with their best friends. And so, the campaign for WCHS integrated senior prom began.
The now famous foursome of friends – Stephanie Sinnot, Mareshia Rucker, Quanesha Wallace and Keela Bloodworth – had a simple motivation to put an end to the segregation of this much anticipated event: Sinnot and Bloodworth are white while Rucker and Wallace are black. If they wanted the chance to go to the prom together, they would have to find a way to host their own integrated event. Like all good social pioneers of today, the girls started by creating the “Integrated Prom” Facebook page. The mission was simple: to raise funds to support the dance they dreamed of and ultimately, make a difference in their community. The popularity of the cause and the account quickly skyrocketed, culminating in nearly 29,000 “likes” and a successfully integrated senior prom; a night that will, no doubt, become the highlight of many classmate’s high school careers.
One prom attendee raved about the night saying, “This was amazing, this has been completely surreal. I am content and happy.”
It was reported that an equal number of black and white students signed up for the WCHS integrated senior prom. There was no negative backlash among the students, nor did anyone openly decide not to attend prom due to the integration. In fact, the prom pioneers have received thanks and admiration from younger members of the student body, recognizing them for the impact that they have made on the school and community. When asked what their favorite part of prom night was, both Wallace and Rucker were quick to state it was the unity circle and toast during which all the students came together, danced and took time to reminisce. It would seem as if love, acceptance and sincere appreciation were the result of the integration that was previously being prohibited.
A classmate of the friends, while summing up what everyone has been thinking, was quoted as saying, “Everybody goes to school together, sits together at lunch, now we’re at prom together. This is south Georgia, it’s not something you see everyday. It’s about time people start recognizing.”
Thanks to the conviction of four best friends, the school board has reportedly put it on their agenda to discuss holding a school sponsored event of the same nature next year. Sinnot, Rucker, Wallace and Bloodworth have proven that standing up for what you believe in, for what you know is right even when it isn’t what is being taught, can cause social change. They have shown us that enough love and conviction can drive out even the most unfathomable and outdated notions. They are forcing people to recognize.
Ladies, I hope you had the time of your lives at your integrated prom, a well deserved celebration for standing up for what you believe in. As students, you taught a valuable lesson to thousands of people across the nation, including the educators in your hometown. Love has no color and love always wins in the end.
Feature Image via Integrated Prom