Wilcox County High School’s first integrated prom

Moderated by Rick Badie

Wilcox County High School will hold its first integrated prom Saturday. A group of bold seniors decided the time was right to merge separate black and white dances. Today, a Wilcox County businessman clears up what he says are inaccuracies around the issue, while the senior pastor of a landmark black church challenges Gov. Nathan Deal’s comments on the matter. Deal’s spokesman declined to submit an essay on the topic.

Governor, follow students’ example

By The Rev. Raphael Warnock

As they plan their very first integrated prom in the history of their rural Georgia County, the students of Wilcox County High School exemplify broad moral vision, strong leadership and real courage. The highest elected official of our great state, Gov. Nathan Deal, should follow their lead and finally offer a clear statement of support in word and deed for their initiative. So far, he has not.

When asked several weeks ago whether he would join other elected officials in the state who have voiced their support for an integrated prom, Deal made the questioner, rather than the obvious issue, the issue. Saying the governor had no comment, his spokesman lashed out, focusing more on politics than principle: “This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic Party, and we’re not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt.”

Then, late last week, Deal released a statement conceding the wrongheadedness of school-related events “based on race or gender or any other separation,” but seemed to want to have it both ways politically as he went on to say, “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.”

So, when dismissing the issue altogether as one stirred up by what defenders of segregation used to call “outside agitators” did not fly, the governor sought to confine it as a “local,” perhaps even a “private,” issue which, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, would surely be resolved if government and its duly elected leadership stayed out of it.

Deal needs to stop the unhelpful and unnecessary political dance and challenge outright rather than run cowardly away from the lingering ghosts of the South’s ugly racial past. Unlike many issues that confront us today, this one is very clear. Segregation is wrong, and proms masquerading as “private parties” should be a thing of the past.

Not long ago, I hosted Gov. Deal at Ebenezer Baptist Church as he stood in our sanctuary, signing into law a state commission charged with organizing the ways in which we would honor Ebenezer’s famous pastor and Georgia’s greatest son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The signer of this historic legislation should ask himself, “What would Dr. King do?” King said that “silence is betrayal” and, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Does Gov. Deal want to stand in the moral legacy of King, or the Southern governors whom King had to confront? As the state’s leader, Deal should use his influence to champion the moral message of the children of Wilcox County as they teach a good lesson on the values of equality and inclusion. To do less provides a poor lesson for the rest of Georgia’s schoolchildren and casts a poor shadow over the state’s national and international image, suggesting that it has actually not learned much nor launched very far from its segregationist past.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The truth about Wilcox County

By Wayne McQuinty

Yes, it’s true. Wilcox County has two proms. Now that we have established that, fact let’s clear up some of the other “facts” that have been reported in various media outlets:

Wilcox County does not have, and has never had, two separate homecoming courts. Immediately after integration we, like many other counties, did have a black and a white queen, but that ended nearly 20 years ago.

No student has ever been forcibly removed by law enforcement from any Wilcox County prom. Most proms are not even held in our county due to lack of an adequate facility.

Students of African-American and Hispanic heritage have attended both proms in the past, and no student was denied the opportunity to purchase a ticket to either prom this year.

The posters for the integrated prom that were “ripped down” at the high school were taken down by a school employee because they were put up without permission. No prom has been allowed to put up posters at school because prom is a party, not a school function.

The truth is, Wilcox County has traditionally had two proms by choice — not coercion, personal preference, and not pressure. There has not been any attempt to block or prevent students from holding an integrated prom and, in fact, the community has supported both proms in the past by participating in student fundraisers. We’re certainly not perfect in Wilcox County, but we’re not as different from anyplace else as we have been portrayed in the media.

The Wilcox County integrated prom will be held in Crisp County this Saturday night in the middle of what will most likely be a media circus. There will be an event held in Wilcox County on Friday night that won’t have television cameras from Fox news, CNN or WSB. No reporters from the Toronto Star, New York Times or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be there.

This event will be held quietly by Wilcox County citizens, young and old, black and white, to combat a very real threat that has touched nearly every family in our county. The citizens of Wilcox County will gather at the recreation department once again for the annual Relay for Life to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. Those who have conquered cancer will be recognized, those currently fighting cancer will be prayed for, and those who lost their battle to this dreaded disease will be remembered.

There will be hugs, prayers, conversation and lots of homemade food. This coming event, my fellow citizens of this great country of ours, is a true snapshot of Wilcox County, Georgia.

Wayne McGuinty is a Wilcox County businessman and City Council member in Rochelle, Ga.

19 comments Add your comment

Bernie

April 25th, 2013
5:41 pm

Tom@1:06 pm – In the South nothing changes much, even social political related tactics. In the 1950’s-1960’s it was ALWAYS! The outside Agitators! The Troublemakers! Who were the root of the community consternation and disruption as a result of exposing behavior, considered less than. Ironically, the concerns have always erupted from their own racist policies being inflicted on other members of the community is the true reason. This time it was (4) Four students (2) two white (2) Black, who requested a change in how a school Prom is scheduled.

The thinking is and remains, if it were not for them outsiders coming in and telling the world just How cruel, mean and hateful we are to the people of color, then things would just be Fine! We would NOT have All of these RACE problems and concerns, they were sure NEVER EXISTED! Or at least pretended so, on purpose. During the old days, it was the College students with SNCC getting Blacks registered to Vote. NAACP, Dr. KING and his associates,and Freedom Riders and so on.

As Good ole Boy Tom has graciously informed us, of who the current culprit is NOW! Today, its a not too well Know group named “BETTER GEORGIA”. Who could be possibly Be against a Better Georgia?

In Tom’s World and the many Residents of Wilcox County, the problem is never one of their own creations. Never the actions or causation of the collective group and their supporters. The Problem and blame is always caused by someone or some group outside of their own community. Someone with purposeful intent to cause trouble, disruption and disharmony within the community at Large.

Sadly, these Proud People will become angry in their self righteous indignation and resolve their actions as God Given right to Act and Do as they please. They will go to church on Sunday, Pray and praise GOD like you would not Believe. As if, He only sees their good and never their weaknesses and abhorrent behavior toward their fellow Man.

The Silence of Governor Deal gives tacit approval to those who continue to plant the seeds of Hate and divisiveness in that community. Just as many previous Governors of Georgia before him reacted with purposeful and intentional Silence.

I Pray this weekend, this matter does not result in an act of Terror to be inflicted upon these Kids who have longed desired a change. The Real possibility of such an Act should never be dismissed or neglected to consider. The residents of Wilcox County community, feel like a cornered animal and is willing to strike out at those who challenge their social norms out of Fear and confusion. We must always remember this is the South and old customs do not change without a fight.

America must not turn away its Head and eyes in embarrassment. But to look and inquire as well as keep the sunlight of Truth shining upon the actions of communities like Wilcox County, where ever they are found across this Great Nation.

Tom

April 25th, 2013
1:06 pm

Deal and his office were right about one thing……”Better” Georgia is definitely a shill group for the Dems.

Bernie

April 25th, 2013
12:33 pm

We need ask of ourselves seriously. Why would any Major Corporation, Space related entity, Medical research Firm, Financial related,Technology Related, Computer Related business or any other major Company would want to invest in Atlanta or Georgia for that matter.

When such BACKWARDS, Backwater NONSENSE is Occurring within an a couple of Hours Drive from a supposedly forward thinking and progressive Major Southern Metropolitan Community like Atlanta! Especially when its top LEADER The Governor is unable to stand UP and say Unequivocally such Behavior is unacceptable and Must change.

I would seriously give a second thought of consideration, and with great deliberative hesitancy Questioning ” Is this really the kind of Community I am investing MY Dollars in? What kind of example am I setting for my own Family and Children, Friends, Family, Employees, Customers, Future Customers, Investors, as well as Future Investors, going Forward?

This is 2013! For goodness SAKE!

What else is that I do NOT KNOW, about this Community and their CULTURE?

Maybe, We should delay our decision and give this Matter a second Look!

Mavis Beacon Teaches English

April 25th, 2013
12:30 pm

RE: “Gov. Deal your a true Coward and living in 1956 Georgia.” (sic) – RexDogma @ 11:55 AM

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RexDogma,

Since you don’t even know how to use the word “your” (or presumably) “you’re” correctly, should we assume you never stayed in high school long enough to have a prom?

RexDogma

April 25th, 2013
11:55 am

About time to have 1 prom. Is this really 2013 and we are having this discussion? Gov. Deal your a true Coward and living in 1956 Georgia.

Bernie

April 25th, 2013
11:46 am

MANGLER@11:07 am – Words Spoken like a TRUE RACISTS and SEGREGATIONIST in Georgia 2013! Is there No END to this MADNESS?

MANGLER

April 25th, 2013
11:07 am

Well yes, the students aren’t walking around with their heads up their own arses like the parents and the folk who just want to let things stay the way they are because change is hard. Some traditions are nice to hold onto, and some are not.

Bernie

April 25th, 2013
11:01 am

MANGLER@10:09 am – We have Heard Loud and Clear from Four of The Students…ALL of the others Are TOO SKERRED!

MANGLER

April 25th, 2013
10:09 am

So one poster talks about how that’s just the way it is, and the other poster diverts to talk about something completely different where black and white people will be standing around together because that will make their little County look better. Meanwhile we don’t hear from anyone at the school, a parent, a student, or apparently the Governor.