This, speaking frankly, would be an amazing opportunity for an artist to get well-deserved press for putting their voice where their mouth is — that is, for singing or performing in support of the multiracial audiences the performer no doubt already has. Who could play the integrated prom? I will defer to the organizers on their taste … I’ve reached out to them, but so far we’ve been playing email tag.
In the meantime, The Root would love to hear from you about who you’d like to see play at the prom and what you’d like to see others do. Use the hashtag #PlayIntegratedProm to show off your ideas. For example, you might Tweet, “I wish @Questlove would #PlayIntegratedProm in Wilcox County” or, “We need a musician to #PlayIntegratedProm; I can donate some swag for gift bags.” (Wouldn’t it be great if some of the people who advertise to teens also plumped up gift bags for the attendees?)
In an era where battles over racial equality tend to focus on joblessness, education and incarceration, is it trivial to support a prom? I’d argue absolutely not. This segregated prom is a terrible hangover from a bygone era. Ending the tradition of segregated dances and homecoming courts is a piece of long-overdue housekeeping for America.
School officials didn’t see fit to squash this problem by hosting an integrated prom sooner. They say they’ll try to plan one for 2014. Now they’re whimpering under media coverage, asking people, “Instead of attacking our school system, its employees and our community, we ask for your support and prayers.” And those parents who fund the segregated prom, who are teaching their children that white privilege is not only acceptable but also fun — well, they’re ill preparing their children to live in an integrated world.
I think of all the teens, people like Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who put their lives on the line during the civil rights movement. Now we have another group of teens transforming race in America — partying for their rights. Isn’t it time to support them? Now, who will #PlayIntegratedProm?
Farai Chideya is a distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Institute for Journalism. She is the author of four books and blogs at farai.com.