Mareshia believes that the school system should step up and throw an official integrated prom, something the system is considering doing for the first time next year. “In my opinion, because they are adults, I don’t feel I should be having to do this,” says Mareshia, although she says she doesn’t mind organizing the dance.
The state’s governor, Nathan Deal, was asked by a group called Better Georgia to speak out in favor of the integrated prom, as some Republican and Democratic state officials have done. But Deal, a Republican, had his spokesman, Brian Robinson, issue an email response saying, “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.” In other words, the governor would not entertain what some members of his own party support.
Mareshia, who loves to cook and has been accepted into the Art Institute of Atlanta with a major in baking and pastry, was able to put her cooking skills to use as the students did a series of plate sales to raise money for the prom. “I did the chicken and baked beans this Saturday. Last time I did the potato salad, too.”
But the money didn’t go the prom. In a heartwarming twist, yesterday the student organizers announced that the money from their plate sales — $900 in total — would be split between the families of two local students whose homes burned down.
The students are bringing the spirit of generosity not only to community members in need but also to the prom itself. There’s no admission fee for seniors, and guests who are not in the senior class have to pay only $10. The students chose not to have a celebrity guest because they wanted to have an intimate night. Their theme: a Parisian masquerade.
So what is Mareshia going to wear? “I haven’t even thought about dresses until last week,” she says. “I was so busy getting everything where it needed to be. I was trying to get everything in place. I was trying to make sure everything is perfect.” And then she laughs. “My mom was like, ‘Calm down. It’s not that serious.’ “
Mareshia credits not only her mother, Toni, but adviser Harriet Hollis of the Southwest Georgia Project for Racial Healing and of course her co-organizers with helping to plan the event. It’s been a positive experience so far, but she is not sure how much it will change the overall climate.
“As far as our county goes, the reality is, racism runs really deep,” she says. “I do think it will make a difference as far as prom goes. I’m not sure about other things.”
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.