Last month, black and white students from a tiny south Georgia county attended prom together for first time. Was this a big step away from the past or a small aberration in a community doomed to repeat it? SOURCE
Jakeivus Peterson and Alexis Miller attracting a little attention at the Wilcox County High School prom in Cordele, Georgia, April 27, 2013.
Pineview is a ghost town. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and one gas station remains open along a two-lane thoroughfare meandering through the surrounding South Georgia farmlands. The 500-person town’s tiny café and pharmacy closed hours ago. Numerous buildings have been painted with vibrant murals to cover their derelict interiors throughout its four city blocks. Along with Abbeville, Pitts, and Rochelle, this is one of four towns that comprise Wilcox County, population 9,000, two and a half hours south of Atlanta.
Wilcox County High School junior Kameon Peavy lives a short walk away on S Land Line Road, where family and friends are preparing for tonight’s prom. The rural town is the only home Peavy has ever known. He describes growing up there with a single word: “boring.”
The soft-spoken linebacker lays out his attire and sheepishly grins while he shares the story about how he landed the nickname “Fat Nasty” that’s sewn in cursive stitching onto the front of his blue and yellow letterman jacket. It started years ago when his classmates playfully teased him about his weight; he’s lean these days, but the nickname sticks. The NFL draft is on in the background as Peavy slowly prepares his outfit, all black, which includes a feathered bowler hat and a wooden cane. The exceptions are the elegant white dots on his obsidian bow tie that he struggles to get around his neck.
He looks sharp with a fresh haircut and clean shave, and like most 17-year-olds, he isn’t entirely sure how his formalwear works. He stares intently at his garb, which includes a fitted suit vest and straight-laced dress shoes. And he’s still tussling with that bow tie.
“Stop breathing,” Sheba Nelson says as she attempts to get the band around his neck. Nelson, a family friend, has driven nearly 100 miles south from Milledgeville, Georgia, with her daughter Victoria Epps, who is Peavy’s date.
With only a few hours to go, Peavy seems nervous and excited. The opulent pageantries of a prom can have that effect on almost any teenager. But there’s a little added pressure tonight: This is the first time Wilcox County High School students will attend a racially integrated prom.
“Part of living in the South is you don’t see too many white and black kids getting together after school to go out and have fun,” says Peavy. “You don’t see blacks and whites at each other’s houses too often.”
Peavy and Epps stand together outside the house as friends, family, and neighbors admire their outfits. They pose for dozens of photos before heading off to the prom. Epps kicks her red high heels up in the air as her escort stands tall, letting the top hat and cane do the talking. He checks his phone for the time and realizes it’s time leave. While everyone looks at their photos, he glances up and smiles.
“I feel great being a part of history.” READ MORE