Can schools change communities? Is it their responsibility to do so?
One High School in Charleston, Mississippi may have begun to change the community by agreeing to hold their first ever interracial prom on school grounds as NPR reported on Thursday.
As it turned out, it was not due to the activism of the school's administrators that this historic event was able to take place. Rather, it took a Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman and actor Morgan Freeman to initiate the process.
Charleston High School was able to turn a blind eye to the issue of segregated proms by letting parents take over the organization of separate proms and hold them off school grounds. Many parents believed it was in line with "tradition" to have segregated proms.
So the tradition lived on until this year when filmmaker Saltzman heard about the issue. He found out that Morgan Freeman had offered to pay for an integrated prom at Charleston High School back in 1997 and that this offer was refused. Saltzman contacted Morgan Freeman this year and they both went to the school board and the senior class with an offer to pay for the event and capture it on film in a documentary Prom Night in Mississippi.
Salzman explains that some white parents could not get past history and did not allow their children to attend the integrated prom.
But the school has agreed to fund the integrated prom for next year so that it was the students that prevailed and made the integrated prom the new school "tradition". As student Chasidy Buckley proclaimed in a sound bite about the successful event:
"We proved ourselves wrong, we proved the community wrong because they didn't think this was going to happen."
In the end, it was the students, the school and the community working together that made this change possible. But could the school have played a larger role in being a catalyst for change? Is it not their responsibility as an institution to open the doors for change and leave the ghosts of the past behind?
Original article, Photos and Audio interviews