Quanesha Wallace, far left, who was this year's Wilcox County High School homecoming queen in Rochelle, Ga., but was barred from attending the white homecoming party, helped organize an "Integrated prom" this year with longtime friends.
Fed up with an annual tradition of segregated proms, a group of students in a small Georgia town are hosting their own prom this year -- and it will be integrated.
In Georgia, proms are organized by private groups, like parents, and not by the school. But since Wilcox County is the last county in Georgia where dances are still segregated by race, WMAZ-TV reported, that has meant separate proms for black and white students.
That has made for some awkward, stinging moments over the years. In 2012, a biracial student was turned away from a white dance.
This year Wilcox County High School in Abbeville finally allowed an integrated homecoming court, but the winner, Quanesha Wallace, wasn't permitted to attend the "white" homecoming party because she's black.
"Hearing from other students that I couldn't, they didn't want me to go, it kind of saddened my heart a little," Wallace tells WMAZ reporter Tom George.
But it also stiffened her spine.
"I felt like there had to be a change," she said. "For me to be a black person and the king to be a white person, I felt like why can't we come together."
For the organizers of the integrated prom, the idea seemed only natural.
"We're basically siblings," said Keela Bloodworth. "We've spent more time together than anyone else."
They have started a Facebook page and gotten encouragement from as far away at Paris and South Korea.
Their Facebook message: "We live in rural south Georgia, where not too many things change. Well, as a group of adamant high school seniors, we want to make a difference in our community. For the first time in the history of our county, we plan to have an integrated prom."
They have made fliers, booked the DJ and rented the Crisp County Community Clubhouse in Cordele, Ga., for April 27.
So far, they say half of the white students in their grade have already signed on to go to their prom instead of the white only prom.
But their bid to bridge the race divide has not been without tension.
"I put up posters for the "Integrated Prom" and we've had people ripping them down at the school," said Keela.
But,she said, the students know they have to stick together because for many, the tradition of segregated lives is strong.
"They think nothing's broken so don't fix it," Kella said.
Rochelle City Councilman Wayne McGuinty told WSAV-TV that the traditional segregated prom is not an accurate representation of his community.
"I think it's more of the personal opinions of those involved," McGuinty said. "I don't think there is an effort made to keep black kids out of the white prom and to keep white kids out of the black prom."
The school, meanwhile, responded by emphasizing on its website that the school does not host any prom.
The statement also said it was aware that a group had approached the county school board to discuss the integrated prom.
"The Board and Superintendent not only applauded the idea, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and non-discriminatory," the school said.
"We support the efforts of these ladies, and we praise their efforts to bring our students together," the statement said,noting that principal Chad Davis and his team will discuss a 2014 prom at their next meeting.
"Instead of attacking our school system, its employees, and our community, we ask for your support and prayers," the school added.
Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY