Zenobia Wiley

The thought of prom once brought feelings of excitement; now, it’s nothing but disappointment.

Plantation Prom? LCISD, Do Better

LCISD has announced that they'd be using George Ranch Historical Park, the former plantation, as our prom location. Unacceptable.

February 26, 2021

Lamar Consolidated Independent School District is up there on the list of most diverse schools in Texas. In fact, the majority of students in the district are minorities; they occupy around 73% of the district, with the largest demographics being Hispanic (42.9%) and Black (19.8%) (The Texas Tribune).

“I’ve never heard of anyone wanting to do events at former concentration camps, so why is it so normalized to hold events at a plantation?”

With this in mind, you can understand the uproar from students, and Black students in particular, when it was revealed that prom for the five high schools in the district would be held at George Ranch Historical Park, a former plantation.

“This year, the common LCISD plan is to have “Prom in the Park.” The event is being planned at the George Ranch Historical Park – an outdoor covered arena that will provide the opportunity for students to spread out and socially distance,” George Ranch principal Heather Patterson stated in an email sent to staff, students, and parents on Sunday, April 7.

My immediate and loud proclamation of disdain for the decision has garnered a few different types of responses.

Some students who are angry haven’t spoken publicly about it but have continued to support me in private, some students are mad I’m speaking out at all, and some teachers are concerned about sharing their opinion, as one told me yesterday.

“Considering the social climate of our country over the past year, having prom at a former plantation is insensitive. It’s understandable that COVID is a factor in decisions made but anything would be better than a plantation,” said Eniayo Osilaja, a Black senior at Foster High School.

And she’s certainly correct.

These were still slaves, George Ranch was still a plantation, and there’s no such thing as a good plantation.

Now, I am certainly aware that American slavery was a long time ago, as well as the fact that after the Emancipation Proclamation, the newly freed slaves in Fort Bend County had a smoother transition than most in America.

However, these were still slaves, George Ranch was still a plantation, and there’s no such thing as a good plantation.

“I think that LCISD’s choice to have prom on a slave plantation is highly insensitive. Given this day and age, it should be a no-brainer to not have made it as the location,” said Hailey Heredia, a Hispanic student at Lamar Consolidated High School.

What horrors do people think, if they even bother to consider, slaves went through pre-Emancipation Proclamation? The ones that don’t make it into the history books or on the websites.

What would my ancestors think of me celebrating on the same grounds where they were likely beaten, raped, hanged, and more?

“It’s tone deaf considering we’re in a critical period of society where we stop romanticizing white-washed history and finally uplift Black voices and their continued struggle,” said Xyla Abella, a Filipino senior at George Ranch High School.

I’d like to state that I don’t think LCISD’s motive was to be offensive at all.

However, I find it hard to believe that no one who was in the room when this decision was made knew that this location holds great, negative significance.

I reached out to Mrs. Joy Williams, the President of the LCISD Board of Trustees, for enlightenment on the process that led to this decision, but she hasn’t answered in time for publication.

I recently found out that many elementary schools throughout ISDs in the Houston/suburb areas take a field trip to George Ranch Historical Park to learn about the history and understand what happened there. Even a teacher I spoke to said she had to visit as a second-grader.

The majority of the students in this area have been here since elementary, so people should be aware of the history of George Ranch.

“It’s almost as if they don’t care about the history behind it. How could you expect any student of color, especially Black students, to enjoy what should be one of the most memorable high school experiences in a location that signifies that kind of narrative? They knew exactly what they were doing,” said Taniyah Smith, a Black senior at Terry High School.

COVID is already bad enough, to the point where the criteria for prom to occur included an outdoor space, no outside food or drinks, and social distancing. Choosing this location is just yet another slap in the face.

“I believe that prom should be canceled altogether, just because no one could ever be too safe. LCISD locating prom on a historically well-known slave plantation does not make it any better,” said Chantz (last name omitted by request), a Hispanic student at Lamar Consolidated High School.

2020 was meant to be a year of enlightenment, change, and understanding. So much effort was put in, specifically with the Black Lives Matter Movement, to educate people on the complexities of the way Black people must view society because our experience is much different.

Now here we are in 2021, and Black students are being asked to dance on their ancestors’ graves.

It’s as if all the efforts to surpass a dark past were useless. Disappointing, but certainly not surprising.

Now, the goal here is not to condemn LCISD’s decision without offering solutions.

Obviously, the first would be to choose a different location.

“It’s almost as if they don’t care about the history behind it.”

My friends and I have sat and researched possible locations in an attempt to see just how difficult it would be to do so. We came up with several solutions in under ten minutes, proving it’s very much possible to not have a plantation for our location.

I’m very much aware that the George family owned the majority of this land. While it isn’t ideal in a perfect world, this isn’t a perfect world. The issue is not about buildings that have been built on plantation land, it is the fact that we’re being asked to be at the heart of it all.

The home itself, the surrounding buildings before the miles of fields—they’re the embodiment of slavery.

Therefore, even outside of formal venues, other possibilities exist. What’s stopping us from using Legacy, Traylor Stadium, or even renting a park? Summer Creek High School is having their prom at Minute Maid Park. With the right decorations, beautiful prom locations can be created.

It almost felt as if LCISD didn’t even care to look hard enough.

The second option?

Cancel prom.

While the least desirable option, it’s technically the safest and significantly reasonable. With so many restrictions, prom is nowhere near the same anyways. Further, it’s unlikely that social distancing and masks can be properly enforced, leading to the possibility of a COVID outbreak.

The actual prom location is only half the fun anyways—I’d argue that the main purpose of it is to show off outfits and find out Prom King and Queen.

It’s an unfortunate, but justifiable, decision.

I will admit the likelihood of having the location changed, or prom canceled, isn’t necessarily my main focus. I’ve accepted the fact that if LCISD can make this decision, they can stick by it.

However, I need them to know that this is not an agreeable decision.

I’ve heard comments such as “then just don’t go” and “at least you’re getting a prom, this isn’t worth it.”

Well, guess what? Maybe I, and many other Black students, have been looking forward to prom for our entire high school career.

Maybe I’m tired of compromising.

Black people are tired of compromising.

People of color are tired of compromising.

“I’ve never heard of anyone wanting to do events at former concentration camps, so why is it so normalized to hold events at a plantation?” said Chubby Uchenna-Mgbame, a Black senior at George Ranch High School.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


If you'd like to support the protest of this decision, you can sign the petition here.

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