HOUSTON – Students enrolled in Lamar Consolidated ISD expressed disappointment Wednesday over plans to host senior prom at a well-known former plantation.
“You’re asking us to dance on our ancestors’ graves and that could very well make people angry,” said Zenobia Wiley, a senior at George Ranch High School in Richmond.
The school is less than two miles from The George Ranch Historical Park, a 20,000-acre facility “divided into four time periods (the 1830s, 1860s, 1890s and 1930s) and features historic home tours, costumed interpreters, hands-on activities, cattle working and blacksmithing,” according to the facility’s website.
The site, described as a living historical preservation of Texas heritage, is a partnership of the Fort Bend History Association and The George Foundation.
During its history, the location served as a plantation, and its owner’s owned slaves.
“A plantation is a plantation. A slave is a slave, and both are wrong and both shouldn’t really be celebrated,” said Bethany Hoskins, a senior at George Ranch High School.
Students said their principal made the announcement in a weekly newsletter emailed to parents and students.
Lamar Consolidated ISD said the plan is to host prom for each of the district’s five high schools at the location in an outdoor covered area.
“This will allow our students and staff to be socially distanced, outdoors and protected from potential rain showers,” said Lindsey Sanders, LCISD’s community relations director in a statement to KPRC 2.
Sanders continued, “we are looking forward to providing all of our seniors with an official school prom after COVID-19 prevented this event last spring.”
However, hosting the prom at the former plantation does not sit well with some students, who allege the district is not taking into consideration the wellbeing of Black students and other students of color.
“Many black students feel nobody cares about our feelings, especially the climate that we’re in,” said Hoskins.
“We’re all familiar with what the place is and what it represents,” added Kaylia Awon, a senior at George Ranch High School.
Awoh, Wiley, and Hoskins said once they learned about the plan they tried to seek direction from teachers and administrators but no one responded.
Students have created a petition calling for the district to reconsider. Over 700 signatures had been secured by Wednesday.
Still, the students said some teachers and students feared retaliation by the administration if they signed.
”Today, we spoke to one of our Black teachers and she told us that she wanted to sign the petition that we created but there will be repercussions if they did so,” Wiley said.
The George Ranch Historical Park’s website doesn’t shy away from the site’s past as a former plantation. It mentions several former slaves who lived on the land, under the control of a slaveholder, but students feel the full truth about the past isn’t being properly shared.
Prom, they contend, exacerbates that point.
“This is not the time, anymore, to continue romanticizing white-washed history,” Wiley said.
While LCISD’s statement to KPRC 2 confirmed the location, it did not address students’ concerns.
“George Ranch Historical Park is an educational place and there’s no denying that and it’s learning about the history there. It’s no place for a celebration or a prom,” Hoskins said.
Here is the full statement released by Lama Consolidated ISD:
Due to COVID-19 considerations, the District is holding all 2021 proms at the George Ranch Historical Park’s outdoor covered arena.
This will allow our students and staff to be socially distanced, outdoors and protected from potential rain showers.
Many school districts in the Greater Houston area annually visit The George Ranch Historical Park, which provides field trips and learning opportunities for students.
We are looking forward to providing all of our seniors with an official school prom after COVID-19 prevented this event last spring.