Driving over to the Celebration in Black Writing festival in Philly on Saturday, I noticed that a party was happening on the sidewalk in front of a apartment building. The host point out, driving down Diamond street in South Philly, that the festivities that we observed were a pre-prom party.
The scene was eclectic. Balloons, a barb-q-pit, aunties, and uncles, mommas, daddies and babies outside, in chairs and on a little snatch of a stoop.
For these pre-prom parties, high school seniors rent limos, wear fancy outfits and the entire block comes out to send them off. They take pictures together and everything.
Its an expensive affair that can range from, I would imagine, a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars when clothes, hair, photos, food and limos are taken into consideration.
The host when on to say that she is a teacher and thinks its a waste of money, because many of the students haven’t invested nearly as much money in college.
Of course the sociologist + anthropologist in me was fascinated.
As she was talking two things came to mind.
The first is that these prom send off parties can be read as a proxy for weddings.
When else can and do working class Black families get together, get dressed up, take pictures, cook and a few members ride in a limo.
The only time that comes close is at funerals maybe, and those times are somber and devastating. Prom parties are more upbeat and joyful, I would imagine.
Given the fact that most working class teens only have minimum wage work to look forward to (the majority of this country works in the service industry and our two largest employers are Walmart and the Government) and the fact that some of their friends get sent to prison and murdered (Philly had 305 murders in 2009 and 333 in 2008), it makes sense to me, from their perspective, to make a big deal out of the prom.
Have you been to or seen a pre-prom party?
Too much ballin? or A reasonable celebration given the conditions?