Update: Student Denied Prom, Allowed to Graduate
UPDATE, May 25 6:14 p.m.: Taiylar Ball and her lawyer, Rahsaan Gordon, confirmed to EBONY.com that she’ll be allowed to walk in her high school’s graduation ceremony. Read her interview with JETMag.com here.
Even though a Homewood Flossmoor High School senior was banned from prom over the lyrics to a spoken word piece, sitting at home alone was not an option for Taiylar Ball on Saturday evening.
The 18-year-old still participated in at least part of what has become the norm, an elaborate send-off party with three other couples. After posing for photos along the professional backdrop and the mini-red-carpet outside, she got into the limo and headed to the festivities, which were held downtown at the Field Museum of Natural History.
JETmag.com joined Ball for the evening, talking to friends and family about the academically impressive young lady who has a full ride scholarship to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where she will enter in the fall as a biology/pre-med student.
The National Honor Society member was accepted into 11 colleges and universities in total and received more than $1 million in scholarships.
Yet, she wasn’t accepted at her school’s annual rite of passage.
“Prom is like a Cinderella thing,” the Chicago area student said. “You think about it when you’re young, you wait for it and for it to be taken away from you, it’s very hurtful, especially from your school who you love so much.”
Ball was banned from her prom she said because of her language choice in her “Dear Black Girls” poem. She had performed it at her school’s talent show.
Her words, which included the term n*gga,” were meant to “empower the Black race” and “combat stereotypes that people have about Black people,” Ball explained. Here is a snippet of the actual poem below.
“My complexion is beautiful you see, look at me…You will never understand how it feels to walk this earth as a Black woman…You only feeling me when my chocolate skin is shining with coconut oil flexing with tits out on Twitter…Dear Black girls your mind is filled with self hate, and emotion but let me tell you brown girl, you are one of a kind…love yourself cus they don’t…there is power in your melanin…Dear Black man, brothers, n***a? Kim K wearing you like an accessory, be conscious black man…”
In this video (below) of her performance the crowd goes wild, clapping and shouting at the end. Ball said she was asked to leave school and was told she couldn’t attend prom or walk for graduation.
Classmates, including Malik Edwards, 18, don’t agree with the harsh punishment for using a word that he says is “highly acceptable among the majority.”
Blacks make up over 66% of the student demographics according to data from the 2014-2015 Illinois Report Card.
“It was riveting,” said friend Anthony Davis, “Especially in a day and age where young Black women feel that they are less than and that is perpetuated time and time again.”
Close friend Blaire Brown said she was upset her friend couldn’t join her.
“I feel like she’s done too much for her to be punished for something as petty as using the n-word in her spoken word,” she said. “She didn’t use it to discourage anybody or put anyone down. It was very uplifting.”
Ball said the message seemed to reach everyone but her principal. Classmates said they loved it, but Principal Ryan M. Pitcock wasn’t feeling the the Black empowerment piece.
Ball refused to give up and continued pleading with Pitcock up until the day of prom. She said her dress alone cost $1,000, and that’s not including hair, shoes and accessories.
Here’s the email correspondence shared with JETmag.com:
The principal declined an interview with JETMag.com’s correspondent.
Despite the hard “no” on the principal’s end, Ball still showed up with her friends and took photos on the museum’s steps. When she confronted Pitcock at the event, he told her she couldn’t come in, but they can discuss graduation on Monday.
Ball, after the encounter, said she still had fun and didn’t expect to take as many photos as she did with her friends.
JETmag.com family, what do you think of this student’s poem and punishment?
Andrea V. Watson is a reporter for DNA Info Chicago. Here is how to reach this Windy City-based correspondent and see more of her work.