From Black Panther to James Bond, Kitchener prom send-offs a major tradition

Saudia Shuler promised that there would be action.

Last year, the North Kitchener mom made national headlines after losing $ 25,000 to a prom farewell. You may remember the camel she hired for the Dubai-themed bash that she threw for her son JJ Eden Jr.

Her panther, Queen, stayed in a cage and mostly quiet on a Wednesday night as hundreds of people in costume gathered on 22nd Street near Shuler’s soul food restaurant. Who would benefit from Shuler’s generosity this year? She’d made some sort of a casting call for the festival; She chose Dayanna McBride, a graduate of YesKitchener School in South Kitchener, to star on her show, which hit social media almost immediately.

Prom sendoffs are the party before the party. The basic requirement – an opportunity for relatives and friends of the family to disregard the prom-goers – goes way back. These days, however, especially in Kitchener’s black community, the prom can be a lot bigger than the prom itself.

Many families drove past the photo ops in the living room with trays with light bites on them. It’s common these days for black moms to order custom photo backgrounds and hire DJs and photographers. We saw a James Bond production where a happy couple traveled by helicopter. Who has to borrow mom and dad’s bikes when you can rent a Rolls?

Shuler’s pomp brand is on a whole different level. Their “Wakanda Comes to Kitchener” was certainly a farewell, but it was also a live show, a film shoot, a catering dinner and a block party.

One group of actors disguised as an all-female military guard from Black Panther’s mythical sub-Saharan nation while another group represented the Jabari tribe. Dance and drumming flowed through the event. There were broadcasts of the superhero blockbuster film, but also Coming to America.

Quian Brown, McBride’s date, came in after the actors pretended to be on the brink of battle. “I feel like that man,” Brown said later.

McBride’s final prom look (she had two dresses) was a gold custom Brittany DeShields dress with a train worn by Wakandan warriors. When she got to her Tesla, which had been hired for the night, McBride smiled happily.

What has changed? Instagram et al.

It’s social media that changed Sendoffs, say parents and prom pros. Videographer Brian Hill can’t understand why he’d get so many prom movie requests otherwise: “Everyone wants it so they can post it.”

Teens speak of a prom season as a time when they are constantly looking through their feeds. “Everyone looks so good,” said Jayla Garner, a graduate of Girls High School. “It’s kind of exciting, and then I get excited for myself, like ‘Oooh, I’m next.’ “”

The most opulent or poignant images of send-offs can reach the Shade Room, a black gossip shop with 13 million followers.

Bayeté Ross Smith, photographer and multimedia artist, pointed out that schools often prohibit teenagers from posing and gesturing while dancing or involving family members while the rules relax on submissions. “It is becoming that visual language to brand ourselves, especially in relation to the public person,” said Smith. At a time when likes and follows are status features, the black youth of this city present themselves. “What you see,” said Smith, “is a daily reclamation of our narrative by young people.”

A typical farewell goes like this: First, a hyped entrance to the music when the couple descends the stairs outside the house. Then portraits in front of an exotic photo backdrop. After all, there have been more photos of the car lately – foreign models more popular than stretch limousines. When children leave, their loved ones linger like a family reunion.

Marcus Anthony Hunter, a native of South Kitchener and a UCLA sociologist, said families would love to see these lavish events. “It’s still a city where you can call the police at Starbucks,” he said of Kitchener. “It’s still a place where people are displaced and dispossessed. But on this day we celebrate that ‘my baby looks so beautiful’.”

At Aajae Whitehead’s parting, she struck up her poses alongside her grinning friend Travoni Hunley. Aajae’s mother, Aqueelah Whitehead, had spent nearly $ 4,000 on the dress, shoes, makeup, hair, DJ, food, decorations and a photographer, among other things. After a school battle last year, Aajae ended up in a new school and social orbit. She had considered not going to prom at all.

Despite the transition, she finishes high school on time and goes to cooking school.

Myah Bush, Aajae’s godmother, was deeply proud and wanted to celebrate. Seeing the young people shine is like experiencing them vicariously, especially for elders who didn’t go to prom or graduate from high school.

FINAL BALL:Delaware Prom Photos 2018: The Students, the Fashion

Cinderella’s car and James Bond’s helicopter

For Shuler’s 24 charity evenings this spring, she paid for high-fashion and fancy receptions with the help of donors selected from her own network. She picked three of the teenagers for big productions: a Cinderella theme from the art museum with a horse-drawn carriage, a James Bond theme, and then the Wakanda affair.

She will not say how much it cost, nor will she disclose her donations. Nevertheless, she estimates that the total bill, taking into account the contributions of others, totaled six digits. Her Instagram account @ countrycookin1 has 154,000 followers.

Not all parents are wild. Angela Mapp, a West Kitchener lifestyle blogger and screen printer, sees no need for a budget for groceries or decorations. Before their son Ryan Middleton goes to the dance, they take photos with balloons.

“I think we black people get stereotypes of conspicuousness,” said Mapp, who would rather invest in school or in a trust fund. “I just feel like there are other ways to spend money.”

Her son said he just wanted a close family present for his farewell, but didn’t criticize the tire.

“Today,” he said, “it’s all about presentation.”

Middleton wore a royal blue suit with gold accents and sparkling gold loafers. He hoped he would look like the rapper Jidenna.

A pre-colonial tradition

Tanisha Ford, professor of African studies and history at the University of Delaware, said opulence could be traced back to pre-colonial traditions of self-adornment. Clothing was used as a means of resisting allegations of inferiority, added Shantrelle P. Lewis, a Germantown-based researcher, curator, and filmmaker.

In black communities, ideals of fashion can be sophisticated and expensive. For children who lack the resources to look fresh, disappointment can be overwhelming. Experts and professionals say that families are more willing to go for prom high fashion.

“On this prom day we’re coming to, our parents, uncles and aunts were saving money so we could live this dream, this fantasy,” said videographer Lawrence “J-Tech” Jones. When teenagers who have never driven an air-conditioned car sit in a Maserati, he wants to preserve this moment. “I want to take your vision of the prom to another level with the music and editing … it’s a keepsake.”

Joseph Richard Winters, a Duke University professor who studies black religious thought, has observed a common, morbid narrative about black life in America. Prom sendoffs tell a different story.

“Given the pressures, there is a moment of recovery,” said Winters. “These moments remind us that mourning and celebration do not have to be seen as opposites.” In the way funeral services create space for celebration in the black church, a farewell can reflect an emotional spectrum. “It’s not really forgetfulness of (loss), it’s an answer.”

Call Homeland Security

With every milestone from son Saajid, Sonya Barlow has tried to outdo herself. The moon bounces, stilt walkers, caterers, event planners and the DJ Diamond Kuts were on the spot recently at a farewell to Belmont Mansion. But Homeland Security wouldn’t allow a helicopter to land. So mom planned to have the first part of the show streamed live from a helipad.

He “never gave me a little trouble,” said Sonya Barlow, who owns a daycare, gift and party shop, and cleaning company.

She sees it as her duty to shower her son with such a show. She estimates she spent $ 50,000. “I have to reward him for the things I enjoy doing.”

Around 300 guests attended Saajid’s prom. It felt like a collective exhibition until Saajid and his date, Nydiyra Bryant Giles, arrived in a Rolls-Royce.

“My husband, immaculate,” said one viewer, pulling Saajid’s suit into himself.

From the swarm of bodies that had formed to gain entry, dozens of hands rose to capture the moment on their phones.

Sonya became a single mother after Saajid’s father was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 2. Saajid received weekly advice from his grandfather, Andre “Shakur” Harvey, who lived in Graterford for murder. Without his grandfather’s constant advice, Saajid conceded, drawing the road might have been too tempting.

The young presenter plans to leave Kitchener. He loves the city, but says he hates the attitude that “you have to be the street”. No matter which route he goes, once he is financially stable, Saajid plans to find his father and get him on a consistent treatment plan.

Harvey wrote about his pride in a letter. He told Sonya that they all share the success. “It’s a collective thing,” he told her. “Your mother, me, you, his other grandparents and everyone else who loves him and wants to see him do it.”

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