Magical night for senior citizens at Shelby County's first senior prom

On June 3, over 400 senior citizens from Soulsville and beyond gathered at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music for an evening of live music, dancing, food and drinks at the county's first Senior Prom sponsored by the Shelby County government and hosted by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

Themed “A Soulful Night to Remember," the prom was free and open to all Shelby County residents age sixty and up.

“Our seniors told me that they want to have a good time, dance, and socialize so we put together this event,” said Mayor Harris, who stayed for most of the evening to mingle with guests.

“There are other communities which hold similar events, and we figured why not our community?," he continued. "There are a lot of folks who are interested in socializing. Having a safe environment, being in the neighborhood, enjoying each other’s company, listening to music, the sounds of their childhood.”

Attendees dressed for the occasion and were presented with roses as they strutted down a red carpet and packed the museum's main hall, which was decorated with grand balloon arches and “Prom 2019" spelled out in glimmering silver balloons.

Inside, guests enjoyed refreshments provided by D. Arthur’s Catering.and danced and sang along to The Garry Goins Band, which played renditions of popular tunes from the guests' high school days. When the the main hall reached capacity, performances in an adjacent room by The Kenny Lackey Show and DudeCalledRob kept the party going.

Soulsville residents Clarence Christian, 74, and Everlena Yarborough, 74, were crowned King and Queen and presented with sashes and crowns by Mayor Harris and District 8 Shelby County Commissioner Mickell Lowery. 

Prom goers packed the Stax Museum's main hall to dance and listen to music by The Garry Goins Band. (Baris Gursakal)

“This event is important because it gave us an opportunity to meet our mayor in person and see his vision for how he’ll improve the county and our lives,” said 71-year-old Barbara Cooper, a lifelong Shelby County resident who was accompanied to prom by her husband John, also 71.

“Plus, we don’t get to go out too often, especially at night, and we’re having a ball,” she added.

It's also important because the number of seniors in Memphis is growing, as is the number of seniors living in poverty, and free public events like Senior Prom are opportunities to socialize with minimal expense. 

The event was supported by the Aging Commission of the Mid-South, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the Plough Foundation, T-Star Limousines, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Holiday Flowers, Kaptivating Moments Photo Booth, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Shelby County Support Services and Mayor’s office volunteers.

Allison Person Hair Care and volunteers from Empire Beauty School donated time to style hair and apply makeup for residents of the Goodwill Homes Senior Center before the prom.

“This is the first time that this event has been hosted by our government, and as you can see it has exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Commissioner Lowery. “We are looking forward to continuing with a bigger venue in years to come.”
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Baris Gursakal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an Istanbul native who grew up in Memphis, and has an interest in public policy and social justice issues.