Portia Cantrell, left, and her wife, T’Anya Carter at last years prom. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
Organizers invite Tyler teen couple denied a chance to attend their HS prom to Silver Pride
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
School officials at John Tyler High School in Tyler denied Merary Melchor and Sydney Aparicio prom tickets four times. Each time they had a different reason — the “best” of those reasons being that they didn’t want gang fights.
Because Melchor and Aparicio belong to the gay gang?
When Dallas Silver Pride organizer Portia Cantrell heard the story of the high school girls, who’ve been dating for two years but couldn’t attend their prom, it reminded her of her own high school experience.
Cantrell said a friend of hers showed her the story from a Tyler TV station, suggesting to Cantrell, “Why don’t you invite them to our prom?” (Silver Pride is holding a senior prom for older folks on May 19 at the Erik Jonsson Library in downtown Dallas.)
So Cantrell decided to try to track down the Tyler couple. She contacted the Tyler television station reporter who broke the story, who then put Cantrell in touch with the mother of one of the girls. The girls’ mothers thought it was a great idea, so the girls will be in Dallas over the weekend, along with their moms.
“We’re going to help them have their dream prom,” Cantrell said.
Singer Ari Kornell and DJ Ruben will perform at the prom. State Rep. Rafael Anchia had hoped to attend to crown the king and queen, but he has a wedding to attend that night. So he’ll crown the prom royalty by video.
The prom takes place on the newly-renovated seventh floor of the Ohara Hall and Ballroom at the J. Erik Jonsson Library. The floor is home to items such as an original copy of the Declaration of Independence — one of about 25 surviving copies printed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 — and Shakespeare’s First Folio — one of 250 surviving copies of the bard’s complete works printed in 1623 after his death.
In addition to the entertainment and the collection of historical documents, there’s the view. Doors from the ballroom open to the balcony that overlooks Dallas City Hall.
Singles are welcome, and so are couples and groups.
“Dress up, dress down, dress drag, just come,” Cantrell said.
“Senior isolation is a big thing,” Cantrell said, explaining why she started the Senior Prom a year ago and why she’s planned several weekly activities for Silver Pride.
Currently, she’s working on arranging a library to host coffee and convo.
“That’s where we sit for an hour and just talk over coffee and donuts,” she said. “We’ll talk about news or about our aches and pains.”
She was about to launch some activities at the Samuell Grand Recreation Center, but said the staff needs to have some training first. The parks department has more contact with seniors than any other city department, and they get no LGBT competency training.
She said she wouldn’t be comfortable bringing her group to the center before they’ve had some training but loves the facility. She plans movie screenings and using its gourmet kitchen for cooking demonstrations and nice meals.
“As we get older, our income decreases,” she said. “I’d like to provide an occasional nice meal.”
Silver Pride also regularly visits two assisted living communities. That started when Cantrell met two women who have been together for 45 years and now pretend to be sisters in order to live together safely.
“We don’t want to out people,” Cantrell said. But her group hosts “gay bingo” with prizes that always include rainbows.
The games are for anyone who would like to attend and Cantrell tells them she and her friends are gay.
“Everyone wins a prize,” she said. “And the activity directors love it, but sometimes we get looks.”
But Cantrell remains undeterred.
“I’m gonna change your mind,” she said.
She said all of these activities give her a reason to get up and get out.
As word of Silver Pride gets out in the community, other organizations are turning to Cantrell for help. Job Corps of North Texas approached her to start a mentoring program for their young LGBT clients.
“Kind of like the sage and wise grandparents motivating the young whippersnappers and showing them if we can make it after all we’ve been through in our lives, they can too,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell said she retired six years ago because of an injury at work. But now she’s at the age when she would have retired without the injury. So as she thinks about how she’d like to spend her older years, she said it’s with the community she loves doing activities people enjoy doing and that’s keeping her busier than ever.
Silver Pride Senior Prom takes place from 7-10 p.m. at J. Erik Jonsson Library, 1515 Young St. Tickets are $12 and free to anyone who can’t afford or is over 70 years old.