ELMORE CITY, OK — Students from Payson High School gathered in large numbers at Elmore City’s Town Hall on Friday to protest injustices in the black community and challenge the city’s long time prohibition on dancing.
The peaceful protest joins a string of student led activism that has swept the nation in the wake of recent current events.
Protest leader Ren McCormack says almost all students agree something must be done. “Our black community may be small, but we can’t sit still and let a disproportionate amount of police brutality occur,” he said. “And we want to dance.”
According to the 2020 census, Elmor City’s population includes three African Americans, but students say if just one black resident is mistreated, that’s one too many. The small town of 703 has not logged any reports of police brutality since it’s founding in 1895.
Students filled the meeting center and demanded time to address town leaders. At the suggestion of McCormack’s girlfriend, the high school senior chose to direct his speech at Councilman Shaw Moore, who is considered by many to be the town’s most influential politician. Moore is also reverend of Elmore City’s only church.
“We are here to say loudly and proudly that black lives matter,” McCormack opened with. “And also to say that we want to dance.”
McCormack used bible references to get his point across. “Aren’t we told in Psalm 149, ‘Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song. Let them praise His name in the dance,'” McCormack asked the board. “Ecclesiastes assures us that there is… a time to laugh and a time to weep, a time to mourn, and there is a time to dance,” he added.
Dancing has been banned in Elmore City for nearly nine years, after a group of teens returning from a local dance hall were killed in a car accident.
The students’ were not successful in reversing the ordinance, but a neighboring town stepped up to help the kids hold their high school’s first senior prom in nearly a decade.
“I’m told that the senior class at the high school has got use of the warehouse in Bayson for the purpose of putting on a senior dance,” Moore told his congregation on Tuesday. “Please join me to pray to the Lord to guide them in their endeavors.”
McCormack says Payson High’s one black student will be attending the prom.