For One Night

| September 16, 2012

For One Night is a movie that shows the ugly head of racism, when it should really be a time when all students are allowed to have fun during the night of a lifetime—at their senior prom. But such is not the case for this “one night,” where we have a movie that was inspired by the true story of a black teenager who shook up a small town not far from New Orleans, where high school proms had been racially segregated for decades. When Senior Brianna McCallister (Raven-Symoné, “That’s So Raven”) suggests that the school change its policy and let both black and white seniors put on one prom, parents and school officials are shocked. Brianna risks her place as a gifted and popular school leader when she chooses to do the right thing. This is the story of two women, a student and a reporter (Aisha Tyler, The Babymakers, “Ghost Whisperer”), and their courageous attempt to reverse a long-standing racist tradition and make history, at least for one night.

Symoné is a force to be reckoned with in this movie, where she takes the lead for the black students, as well as the white students, who believe that the only way to maximize expenses and resources is to have one united prom. After all, the students already party together outside of the classroom.

Tyler, who plays Desiree Howard, is cautious at first, when she returns home fromNew Orleans for a visit with her parents—a visit to a place that she would like to forget. However, her parents call this small town home, and there is no getting around just abandoning it forever.

Desiree is also cautious because she left behind a teenage heartthrob, who is now assistant high school principal, and who still has a yearning for her. But they can’t readily let on about their inter-racial relationship, because things would just get too messy.

When she gets a whiff of a story in the chaos that is brewing around the idea of an integrated prom, she can’t help but file a story with the Associated Press. When the school officials read the article, they are embarrassed. But students are in an uproar, also, and factions split on whether one prom is a good idea, after all. Brianna’s place as presumed valedictorian is also threatened, and she must make hard choices concerning her place in history and also her continued friendship with Desiree.

For One Night is full of emotion, as most of the white parents and students are on one side, and the other side is filled with black students and parents. The black parents and elders of the town see this as an opportunity to finally make a stand and stamp out the racism that has permeated the town for ages. The white parents don’t want to admit that even though they might not want their daughters to end up dating black guys, the white girls and black guys are dating and making out behind their backs anyway. And the prom issue isn’t the only thing that’s keeping the townspeople separate. Other racist acts levied against black residents by white authority figures are also revealed.

In the end, since media is hot on the case and Desiree is filing more stories as the night approaches, common sense prevails, and Brianna’s dreams come through on so many levels. For One Night is similar to another movie, Prom Night in Mississippi—same theme—segregated proms in the 21st Century. (I reviewed this movie for this website a few years back). In both movies, it seems that the parents are really the culprits who are holding on tightly to outdated Jim Crow ways.

For One Night, which was an original television premiere, also features Jason Lewis, Joan Pringle and Sam Jones III, and is available on DVD Sept. 18 from A & E Television Networks. For more info, visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
Filed in: TV on DVD

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