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Flap erupts over whether to ban Southern Belles from AVL parade
Thursday, 03 January 2019 11:39

From Staff Reports

A troupe of young women, dressed as Southern belles in massive pastel hoop skirts, created a stir through their participation in the annual Asheville Holiday Parade on Nov. 17.

The 12 young women from Alabama strolled down Patton Avenue “in perfect unison, pausing occasionally for a beautiful, elaborate curtsy,” John Boyle noted in a recent column in the Ashevile Citizen Times. 

They are members of the Dogwood Trail Court, which is sponsored by the Eastern Shore Optimist Club in Fairhope, Ala.

As Boyle stated in his column, “In a downtown known more for drunken revelers, a raucous drum circle and an occasional topless female, it was, well, weird.

“And it was not well-received in some circles, particularly on Facebook.”

Among those Boyle cited as unhappy with the troupe was Asheville resident Marlisa Mills. She wrote on a Facebook post featuring a picture of the women:

“As an Asheville native who remembers the parades of the ‘50s, where this was standard fare: When did we put the slavery-era fashion back into the parade?” 

In another post, Mills wrote, “Asheville, you need to have better oversight of what marches down your streets in a sanctioned holiday parade. ‘Keep Asheville Racist, Sexist, Classist, and Anachronistic’ is too long a bumper sticker.”

What’s more, in a message to the Citizen Times, Mills explained her thinking as follows: “Whoever decided that the Dogwood Trail Court Belles belonged in the streets of our city was seriously short-sighted,” Mills wrote. “This group represents everything that is wrong with our Southern culture.”

“It is neither harmless nor charming to watch white female teenagers flaunt the values of the Old South,” Mills wrote. “We have had and continue to have our struggles with racism in Asheville.  We do not need the help of virginal peeps to point out the insanity.”

Conversely, an official with the Dogwood Trail Court, contacted by Boyle, expressed sharp disagreement with Mills’ assessment.

JoAnn Broadus, executive director of the  Eastern Shore Optimist Club, which sponsors the girls in the Dogwood Trail Court, told Boyles that “it has nothing to do with the Confederacy,” adding that “this is about instilling goals, and the development of young women in the 21st century.”

She noted that the court members are from Baldwin County, Ala., and that the court was celebrating its 59th anniversary in 2018.

Broadus told Boyle that the young women are high achievers — and all attend high school. Amix of sophomores, juniors and seniors, they are selected though a pageant and scholarship program, she noted.

They serve a one-year term “and make appearances as goodwill ambassadors at community events across Baldwin County the state of Alabama and beyond,” Boyle reported, quoting from the group’s literature.

Boyle also reported, “A retired college professor of nursing, Broadus, 81, has been in charge of the Dogwood Trail Court program for more than two decades. After spending nearly an hour on the phone with her, I can tell you she is no shrinking violet and never would expect her girls to assume a subservient position to a man.

“‘If you know me, you know I’m definitely not an 1865 woman,” Broadus told Boyle. “I believe in getting them equal pay, equal opportunities.’”

Broadus also also told Boyle several times: “Make sure your readers know this has nothing to do with the Confederacy.”


 



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