Tamika Alexander — Staff Writer
A true stepper is one who can step hard–or in other words step one’s heart out–said Shaquetta DaCosta, junior public health major at Southern and member of Steppin’ Up Drill Team for almost three years.
“Steppin’ Up Drill Team,” said Ashley Okereke, president of the team, “is made up of a diverse group of individuals who share a passion for stepping. Over the past 10 years, Steppin’ Up has truly come a long way thanks to the fight that the older members fought to get us where we are now.”
On April 22, Steppin’ Up held its sixth annual “Show Out” step show, where sororities and fraternities like Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta and Alpha Phi Alpha among others showcased their stepping skills and competed against each other to come out victorious.
“They were judged,” DaCosta said, “on their introduction, creativity, originality, difficulty in step, precision, exit, overall performance.”
The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha “showed out” in those areas and won the competition, with the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma three points behind.
Both fraternities are a part of the “Divine Nine,” which is the nine historically black Greek groups according to blackgreek.com, a website that explains the history of black Greek organizations. The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity was founded in 1906 and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded in 1914, according to blackgreek.com.
“The step team did a phenomenal job representing our fraternity and had a very good show,” said Tai Richardson, graduate from Central Connecticut State University and member of the Delta Iota Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. “As far as what they could have done differently to win, I’ll keep that to myself–wouldn’t want to give away any secrets to success.”
He said he was initiated into the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on July 18, 2003 with six other young men. The induction occurred a year after his initial interest to join was sparked after speaking at a scholarship luncheon and discovering two of his childhood mentors were a part of the fraternity and then being convinced at an informational session.
“After the engagement, I approached one of them and asked why he never told me to join his organization and his answer was simply, ‘Because I always knew that Sigma would find you. I did not want you to join Sigma because I placed it in your mind; I knew that God would place it in your heart,’” Richardson said.
Since joining Phi Beta Sigma, he said it has helped him improve in many areas and also recognize other things he may need to improve on.
“I have learned valuable life lessons from great men that have come before me and have been able to serve as a direct mentor to the young men that come into our wondrous bond after me,” Richardson said.
Fraternities have some common values. Sigmas value the principles of brotherhood, scholarship and service, he said.
“They’re nice guys,” Richardson said about the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, who won the show. “Decent show–no seriously, they did a good job. They had a good flow to their show, good transitions, and great energy.”
The guys of Alpha Phi Alpha were not the only ones who performed well, said DaCosta.
“I thought each and every team did a great job,” she said. “They came to step their hearts out and that’s what they all did.”
Although she wasn’t able to watch the show, Okereke said she heard good reviews about the Alphas members’ performance.
“All I can say,” said Richardson, “is it takes a great deal of time, dedication and work to put on a step performance.”
DaCosta said when preparing for a show it takes practice, coming up with a routine, focus and being on time to practice.
“When putting the show together,” said Okereke, “you have to fill out paperwork. It is very important to get in contact with teams early in regards to the show because teams are what make
the show. Aside from the business portion of our show you have to practice a tremendous amount of time.”
Steppin’ Up did not compete in the show but they did perform.
“Even though we don’t compete in our show, we still want to look our best for any performance that we have,” Okereke said.
The last competition Steppin’ Up won was in New York in spring 2011, said Okereke and DaCosta.
“We usually do about five to six competitions a school year,” said Okereke, “but this last year has been all about conditioning so we only ended up competing in two shows.”
Steppin’ Up isn’t just about competing, it thrives on something else: family, said DaCosta.
“From being in Steppin’ Up,” said Okereke, “I have gained an extended family. We all have our ups and downs, quarrels and laughs, but at the end of the day we all come together and make it work.”
Although the men of Phi Beta Sigma did not win the step show, they still plan on standing strong to their principles and values, said Richardson.
“Our motto is ‘culture for service, service for humanity,’” he said. “What that means in a nutshell is that Phi Beta Sigma prides itself on being a beacon of light in communities that are underserved. We seek to investigate and address the needs of all human kind, and to fill the void that may be left by a lack of resources, education, and community leadership.”