Monday, March 01, 2010

White Sorority Wins (African American) Stepping Contest (via The Root)

Can We At Least Keep Stepping to Ourselves?
Nope. We've got to share our traditions. Just like white sorority Zeta Tau Alpha will share their win with Alpha Kappa Alpha.

By: Lawrence C. Ross Jr. | Posted: February 26, 2010 at 6:35 AM

The Root

It’s the closest thing to Armageddon that many Black Greeks have seen since Laurence Fishburne’s character, Dap, ran around the fictitious Mission College campus yelling, “Wake Up!” in the classic movie, School Daze. Stepping, a bastion of black Greek life, has just undergone a revolution, and some black folks are pretty ticked off about it.

It all started on Feb. 20 when Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, a predominantly white sorority, entered the Sprite Step Off National Step Competition in Atlanta, and beat three National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta, winning the $100,000 first prize. While many black Greeks gave the ZTAs their due, the blowback was immediate from a lot of angry black Greeks who couldn’t believe a white sorority could honestly beat black sororities.


And while the nine African-American fraternities and sororities signed a licensing agreement with Sprite, earning an estimated $75,000 per organization, there was nothing in their agreement that prevented a non-African-American fraternity or sorority from competing. Enter Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority from the University of Arkansas.

Immediately after word got out that Zeta Tau Alpha had won, Twitter and Facebook blew up with accusations that Sprite was biased in favor of the white sorority. Others claimed that it was a stunt for MTV2, which broadcasted the contest.

Some postings even said white organizations shouldn’t be allowed to participate in stepping competitions in the first place, since stepping is a black Greek cultural tradition. Others accused Zeta Tau Alpha of being the equivalent of modern-day minstrels, debasing the art form by their very presence.

Then on Feb. 25, Sprite announced on Facebook that they had discovered "a scoring discrepancy" that they could not resolve. They decided to make ZTA and AKA co-winners of the competition, giving each organization $100,000 in prize money.

But in the grand scheme of things, that outcome is a minor detail. There's a bigger principle at stake here. In 25 years as an Alpha, I've helped judge countless stepping contests. And although judging is subjective, there's no way anyone can objectively state that the ZTAs didn't perform to a standard which would merit getting first prize in the Step Off. (See the videos below of the winners and runners-up, and tell me if I’m wrong.)

Zeta Tau Alpha:

And here is Alpha Kappa Alpha:

[M&C note: IMO, with the exception of that leg-on-back-of-neighbor move, which was great, ZTA looked and sounded better in the unaccompanied sections--I say they deserve the win]

The problem with the arguments presented by the critics is that they tend to gloss over the question of whether the Zeta Tau Alpha steppers were actually better than their competition. Instead, most of the criticism has been reactionary and sought to deny Zeta Tau Alpha the opportunity to compete based solely on their skin color.

By doing that, black Greeks do a disservice to our historic legacy. African-American fraternities and sororities were born in circumstances that sought to combat judgments based on race. And to do the same as those who would deny us opportunity, based on the notion that we’re somehow protecting our black cultural integrity, is morally bankrupt.

he founders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity were denied access to the campus library at Indiana University because they were black. The founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority protested when white women ordered them to the back of a women’s suffrage march in Washington, D.C.

Too often, black Greeks place too much significance on stepping, and overemphasize its historical weight. We claim that the stepping tradition was passed down from some ancient African traditions. (It wasn’t.) We claim that we’ve been doing it for nearly a century. (We haven’t.)

According to Philander Smith College president Dr. Walter Kimbrough, author of Black Greek 101 and the person who has done the most research on the origins of stepping, stepping is a relatively recent tradition, growing out of probate shows of the 1970s.

Black cultural traditions like stepping are always nurtured within our community, exposed to the outside world as an artistic gift, and then adapted and adopted by others who want to participate. The idea that our traditions can remain purely “black” is folly.


Read the entire post HERE.

The same author also did an op-ed on this for CNN. Check it out.

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