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The history of Stepping according to the Temple of Blue

The Genesis

It began with singing or chanting associated with the process of crossing the burning sands. Brothers would gather in the quad and sing and chant. They eventually graduated to dancing and from there stepping. For some time, some yards down south would call the step-off's a "Sing" instead of a "Step-show". The white fraternities started the singing part, but the black fraternities took it to another level. Much like we did with basketball, football, tennis, etc. I don't think that any one fraternity can lay claim to stepping, more than likely it evolved a number situations and circumstances. One fact that is evident is the early origins of stepping stem from members of both Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. as well as Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. It is possible that this came about during the first joint meeting of any of the black national fraternity's conventions in the early 1920's that took place between Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. The results of which was the Inter-Fraternity Conference of 1922 in Washington, D.C. In between sessions and even during social events it is believed that stepping, in a sense, was done while each organization strutted their stuff, most likely to impress the ladies. These could have been each organization singing or chanting their perspective songs will marching or standing in groups. It is not exactly clear, but it is known that sororities didn't start stepping until several years after the fraternities.

Other elements of stepping formed after the return of brothers from World War II. Various elements of military marching and line formations were implemented into fraternities with the end of the war and the advent of peace time. This, along with the founders influence, are some of the origins for the use of the cane by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. in many regions. To this day the military influence as well as Masonic influences can still be seen in the step process as well as the pledge process of most Black Greek Lettered Organizations. It is through these and many other factors that stepping began to become an intimate part of Black Greek Lettered Organizations.

SOURCES:

Brother Terrence A.B. Lewis
Brother Ahab El'Askeni

 The Evolution

Aspects of stepping within fraternities became prevalent when brothers returned from World War II. As more and more military men joined or chartered chapters they brought march elements into the pledge process. Of course many practices are based upon the Masonic influence as well as the African influence of the marching armies of antiquity such as the Warriars of Carthage, led by the military genius of Hannibal Ruler of Carthage ( 247-183 B.C. ), the Nubian warriors of the mighty King Piankhy of Nubia ( c. 720 B.C. ), as well as the Zulu Legion of the famed general Chaka, the Zulu Monarch ( c. 1786 - 1828 B.C. ).

For Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, in many regions, canes were used due, in part, to the influence of the founders, but for the most part by the military drill sergeants who were members. In the late 40's and early 50's, for the purpose of identification, many black drill sergeants carried canes. These canes allowed other black soldiers to identify with their rank, which was necessary on many bases where racism was prevalent. Of course there were some drill sergeants that were members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. as well as Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and it is possible that these were some of the influences for using canes as a part of the step process.

Stepping evolved with groups of guys singing acapella, and when groups like the Temptations and the Four Tops were popular in the 50's and 60's brothers started mimicking their steps. This is part of the reason why it is called "Stepping" now. Brothers would try to come up with the best steps while they were singing to please the ladies. If you got the ladies you got more recruits. Much like it is today.

Others say that stepping replaced the doo woop sounds and cardigan sweaters of the 50's. At around the same time as the "Black Power" Movements and Africa centered movements of the 60's, stepping started to flourish with the incorporation of some traditional African ritual dancing and the incorporation of other elements like cheer leading, tap, gymnastics, etc. Over the years stepping has become very intricate and demanding incorporating props, high levels of gymnastics and other elements found in team sports. Please note that some people want to give the credit to the South African Boot Dance, but it would be unfair to ignore everything that stepping was in the beginning and it is now.

Stepping is an original art form that was influenced by many elements from our past.

SOURCE:
Brother Rapheal Forbes
Brother Ahab El'Askeni
Brother Terrence A.B. Lewis

 Sigma Stepping

Phi Beta Sigma stepping evolved even more with the contributions of Bro. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. He introduced certain steps from his traditional African culture which used dance as a celebration of "coming of age". The coming of age ceremonies, or rites of passage, are when a young man comes into manhood. This is intimately tied to the pledge process which is itself Masonic & Afro-centric in origin and method. Bro. Nkrumah is also known to have used the cane in his stepping ritual. Stepping is supposed to be done as a celebration of "crossing", or "going over", or "coming into manhood". From this brothers began to create and build stepping into its present form. Over the years Sigmas have been known for numerous unique and identifiable steps. A few of the most popular steps are:

The Sigma "Nut-Cracker"
"The Passage" a.k.a. "The African Step"
"Precision" (With or w/o Canes on fire.)
"Wood"
"The Badstep"
"Jungle Walk"
"Hands and Feet"
"The Cotton Club"
"Time Step"
"Roxanne"
"Up Jumped the Devil"
"The Blind Fold Step" (With or without a cane)
"Fire & Brimstone"
"Rock & Roll"

The Nut-Cracker being the most common and well known of our steps. If you have ever seen a Phi Beta Sigma step team step, no matter where in the world that may be, most likely you have seen this step. The Nut-Cracker originated in the mid to late 70's, by way of the brothers in the north east. Any Sigma Chapter can lay claim to perfecting the "Nut-Cracker" in some form or fashion. Due to the bond shared by Sigma's and Zeta's there are many shared or similar steps within the Blue & White Family.

SOURCES:

Brother Terrence A.B. Lewis
Brother Edwin Mills
Brother Charles Crockett
Brother Ahab El'Askeni

Compiled by:

The Temple of Blue Staff
Brother Ahab El'Askeni
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

 

 

 

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