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3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions Without Giving Away Our Culture

Photo Cred: Jarrad Henderson
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[This opinion piece was written by guest writer Aleidra Allen for WatchTheYard.com in 2016]

Some of you may have seen the video of incoming University of Louisville freshmen (predominately white and non-Greek) performing what appears to be a stroll, a long standing tradition within Black Greek-letter organization (BGLO) culture, and more recently, Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) culture, at their orientation (while strolling was originally a BGLO tradition, MGC organizations have created their own tradition of strolling, similar in the linear structure but including movements from their respective cultures). A quick glance at the 600+ comments will make it clear that some BGLO members feel it is no big deal while others are outraged and say it’s cultural appropriation.

I understand both of these perspectives. As a member of a BGLO and a Greek Life advisor, countless times, I have seen the teaching of strolls and steps used for community building between MGC and BGLOs and Panhellenic Conference and Interfraternity Council (historically white) organizations. On the other hand, I’ve also attended stroll competitions where I could barely stay in my seat because the appropriation was so real.

The main thing that this situation reveals is a disconnect within our BGLO community on if we should or should not teach white, non-BGLO people how to stroll and step. Because the fact of the matter is that they’re not learning this on their own; our BGLO members are teaching them (which is a main reason why some do not agree that it is cultural appropriation, being that permission is given). Whether you like it or not, this has become a popular collegiate norm. If we want to see change, this internal dissonance must be addressed; I encourage all of our organizations to create space in chapter and council meetings, regional conferences, and international conferences for this topic to be discussed.

Hear each other out. Listen to why some of us feel there’s no issue, and listen to why some of us believe the tradition needs to be held in high regard and reserved for BGLO members only. Maybe then we will be able to collectively decide one way or the other.

But I know that’s wishful thinking. It will be extremely difficult to come to a true consensus or for everyone to be willing to compromise. So while I acknowledge and understand the perspective that this is cultural appropriation and that some BGLO members feel it should be eliminated completely, I also acknowledge that some of y’all will continue to teach non-BGLO, white people how to stroll and step (and I understand that, too). And for you, here are 3 ways to do so in a constructive and meaningful way, moving away from outright cultural appropriation and disrespect.

 

1. Only allow strolling and stepping by non-BGLO people to occur at BGLO-sponsored events.

Strolling and stepping are our traditions. Period. Limiting strolling and stepping by non-BGLO members to the annual non-BGLO stroll competition or fundraiser that is hosted by us gives us the opportunity to control how this goes. We get to set boundaries and parameters. Let the non-BGLO participants know that this is a unique occasion and that it would be inappropriate for them to stroll at a social event or continue on as a step/stroll team outside of this event.

If a Panhellenic or IFC organization, or any non-BGLO entity (the orientation department in the University of Louisville case), ever takes it in their own hands and is creating strolls or making strolling a part of their sponsored events, I highly encourage you to have a conversation with them about why that is inappropriate, and also contact your Greek Life advisor to address this, as well. Never feel that as a BGLO member/student, you have to participate or accept a request to teach strolling/stepping to non-BGLO members. If we are going to share our culture, it should be on our own terms, in our own way, and at our own events.

 

2. ALWAYS provide a history of stepping and strolling.

Before you teach them anything, give them a history lesson. They want to partake in our culture? They need to learn about and understand it first. Talk about when and how strolling and stepping became a part of BGLO culture. Explain how important it is to us. Talk about the rules and protocol of stepping and strolling, and how y’all don’t even let your LS (line sister) and LB (line brother) who is rhythmically challenged get in the line or the show. In all seriousness, all this information will help the non-BGLO people understand the value of these traditions. Even though they are being given an opportunity to engage in the experience, they will now have context and an appreciation and respect for the tradition, and are less likely to take the culture on for themselves outside of this specific occasion. A history lesson should also be given at your event before the competition or performances begin to ensure that the audience is also educated. Contrary to cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation includes learning about and listening to people of the culture. Providing history will help you achieve that.

 

3. Don’t give them EVERYTHING.

It is very possible for us to share the traditions of stepping and strolling without giving away every single aspect that is near and dear to our hearts. However, some of us struggle to see that fine line. Unfortunately, I have attended stroll and step competitions that included non-BGLO people and have been absolutely mortified by seeing them link up and death march, sing All of My Love, shimmy, and more.

Y’all. We don’t have to give them everything. These are our traditions. It’s our history. Only we can truly understand the meaning and importance of these movements and songs. We can teach others how to step and stroll without handing them everything that we had to work hard to have the privilege to do. Put them in a line, incorporate some popular dances, teach them some steps from your middle school step team, and call it a day. That’s all they need.

I know this is an ongoing discussion topic and I’m sure some of you already have your rebuttals; and that’s okay. Let’s have the conversation; it’s needed. I hope this provides a new perspective to some, challenges you to think, and helps us to better understand each other.

Aleidra Allen is a program coordinator for multicultural education at Saint Louis University. In this role, she serves as the advisor to Black Greek-letter organizations in St. Louis. To learn more about Aleidra’s work, visit aleidraallen.com.

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Four Things To Do Before Making It Known You’re Interested In Joining A Black Fraternity Or Sorority

[This piece was written by Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Adamant Knowledge Seeker. Lady of ZPHIB [Pearl Clu5]. Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe]

It’s fair to say, we all know the nervousness of going on a job interview or the anxiety of showing up to a family function when we know only one person. Trying to join a fraternity or sorority is sort of a combination of both of those situations.

If you’re an aspirant, you always hear the same ol, same ol rules about how to express your interest to the organization you wish to join. Be discrete. Do your research. Watch your GPA. Come to the events. While all of these to-dos are important, there are other factors to take into consideration before pledging your loyalty to a particular fraternity or sorority. Trying to get in can be a little intimidating. BUT, intimidation is only a state of mind.

1) Before You Research, Soul Search

Before you get into any deep Greek research, take some time to “Soul Search”. Define what values are important to you. What makes you tick? What inspires you? What things drive you to be your best? Once you nail those down, do the research. See if those values align with the organization you’re seeking to join. When you’re clear in who you are and exactly what you stand for, it’s easier to see if the essence of the organization you wish to be apart of is parallel to your standards.

2) Be Present – In Places Other Than Greek Events

Being active in other student organizations not only helps refine your career experience, but it also shows us that you’re multifaceted. It means that you can serve as an asset to our organization through your unique talents, your connections, and your leadership capabilities. All these things help advance the cause and presence of an organization. Plus, it shows you’re not waiting on Greek life to make a name for you. You’re making a name for yourself!

3) Put Greeks on Probation

Just like in dating, everyone is not deserving of your time. Therefore, you need to be observant to see which organization is truly worthy of your time, effort and talents. Take note of different chapters. Look at their events, their member’s behavior, campus involvement, work ethic, even rewards. If it doesn’t align to what you expected, you can 1) look for an organization that does 2) find ways you can help improve and add value to the chapter.

4) Know Your Worth

As aspirants, Greeks automatically pose the question, ” What does this person bring the table?”. You need to ask the same thing. How will being involved in this organization enhance or improve your life? If you can’t think of anything that is worth while, maybe Greek life isn’t for you…and that’s okay. But if you do, meditate on the different things that make this organization uniquely beneficial to you and go for it!

If you are greek, feel free to share this on Facebook with people who may be interested. If you are not greek, be discreet and share this article with someone who is interested in joining via text, email or Facebook messenger.

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This Web Series Created By Black Fraternity Members For Grown A** Black Men Is What The Internet Needs

There is a new web-series on the block and it is made for and by grown a** Black men.

The show, entitled Black Brilliance 360 was launched by Charles Coleman Jr., civil rights attorney, CNN legal analyst and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

“It is an original series of web-based conversations among black men about the things that matter to us most,” Charles told Watch The Yard. “These are conversations that deal with identity, lifestyle, self-care, relationships, power, and struggle.”

The series features a team of 9 different contributors, mixing and matching different combinations of contributors each episode to add a different feel and flavor to each discussion.

We at Watch The Yard are in love with this not just because the show features grown Black men in a way that you don’t see in popular media, but also because the contributors are members of the Black fraternity community. The contributor team features a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and along with the founder who is a Que, two additional members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

“Black Brilliance 360 is an intergenerational conversation among black men about black manhood. And it is presented with the style and flair that makes black men unique unto ourselves. There is nothing like it out right now. It’s hip, it’s humorous, it’s smart, it’s sexy. And it’s very, very black.”

Check out the teaser for the show below!

Share this on Facebook if you think these men deserve to go VIRAL!

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Should You Ever Wear Your Boyfriend’s Black Fraternity Paraphernalia?

Should I wear my boyfriends black fraternity sweater

So you are dating a member of a Black fraternity, you are over at his house and it is cold. You walk into his room to grab a hoodie or sweater to put on and as you are looking, you come across a pile of his fraternity sweaters. You think to yourself, “Ooh this would look so cute! He loves me and he loves his fraternity, I’m going to put this on and let the world know I got me an Alpha / Kappa / Omega / Sigma / Iota man! I’ll post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and give a subtle(yet not subtle) hint to the world and my girlfriends that I got chose, am happy, and flourishing with my man.”

[This is where the writer of this article takes a deep breath]

GURL DON’T DO IT!

“But he said I could grab something from his room.”

You can grab his college sweatshirt, the sweatshirt with his favorite team on it, that old dingy sweater that he never seems to wash, that free sweatshirt he got from running that 5k back in 2013 BUT you DO NOT PUT ON HIS FRATERNITY SWEATSHIRT.

“But he loves me, what is HIS is MINE.”

Not his letters…his letters are HIS LETTERS. He worked hard for those. Wearing them is breaking his trust, it’s right up there with going through his phone.

“It’s just a sweater. I’m friends with all of his line brothers and cool with the chapter. They won’t care.”

Nope Nope Nope! Ya’ll can’t be this close if you think this is ok in the first place. If his chapter is cool with this, please send a letter to WatchTheYard@gmail.com and name the chapter and we will take care of this immediately. Just to be clear, people go viral for this in a BAD way. You don’t want to do this and you don’t want him to be ridiculed.

“But I look so damn cute in this sweater. I gotta do it for the gram.”

Please. DON’T DO IT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. STAHHHHHPPPPP.

If you are so interested in Black greekdom, discreetly hit up a sorority and inquire about joining. They do great things in the community, have great sisterhood, allow you to network with accomplished women in high places, are full of some of our communities top leaders and have a deep and long history of fighting for civil rights in this country. Just know that they don’t let just anyone join and you need to be a grade A candidate to even get the chance.

But you need to realize that whether it be a Black fraternity or sorority, this is not about the letters in the first place. It is about what these letters represent to the people who have earned them. But we don’t even need to get into all of that right now, let’s just stick with the basics.

Whatever you do. Don’t wear his fraternity sweater.

Share this on Facebook if you think this public service announcement deserves to go VIRAL!

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