“Whenever an issue is brought up, white students plead ignorance. And black students, it seems, are asked to move past it.”
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.–The Washington Post recently published a very interesting article about Greek organizations and step-shows at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “Stepping” is integral to Black Greek fraternities and sororities. What I found interesting was that at UTC, both Black and white fraternities and sororities participate in stepping at a university-sponsored show near homecoming.
“In a country desperate to find bridges across the cultural divide, a generation of students at UTC felt they had found a way to do it. “To teach inclusion, you have to be inclusive,” said Lacretia Harris-Gay, a Delta and a 1992 graduate who helped create the original homecoming step show when she was a student.” (Washington Post)
Throughout the years, as students graduate and new students arrived on campus, the original thoughts and understanding around inclusiveness seemed to be lost.
Members of the Black fraternities currently at UTC, feel the school and white fraternities have completely distorted the nature of stepping and its history.
A cultural divide was created on campus and some members of the Black fraternities decided to create an all Black step-show off campus, in an attempt to retain ownership of stepping. Coincidentally, it was held very close to the same time as the schools usual step-show.
“During that period, Kinnawa Kaitibi began raising the idea of retaking ownership of the step show. He challenged black Greeks to look to their history. Black fraternities had been founded after members were denied entry into white societies and used that experience to create powerful social networks of their own, dedicated to uplifting the community. Stepping could still be a way to show off their identity and share their history. They could even fundraise for community centers in Chattanooga’s worst neighborhoods.” (Washington Post)
“They just didn’t get what we were saying,” Harlan said. “It was our tradition, and it had become something else.”