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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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neXXus holds “A Step into History” event

Nexxus+is+one+of+the+many+clubs+on+campus+that+is+boasting+high+numbers+since+the+pandemic.+%28photo+courtesy+of+Taylor+Hope%29
Nexxus is one of the many clubs on campus that is boasting high numbers since the pandemic. (photo courtesy of Taylor Hope)

On Friday, February 23rd, 2024, an event called “A Step into History” where students were given the chance to learn about the historical importance and cultural impact of Step on the Black community. Stepping is a physical art form that uses stomping, claps, and spoken word to produce complex rhythms. The event was run by neXXus, the Step team here at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. NeXXus has been a group here on campus since 2008. It was founded by Monique Symes (the first President of neXXus), Jamila Cresswell (the first Vice President of neXXus), and Michael Obasohan (the first Captain of neXXus). It has faced a lot of challenges, including a global pandemic, but has survived and kept its presence here on campus.

At the event, Jheneay Watkins talked about how the history of Stepping can be traced back to the 1800’s when two major moments in history occurred: the abolition of slavery and the discovery of metals and precious rocks such as gold and diamonds. Due to the abolition of slavery cheap “waged” labor was the only way that Black Africans could be controlled and forced to work in mines for basically nothing, while also working under harsh conditions. While working in mines the laborers weren’t allowed to communicate so they created a way to communicate that white people would not understand, by using specific patterns of stomping and clapping.

Janeilah Vazquez went on to talk about how Stepping started becoming popular in the 19th century in Black fraternities and sororities known today as the Divine Nine (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity). These Greek Letter Organizations were created because as more and more Black people began to be able to enroll in colleges and Universities in the United States, they faced discrimination from the original fraternities and sororities which were exclusively for white students. Black fraternities and sororities were created to educate and uplift the Black community from racial inequities. This can be seen in the large number of Civil Rights Activists that have been in the Divine 9, including but not limited to Martin Luther King Jr. (Alpha Phi Alpha), Jesse Jackson (Omega Psi Phi), Ralph Abernathy (Kappa Alpha Psi), Hosea Williams (Phi Beta Sigma), Bobby Rush (Iota Phi Theta), and Coretta Scott King (Alpha Kappa Alpha).

Vazquez explained how Stepping became a way for members of these student groups to express their pride for their organizations. Each organization has many movements that are representative of their specific organization. There is also a cultural tradition of strolling within black sororities and fraternities and Step. Strolling is when members of an organization get into a line, and they begin to move forward using the same moves or alternating moves.

After the presentation on the history of Stepping neXXus E-board members stayed to talk to people in attendance and answer any questions they had about Step and/or neXXus. When the e-board members were asked why they joined neXXus, there were various answers.

Sajaira Hudson, who had joined neXXus at the beginning the pandemic said, “I joined in 2020… It was either I stick in my room or join a club.” She then went on to talk about how she has benefited from being on neXXus, saying it “helped to gain confidence, bond with friends, and better understand myself as a person.”

Axailia Brown said that her joining neXXus was a “Great way to connect with other Black people on campus,” and that through neXXus she was able to “make more Black friends and gain a sisterhood.” The e-board members of neXXus also explained why they felt that it was particularly important for there to be a Step team at a predominantly white institution, such as the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Keya Robertson said she felt that “it offers representation on campus.” This seemed to be a notable theme throughout the interview.

Sajaira Hudson said, that having a Step team like neXXus on campus “shows a different kind of dance style that people of color are more likely to lean into.”

There are a lot of events that neXXus is in the process of planning, including a couple of Stepping workshops as well as a major showcase at the end of the semester. Students should not be surprised if they see neXXus performing in the cafeteria again, as well as other places on campus, at some point this semester. They practice every Monday through Thursday at the CC Dance Studio from 7 pm to 9 pm.

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Em Marlay-Wright, Staff Writer

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