Hip hop explodes

Oct 122005
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

In a step show the body takes the drum's role.

Dressed up in grey, one-piece, inmate suits and pink Timberlands, the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. keep the rhythm going with their militant chants and echoing heels.

"It's important to us because it's a tradition for us historically," said Danisha Anderson, member of AKA Inc. and a liberal arts/Spanish double major. "It's a tradition that is unique to the African American organizations, so with that, it's really important to us."

This is the first year that Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. put a theme to the show. Dressed in inmate suits, their theme was about "breaking out."

"Preparing to be in the step show was definitely a bonding experience; we were together every night trying to perfect each move and step," said Tiesha Lampkin, an AKA Inc. member and a social science major with a certificate ethnic studies.

Visually, a step show is artful and automatic. "Stepping" is a dance that combines elements of military-style drills with jazz and hip-hop body motions and movements.

But "stepping" is only one of the things that Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. do. Additionally, they are involved in community service and "wish to serve all humankind."

"People get misconceptions about black fraternities and sororities being that they think that they're non-traditional in comparison with all other Greek organizations, but it is a tradition for us historically," Anderson said.

Javon Baker, a junior speech communication major and an executive member/public-relations officer of CSU's Black Student Alliance, believes when AKA Inc. says the word "sisterhood," they do mean sisterhood.

"They all have a bond that is indescribable," Baker said.

Besides bringing the rhythm, the ladies' collective goal is to maintain high scholastic standards and boost their sisterhood.

For the past two years, AKA Inc. has received outstanding Greek chapters from CSU along with the honor of highest cumulative GPA from the office of Black Student Services for the African American Greeks.

The group also supports educational programs and promotes programs on health and academics.

"Being in AKA didn't change who we are, it just strengthened our will as individuals," Anderson said.

While a step show is one way to attract attention, it is also a window of opportunity for the organization to be recognized for all the other achievements in terms of community service.

"Alpha Kappa Alpha is a lifelong commitment. It's something that you remain a part of even after graduation," said Traci Butler, an AKA Inc. member and a political science major with a criminal justice minor.

Some Greek organizations view community service as part of their quota or their duty as Greek members, but the ladies of AKA Inc. participate in that kind of service because that is just the way they are.

"We are all involved and this is cool because we don't have a large amount of members like other Greek organizations," Butler said.

Above all the visual elements and the "word of mouth" about a step-show, music is still the core of the entire show.

"It's definitely a rhythm unmatched by anything else. You can have a band or a stereo system with a soundboard and all the elements that a producer might use in a performance, but there is nothing like watching somebody step and create or mock a rhythm from a popular song," Baker said.

As in years past, this year's Hip Hop Explosion has always been a Black Student Alliance event. With 1,180 people in attendance, it is clear that the step show culture is now truly becoming a part of CSU's homecoming celebration.

Music was also a huge part of 2005's step show, and choosing the right beats were a challenge.

"We wanted to choose music that was deep and also had a groove to it," said Naomi Jones, AKA Inc. member and a technical journalism major with a Spanish minor. AKA Inc. agreed that the lyrical aspect and the song's connotations are just as important as the beat and the sound to back it up.

Last year, AKA Inc. put on a program called "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep." It was a program geared towards women to talk about confidence and to put superficial issues aside to talk about feelings and unity.

In the future, AKA Inc. is putting on a program called: "It's The Cops! What Do We Do?" The Chief and Assistant Chief of CSUPD will be there to talk to students about their rights and is a way of educating students on what they can and cannot do.

"A lot of people are in the dark about their rights, so this gives students a chance to ask a police officer a question or questions on a conversation level, in a laid back environment," Lampkin said.

With the amount of people involved in getting the step-show organized, it is impossible to not have it feel like a movement.

"The next step for the event might be corporate sponsorship, or to hold it at a bigger venue like the Budweiser Event Center," Baker said.

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