Clark-Atlanta University Students Step to Assembly
by YVETTE MOORE
The Clark Atlanta University Steppers' vibrant, determined movements reflect the school's history as an institution established to prepare newly freed African Americans to partake in the promise of their nation after the Civil War. More than 100 years later, the United Methodist-related university is still on that mission.
"Stepping is an outward expression of an inward feeling, an inward struggle; it's like a drum," said William Brooks, a senior business-administration major from Providence, R.I., and "step master" for the group performing Saturday night.
Mr. Brooks said the ritual of stepping has roots in Africa, where dance and movement are a part of life, a way to overcome adversity and celebrate victory. African movements and communication patterns are recognizable in many step routines. Over the years, sororities and fraternities on historically Black college campuses incorporated the ritual of stepping into their initiation ceremonies, homecomings and more. Today, stepping is part of the culture on the campuses.
DeNeia Whitted, Clark Atlanta University alumna and coordinator of the school's Panhellenic Council, recruited Mr. Brooks, seven steppers and six dancers who will perform at Assembly.
"I talked to all the sororities and to the step masters, and we picked the top two to three steppers from each group," said Ms. Whitted, who as a student performed in a step show during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
One of those selected from Delta Sigma Theta sorority is Ashley Walton, a senior speech-communication major from Holly Springs, Miss. Ms. Walton carries the spirit that formed Clark Atlanta University. She's a charter member of the school's Women Leadership Council. Ms. Walton aspires to be a speech pathologist with children - and a motivational speaker.
"I want to tell young people that it doesn't matter where you come from or your class status," she said. "You can take all that happens to you and put it toward making you a better person. You can use what happens to you to push yourself forward."