Monday, August 14, 2017

Historically Black Greek Letter Organizations' Custom Of Post-Graduation Stepping & Strolling - Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the first post in a pancocojams series that showcases selected YouTube videos which document the post graduation custom among historically Black Greek lettered organizations of celebrating a member's or members' university graduation by spontaneously stepping or strolling or participating in a unity sing.

An additional post in this series also documents the custom in at least two universities of a historically Black Greek letter organization stroll that includes all or most of the nine member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

This post showcases five YouTube videos of members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. performing post-graduation stepping, strolling, or unity circle singing.

Click the "post graduation BGLO stepping and strolling" tag below for other pancocojams posts in this series.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Best wishes to all those whose graduations are documented in this post and thanks to all those who are featured in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos.

This pancocojams series documents the seemingly spontaneous customs among members of historically Black Greek letter organization (BGLO) of celebrating their own university graduation and/or other members' university graduation immediately after the graduation ceremony by performing group strolls or group steps while singing certain organization songs and chants.

From the YouTube videos that I've found to date (August 2017), it also appears that instead of stepping or strolling, or as a prelude to those performance activities, sometimes members of historically Black Greek letter organizations also celebrate their graduation and other members' graduations by singing an organization hymn or hymns while standing in a unity circle. People forming the circle stand with linked arms (in the same manner of the "We Shall Overcome"), either with or without swaying back and forth that is done while singing that civil rights song. The songs that are sung during the unity circle may be classified as "organization hymns".

The songs and chants that are sung during these BGLO post-graduation activities appear to be usually ones that express the members' love for their organization, and their appreciation for and devotion to that organization, rather than those songs and chants that put down (diss) other BGLO fraternities or sororities or those songs/chants that focus on sexual topics. From watching YouTube videos of these BGLO post-graduation celebrations, it appears that the circle songs are more solemn than the strolling and stepping songs or chants. The video publishers of these BGLO graduation song videos often refer to these songs as "hymns".

From the videos that I've found to date, these BGLO post-graduation customs most often occur in the Southern region of the United States, which makes sense since that is the region where most historically Black colleges and universities are located. I've found more videos of this custom from FAMU (Florida A & M University) than any other university, which could suggests that these BGLO post-graduation customs might have originated at that university. However, there may be other explanations for the large number of YouTube videos from that university. And there are YouTube videos of these customs from other regions of the United States.

The YouTube videos that I have found document that these historically Black Greek letter organizations' post-graduation activities suggests that they usually spontaneously occur outdoors immediately after the graduation ceremony. However, there are some videos of stepping indoors in the auditorium at the end of the graduation ceremony, or stepping in the auditorium hallways after the graduation ceremony.

I don't know when these BGLO post-graduation customs began. My guess is that the standing in place circle singing began first. This guess is based in part on a comment from one of the showcased Kappa Alpha Psi' videos that includes the comment "Celebrating graduation with my boys the traditional way". And based on the history that I've read about historically Black Greek letter organizations, my guess is that the post-graduation custom of BGLO strolling started after the unity circle singing, and then the custom of stepping came later.

The earliest YouTube videos that I have which document these customs are from 2009 -a video of Alpha Kappa Alpha strolling at FAMU and a video of Iota Phi Theta doing their Centaur Walk step at BCU, Bethune Cookman University[?].

As these videos document, members of historically Black Greek letter organizations who are graduating from a university usually wear a kente cloth stole in the colors of their organization and with their organization's Greek letters. Graduating BGLO members may also wear a kente cloth stole with the red, black, green, and gold color combinations that may be the most familiar kente cloth combination among African Americans. A number of African Americans associate Ghana's and The Ivory Coast's traditional kente cloth and those particular color combinations with African cultural pride if not afrocentricity.

This pancocojams series includes a post of selected videos of each BGLO performing these post-graduation customs*. These posts are published in the order of the date of that organization's founding.* With the exception of the post showcasing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the post showcasing Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity, all of the posts in this series showcase every post-graduation video of the featured BGLO that I have found to date (August 14, 2017).

I've also found two videos of post-graduation unity steps or strolls that are performed by all members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, i.e the "Divine Nine") that are active at a particular university. Those videos are showcased in a separate post in this series.

*As of this date (August 15, 2017), I haven't found any YouTube post-graduation videos for members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. However, it's likely that members of that organization also practice this custom. if you know of any Sigma Gamma Rho post-graduation videos, please share those links in the comment section below.

Most of these posts feature no comments from these videos' discussion thread and I've added no editorial comments to these posts except for the locations of the university.

For the historical and folkloric record, in the near future I plan to try to add the names of songs/chants that are performed in these post graduation videos, as well as links to as many of the words to those songs/chants that I can find or that I can transcribe from these videos. Any help regarding that project would be greatly appreciated.

Example #1: Alpha phi alpha 2012 Morehouse graduation

86009742 Published on May 20, 2012
location- Atlanta, Georgia

Example #2: Kappa Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Charter Step

XLNB Published on May 13, 2012
location - The University of Alabama.


MissAudrey0275 Published on May 6, 2013
"FAMU" = Florida A & M University

Example #4:The Tau Chi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha (Fall 2015 Graduation)

Quinton Washington Published on Mar 7, 2016

The bruhs of the TX chapter doing a step for the family and friends after the fall 2015 graduation ceremony.
location- University of West Georgia
Example #5: Morehouse College Graduation 2017 Alpha Phi Alpha

wearyourtshirt Published on May 22, 2017

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1 comment:

  1. I provided some personal information about my involvement and non-involvement with historically Black Greek letter organizations in an update in the second post of this series