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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What Does The Statement That "Strolling Is A Tradition For Black University Graduates In The United States Who Are Members Of Historically Black Fraternities Or Sororities" Mean

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post explores the performance art of "strolling" by graduates and/or other members of historically Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities "strolling" as it occurs during and/or after university graduation ceremonies.

The impetus for this post is this relatively widely repeated quote from an article about the incident that occurred during a University Of Florida 2018 graduation ceremony in which some Black graduates (and- some allege- also some White graduates) were forcefully pushed off the stage because they "strolled" or performed some other celebratory movements:
..."The University of Florida has suspended a faculty member who rushed mostly black graduates off the stage during a commencement ceremony.

The white employee, described as a chemistry lecturer, has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to AL.com.

Videos of the ceremony show the lecturer pushing and restraining black students who were “strolling,” or celebrating their achievement through actions like dancing, or what one graduate told The Gainesville Sun is "a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities." http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/387231-university-of-florida-suspends-official-who-pulled-black-graduates
University of Florida suspends official who pulled black graduates off stage during commencement by Avery Anapol - 05/11/18
-snip-
I added italics to highlight this sentence.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all who are quoted in this post, thanks to all those who are featured in these the videos, and thanks to all those who published these videos.

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PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S NOTE
Other than its focus on that italicized comment, this pancocojams post doesn't address the University Of Florida incident or whether it is appropriate or inappropriate for graduates to "stroll", "step", "dance" or perform other celebratory movements while "walking" at their commencement (walking across the stage to receive their diploma/certificate).

Instead, this post defines "strolling" and "steppin[g]" as they refer to BGLOs (Black Greek letter organizations) and ,by extension, as those movement arts refer to other organizations. This post also provides some historical information about this BGLO originated performance art and showcases a few examples of Black Americans steppin and strolling during and after university graduation ceremonies.

It's my position that "strolling" (and steppin) are traditional performance arts that originated with historically Black Greek letter organizations. As such, it has become a tradition to perform those movement arts at certain times. And, although these movements arts are noticeably different, sometimes when people (including members of BGLOs) refer to "strolling", they actually mean "steppin".

As a preface to that information and showcase videos, I believe that it's important to distinguish:
1. whether strolling (and/or steppin) occurs by graduates and other members of their organization after the completion of the official graduation ceremony

2. whether strolling (and or steppin) occurs during and/or after cultural graduating ceremonies for Black university graduates

3. whether steppin or strolling movements are performed by individual graduates when they "walk' across the stage during the official university commencement ceremony or at other unplanned times during the official graduation ceremony


I believe that stepping and strolling are traditional performance movement arts which have been customary for groups (consisting of graduate members and other members) to perform after the official university graduation ceremony. (#1)

I also believe that having graduating members of BGLOs step or stroll into the auditorium may be a custom in some Black cultural university ceremonies. [#2] As is the case with #1, it appears that it may be a tradition in the making for BGLOs to step and stroll after the cultural graduating ceremony for Black graduates has ended.

However, I don't believe that #3 is a BGLO custom or tradition at either HBCU (historically Black Colleges & Universities) or at [historically and present day] PWIs (predominately White institutions).

Instead, I think that Black graduates dancing (or performing stroll-like movements) while receiving their diploma/certificate is part of the celebratory actions that any graduate regardless of his or her race or ethnicity might do at that time (I'm including movements such as doing a "dab", "crip walking", doing some other popular dance movement, and/or doing back flips-all of which [with the possible exception of the back flip) appear to me to have been part of that 2018 University of Florida incident.)

That said, the way that HBCUs and PWIs administrators respond to individuals or groups steppin and strolling during their official graduation ceremony might be different. And the way that the commencement audiences might respond to individual or groups engaging in such activities might be different.

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DEFINITION AND HISTORY OF BLACK GREEK LETTER ORGANIZATION ORIGINATED "STROLLING"
Excerpt #1:
Pancocojams Editor's Note: This excerpt is found in this 2013 pancocojams post entitled "An Overview Of Black Greek Letter Organization Steppin & Step Cheers" http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/an-overview-of-black-greek-letter.html

"Steppin (Stepping) is a syncopated, choreographed performance art that occurs at competitive "step shows" and other venues. The performance art of steppin originated among historically Black (African American) university based Greek lettered fraternities & sororities.

[...]

I've seen the 1940s given as the date that historically Black Greek lettered organizations began steppin'. I'm willing to accept that 1940s date as long as it's understood that the beginning of what steppin has become didn't look like steppin now.

in her book Soul Stepping Elizabeth Fine quotes a 1924 Howard University student newspaper The Hilltop article entitled "Hell-Week" in which members of Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternites are described as pledges "dancing about the campus..." (p.15).

However that dancing or that marching on campus that is also documented didn't look the same as the Black Greek letted organizations' steppin' styles that developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Elizabeth Fine also wrote that "The shift from the old-style circular stepping of the 1940s and 1950s to the increasingly complex synchronized movement style of the 1980s and 1990s attests to the new role stepping has in asserting black cultural identity" (p. 6).

Since at least the 1990s among historically Black Greek lettered organizations (BGLO), the performance art of strolls (party walks) has been added to most step routines, particularly at the end of those routines. "Strolls" (party walks) are done in a vertical line to recorded music, usually from the R&B/Hip-Hop genres or group songs, often adapted from Spirituals or R&B songs. The terms "strolls" or "party walks" refer to the strutting, dancing walk that the organizations' members informally do at dances/parties. While steppin is almost always a competitive performance, fraternities against fraternities, and sororities against sororities, "strolls" can be either competitive within those gender groupings, or non-competitive."...
-snip-
Notice that BGLO originated "strolling" [and steppin] is a group activity. Another name for "strolling" is "party walks" as these strolls were seemingly spontaneously performed at parties (dance gatherings), usually to certain recorded R&B/Hip Hop music. Non-competitive BGLO strolls are also performed at any number of social events such as picnics and wedding receptions. "Stroll offs" are competitive events in which stroll teams from historically Black Greek letter fraternities compete against each other and stroll teams from historically Black Greek letter sororities compete against each other.

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Excerpt #2:
Pancocojams Editor's note: In this 2015 pancocojams post http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2015/04/african-american-examples-of-walk_11.html "African American Examples Of Walk Arounds - Cakewalks And Other Non-Religious Examples", I maintain that historically Black Greek letter fraternity and sorority strolling should be considered as a contemporary example of a non-religious Black American "walk around" (circular dance movement) performance art tradition. Other historical and contemporary examples of walk arounds are "the cakewalk", "Chicago stepping" (dance), and "Detroit stepping" (ball room) dance. The "ring shout" is a historical example of a Black American religious walk around.

This video of strolling is included in that 2015 pancocojams post:

AKA Stroll



JeMarcTV, Uploaded on Apr 19, 2009

Albany State Universitys 43 P.E.A.R.L.S of the Gamma Sigma Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha strolling to their old school song after their probate.
-snip-
Here's the comment that I wrote after this video:
"Strolling" (also known as "stroll offs" and "party walks") are non-competitive and competitive group struts and dancing performances to recorded music. Strolling shares the same history and early sources as historically Black Greek letter[ed] fraternity and sorority stepping and is now performed by Latino Greek lettered organizations, multi-cultural Greek lettered organizations, and others. Like sorority and fraternity "stepping", "strolling" has undergone and is still undergoing considerable performance changes. Click http://www.greekster.tv/page/greek-strolling-history-and for another definition of "strolling" and comments about the history of strolling (stroll offs, party walks). Also click the "strolling" tab below for more pancocojams posts that about strolling and more pancocojams post that feature examples of historic ally Black Greek lettered organization stroll offs.
-snip-
"Old School" is a usually positive phrase that means something from the past. The AKA probates [new members] and their sorors [sisters] are strolling to the 1984 record "Set It Off" by Strafe.

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SHOWCASE VIDEOS OF BLACK GRADUATES AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THEIR BGLO STROLLING AFTER OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY GRADUATIONS
Example #1: The Grad Stroll #FAMU



Benjamin Evans, Published on May 2, 2012

No better place to graduate than Florida A & M University. Watch all the love from organizations, fraternities, sororities and families after graduation.

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Example #2: Sigma Strolling After Graduating from Albany State



Ken Nesbitt, Published on Mar 5, 2012

Watch OB Go OFF! GOMAB!
-snip-
These brothers are members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

For what it's worth, I would have categorized this performance art as "steppin" instead of "strolling" which leads me to the conclusion that a number of articles that were written as a result of the above mentioned 2018 University of Florida incident actually refer to "steppin" movements and not "strolling".

There are lots of YouTube videos of Black university graduates and other members of their BGLOs stepping after the completion of official university graduation ceremonies.

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Example #3: Morgan State University Graduation 2014 - Delta Sigma Theta



Michael Parker, Published on Jul 28, 2014

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SHOWCASE VIDEO OF BLACK GRADUATES AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THEIR BGLO STEPPIN AND STROLLING DURING BLACK CULTURAL GRADUATIONS
Jabulani Black Graduation 2014 SFSU



JaRon McReynolds, Published on Mar 7, 2015
-snip-
San Francisco State University
-snip-
Here's information about the word "jabulani" from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabulani
"Jabulani is a Zulu word meaning "rejoice"...
-snip-
Click from 1:50 to 2:10 in this video to see various BGLOs steppin and strollin into the auditorium of this cultural event.

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SHOWCASE VIDEO OF SPONTANEOUS STEPPIN PERFORMANCES DURING A HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY'S OFFICIAL GRADUATION CEREMONY

Fall Graduation @ Grambling State University 2013



Patricia Brown, Published on Dec 21, 2013

Grambling State University 2013, CB Brown graduation

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SHOWCASE VIDEO OF A BLACK GRADUATE DOING BGLO STEPPIN OR STROLLING MOVEMENTS DURING HIS "WALK" ONSTAGE AT A PWI (PREDOMINATELY WHITE INSTITUTION OFFICIAL GRADUATION
Iota Stops UF Graduation



Karen Figueredo, Published on May 13, 2013
-snip-
"Iota" = Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.

"UF" = University of Florida [?]

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