[Revised August 6, 2016]
This is Part I of a three part series on the use of wooden canes (kanes)* in the performing arts traditions of historically Black Greek lettered fraternities & sororities.
*"Kanes" is the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. spelling for the word "canes".
Part I & Part II of this series presents selected comments from a Greekchat.com discussion thread about the origin, history, and contemporary performances with canes in historically Black Greek lettered fraternities and sororities.
Part III showcases selected videos of two historically Black Greek lettered fraternities and one historically Black Greek lettered sorority. In alphabetical order, those organizations are Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.(Kappas), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (Sigmas), and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (SRGrho).
That post doesn't include examples of some other historically Black Greek letter sororities who may occasionally step with canes. Note that all tapping and/or twirling canes or staffs isn't a part of stepping in every BGLO.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/11/cane-kane-performances-in-black_9.html for Part II of this series.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/11/cane-performances-in-black-fraternities.html for Part III of this series.
The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, and cultural purposes.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
SELECTED COMMENTS FROM A GREEKCHAT DISCUSSION THREAD ABOUT THE HISTORY & CURRENT PRACTICES OF CANE PERFORMANCES IN BLACK FRATERNITIES & SORORITIES
The majority of these comments are from a Greekchat forum which included members of various historically Black fraternities & sororities.
These comments are posted in chronological order with the earliest comments posted first. For the sake of this series, these comments have been assigned a consecutive number, starting with Post I and continuing in Post II.
From http://www.greekchat.com/gcforums/showthread.php?t=15583 "the deal with the canes..."
Comment #1: 03-08-2002, rhapsody1922
"...I have seen PBS, Kappas, Zetas, Detas, AKAs, and SGRho's all step w/ canes here in the midwest... I have to say that when I was an undergrad, the Kappas on my campus worked with us when it came to using canes. So to say that Kappas would not teach SGRho or any other group how to work a cane...is way too general of a statement to make. We appreciated their help and I know they did not mind showing us a few cane steps. They knew we were not trying to claim it as our own, but it was taught to us that SGRho's were the first sorority to really start using canes, in honor of Kappa...But I have also heard that Sigmas were the first to step with canes as well. So...I guess you could go back and forth on that issue forever. (I do have to give props to those who can step with the canes, because it is not easy! But I can also understand if the Kappas feel as if no-one should use the canes, because it does seems as if we all have borrowed moves, steps, ideas from other orgs., to the point where you have no idea who really started what."
Comment #2: 03-12-2002, Anakin1911 Location: Kansas City, MO
"...First of all, the "Kane" has a different level of signifiance for Nupes. It is not just something that used as a prop in stepshows. And yes, as a Nupe I have seen other organizations use canes at shows and yes, I have heard that other organizations used canes before it became synonymous with members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. However, the kane has special significance for us because of what it stands for, so while other groups may appear with them, they are in no way the same "kanes" that Nupes hold dear.
[Editor's note "Nupe" is a referent for members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity]
Comment #3: Tenacious1922, 03-10-2002
"I have to say that when I was an undergrad, the Kappas on my campus worked with us when it came to using canes. So to say that Kappas would not teach SGRho or any other group how to work a cane...is way too general of a statement to make. We appreciated their help and I know they did not mind showing us a few cane steps. They knew we were not trying to claim it as our own, but it was taught to us that SGRho's were the first sorority to really start using canes, in honor of Kappa. My chapter was founded in "87", and my sorors were using canes then, so it is not just an "Indiana Love Thang", And I as well have seen alot of groups use canes or the smaller sticks (sorry...I do not know the proper name). But I have also heard that Sigmas were the first to step with canes as well. So...I guess you could go back and forth on that issue forever. (I do have to give props to those who can step with the canes, because it is not easy! But I can also understand if the Kappas feel as if no-one should use the canes, because it does seems as if we all have borrowed moves, steps, ideas from other orgs., to the point where you have no idea who really started what."
Comment #4: Anakin1911, 03-12-2002
Location: Kansas City, MO
"This is all very amusing. First of all, the "Kane" has a different level of signifiance for Nupes. It is not just something that used as a prop in stepshows. And yes, as a Nupe I have seen other organizations use canes at shows and yes, I have heard that other organizations used canes before it became synonymous with members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. However, the kane has special significance for us because of what it stands for, so while other groups may appear with them, they are in no way the same "kanes" that Nupes hold dear.
And not to diminish the topic or the replies because the question is an interesting one, but perhaps the Nupes have not replied because this matter has been a trivial one to us for some time. I only decided to add my "two cents" as a point of clarification."
Comment #5: DoggyStyle82, 03-14-2002
Originally posted by rhapsody1922
What do you mean "doesn't apply to SGRho if that is part of your history?" Didn't understand the statement.
Sorry. I don't know where SGRho's history with the cane came from nor how long its been part of your history. I see a lot of them perform with them and some without. I say that I don't know because I never saw many SGRhos until the mid -90's. None of the 70's or 80's Nupes that I know never mentioned a relationship with SGRho or about teaching them the art of "kaning". If the cane is part of your history, I'll take your word for it. It definitely could be the case in the midwest and I'll take a SGRho's word on that before I trust my limited observation of your org."
Example #6: Bobby Earl, 03-19-2002
Location: baton rouge
..."I am sure that some where down the line, some organizations have bitten the styles of other organizations. Nevertheless, we all have a unique style that is "Often imitated but never duplicated." I don't care how many organizations started with, used, or incorporated a kane into their history.
NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT KANE like a NUPE (notice I didn't say Kappa) KNOWS ABOUT KANE ... and I'm not just talking about founders either.
You can twirl it, flip it, roll it, catch it and even hook it.
But until you get in the KUT , you don't know anything about it!
THAT IS THE DEAL WITH THE KANES.
Comment #7: carmelafox, 08-18-2002
Location: Austin, Texas
"Alphas with canes! That would be some ridiculous stuff to see. I've seen sigmas, sgrhos, AKAs, and even my sorors (DST) use canes so I don't think it should be a big issue. Although the cane is most associated with them men of Kappa Alpha Psi, so it doesn't suprise me that some Kappas may find it offensive to see other organizations use it for show. By the way, the day I see a Que or Alpha pick up a cane is the day pigs fly!"
Comment #8: agent112, 11-19-2002
“The truth is....
If some of you greeks stop looking at your fraternal history from the last 3 lines and look deep into the past, you will find that members of each and everyone of your organizations carried canes. In the past, canes were a representation of presitge, wealth, and respect. Canes were a symbol of honor and so, many, many men carried them within the BGLO's.Ques...oh, sorry...Omega men, Alpha's Kappa's and Sigma's. As far as the men of Kappa Alpha Psi goes...they carry it in remembrence of Paul W. Caine who died in 1922 due to an explosion at his business. So understand, to Kappa's, this kane is a connection, a remembrance, and a dedication to a fallen brother. Not mearly a piece of wood with electrical tape around it. To them, it really is sacred. That is why they are so close to it. The men of Phi Beta Sigma were not the first to carry canes, but they were the first to step with them in a rythmic way. You see, stepping is a hand me down of African dance and military drill and ceremony movements. Soldiers returning from the military incorporated these drill movements into what has evolved as modern day stepping. The men of Phi Beta & KAY first used the "walking" version of the cane while the men of KAY eventualy cut the cane and used the shortened version to "twirl" with. And understand this, twirling is very new in comparision of how old the fraternity really is. Twirling became associated with KAY because they "perfected" it if you will. Phi Beta Sigma didn't twirl, they beat the canes on the ground to a rythm, the passed the canes in a ripple fashion, they tossed the canes through the air, but they didn't twirl until after KAY popularized it. Alpha's and Que's abandoned the cane once it became "commercialized" by Phi Beta and KAY. So they embloyed other methods of individualization. And so, to this day, Kappa's and Sigma's carry canes. But for very different reasons.
Like I said, your history runs much deeper then the few ol' heads you see comming back for homecoming. Set yourself on a quest for truth and search. You will be surprised at what you will find.
Once again...Prince Hall Masons lead from the front."
Comment #9: DoggyStyle82, 11-20-2002
"Dude, I don't know what the heck you are spouting, but da Ques aint never step with canes. No if, ands, or buts. And the cane was not universal among Sigmas as it was with the Kappas. I'm glad that I know my history from real brothers and not was is past through the net as fact.
Comment #10: agent112, 11-21-2002
"Listen up hero, you kats have got to read and stop filling in words. We all know Ques didn't step with canes. No one said that. Read highspeed!!! Men, prominent men, members of the organization, great men carried walking canes. Not because they were hurt, not because they had a limp, because it was a symbol of prestige. It was all symbolism hero. Thats how it started young blood. The same way these young chumps run out to get 5 time zone watches and what not. To symbolize that they have advanced from one level to another. Look at you, all bent out of shape because you failed to pay attention to detail. No disrespect intended young man. Just pay closer attention to detail next time."
This concludes Part I of this series.
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