[Revised August 6, 2016]
This is Part II of a three part series on the use of wooden canes (kanes)* in the performing arts traditions of certain 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 discussion forum about the origin, history, and contemporary performances with canes in certain historically Black Greek lettered fraternities and sororities.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/11/cane-kane-performances-in-black.html for Part I of this series.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/11/cane-performances-in-black-fraternities.html for Part III of this series.
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). There are other historically Black Greek letter sororities who occasionally step with canes, but that post doesn't feature any of those examples.
The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, and cultural purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
SELECTED COMMENTS ABOUT THE HISTORY & CURRENT PRACTICES OF CANE PERFORMANCES IN BLACK FRATERNITIES & SORORITIES
These comments are from a Greekchat forum which included members of various 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.
Location: Bloomington, IN
The use of walking sticks and canes may very well date back to centuries B.C. to the times when shepherds would tend to their flocks. This ties into the early roots of Christianity and leads to the candy canes of today being striped the way they are (3 thin stripes and 1 solid stripe) to remind us of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and the blood of Christ. The shape was believed to be chosen because the cane, if pointed upward, resembles the letter "J" for Jesus. The history of the cane also ties in with the African Rights of Passage, and was a symbol of manhood that had to be carried by initiates wishing to become adult members of their respective tribe.
Dealing more directly with the evolution of the cane and how it relates to the Fraternity, canes started off as a device used to assist people with walking difficulties, and later turned into social status symbols for society. In the 1700's and 1800's, canes were a fashion embellishment. One "wore" a cane. These old canes were decorative, objects to be admired and be proud of. They became collectors items and represented the true sign of a Gentleman.
Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity have always worn or carried canes since the beginning of the Fraternity in 1911. It was a form of protection in the early 1900's, think about it the last lynching in Bloomington, IN was in 1956 what do you think they were doing to black males in 1911? Although unintentional in its inception, this occurrence soon became an unofficial tradition of Kappa men, as Kappas have always strived to be noble and productive members of the community. The cane, being the symbol of a Gentlemen who exhibits such characteristics, was then proudly adorned by members of our Fraternity."
Comment #12: Cain, 06-21-2005
Location: Gary IN
Yo NUPE. Was good? Not to get off of subject. But, that Krimson and Kream Pool Party is in JUly right? I'm gonna make my way there for that one. I'm in Gary, IN at this moment, so get up with me.
Oh as far as these Kanes go, I don't really get bent out of shape over it. I was once told, "WE AS NUPES KAN'T KOMPETE, BEKAUSE WE LACK PROPER KOMPETITON" .We as NUPE's know what the "kane" is all about, so when I see such blatant imitation, I find it flattering. Laugh about it, kause it is funny! As far as SGRHO's go, I don't know the significance of the cane to them so I can't speak on it.
Comment #13: DST4A00, 08-20-2005
"...Most of the other orgs I have seen using canes have been in a stepshow capacity either as a honor to the Kappas (AKAs, DST, SGRho) or as a dis (Alphas, Ques). I know Sigmas use them as well as Sgrhos but not as faithfully."
Editor=“dis” = diss, insult. The Greek lettered organizations named in the parenthesis are the ones who performed with canes to diss that particular BGLO. Another commenter wrote that the only reason why a Que would step with a cane was to "clown" (make fun of) a Kappa or a Sigma.
Comment #14: K.O.T.S , 08-27-2005
Originally posted by Live_Wire17
Dropping a cane has nothing to do with being a Nupe...it is a human mistake.
"amazing how many people forget this. i guess they just like to hate.
Lastly, can we all agree to let this topic die?
"first" does not necessarily mean "best" and since neither org has a cane as an official item there is great difficulty in proving who is first anyway. Do research and some "facts" say Sigmas were first to step with canes ( which can be interpreted as NUPEs with canes first) and some say Sigmas were first to have canes PERIOD. I see Christian orgs., Latin orgs., etc. with canes. even some Alphas lay claim to having them first. this argument is becoming redundant. I am a NUPE and know why I have a cane and as I move further away from my Neo state I am realizing that is all that matters. PM me if their is any disagreeances."
"Neo"= clip for "neophyte"- a new member of an organization
Location: Columbia, SC
"You need to pay closer attention, Sherlock. Nobody said first was best. First is first. Period. If you're really a nupe, you know what year you all adopted the cane. If you don't know when, you know why, so you can look it up. The answer to who is best will vary on different campuses. Whether or not you perfected it, mastered it, or took it to a higher level, YOU'RE STILL DOING WHAT YOU SAW SOMEONE ELSE DO, FIRST!!!!! PERIOD. Not trying to start an argument, and I'm not trying to disrespect 'kappa land" , just merely stating the facts. If you disagree, you can PM me."
Comment #16: PerroLoco, 11-17-2005
..."Omegas carried canes while on line at one time, but we do not claim that as our heritage or tradition. It belongs to the Nupes, because they kept it and made it an integral part of their CONTINUOUS persona.
At one time all freshman at Howard were called "dogs" til they achieve upperclassmen status. The Omegas and the Sigmas continued that designation with their pledges during Hell Week, but it was Omega who incorporated the DOG as an integral poart of who they are and what they stand for. For the Sigmas that I have known personally from roomates to co-workers of every era, neuther the DOG, nor the CANE was that Significant to their SENSE OF SELF AS A SIGMA.
So all of the PBS claiming these things as part of their history may be true but it was never a huge or defining part from what Sigmas made in the 50's, 60's, 70's and '80's tell me or what I experienced with my dorm-mate. I saw my dorm-mate as a Dog during his Hell Week, but that is where any canine reference ended or association with PBS. His Hell Week was completely different from mine as a Dog of Omega. Night and Day."...
Comment #17: PrettyBoy, 12-02-2006,
"I read most of the post on this thread, and the bottom line is Kappa Alpha Psi is known for the kanes, it doesn't matter who started it, or who is using it now, we are the fraternity that everyone thinks about when the kane is mentioned in a stepshow. I also read what another member of our fraternity mentioned about the kane having meaning to us. This is true. We don't just use kanes just because. We use them because of what the kane means to our fraternity. I'm not concerned with the other organizations using them because I know the kane is ours. There's a difference between a kane and a cane. Nupes use Kanes."
Comment #18: DSTCHAOS, 12-08-2006,
"...The colored canes (and stepping and strolling with canes) debate is different than the "who carried canes debate." Many men carried canes in the earlier 1900s because it was a sign of being a gentleman and so forth. It was initially not fraternity related but transfered [sic] over. This is why you will see different fraternities with canes in their pledge line photos or just walking across the yard..."
Comment #19, marquise1911, 12-08-2006
Location: Miami, FL
"Umm. I hate for this to be my come back post, but WT_**?? Sigmas were not the first with the canes, not the first to step with them, not the first to use them. Go ahead, check Howard's history. Our first colored canes appeared in 1953, but our founders and members have been carying them since the early history of our fraternity. Sigmas didn't even start using canse until the late 60's. I dare you to find anything with PBS and canes older than that.
Now as far as being Dogmatic or using the dog. WE ALL DID!!! At one point in time all pledges were called dogs and that's why some Omegas get offended when u call them Q-dogs. To be a dog means ur still pledging. The Ques took that image and ran with it. We let it go. They can have it. so stop crying about it."
In case it's not clear, this blogger is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
**This profanity abbreviation is fully spelled out in that comment.
Comment #20: DSTCHAOS, 12-12-2006
Originally Posted by marquise1911
Correction, gentlemen carried fashionable walking sticks and pledges carried stalfs. My founders carried canes, which were a sign of injury. Ask yourself what man bares signs of injury with pride?
"Actually gentlemen carried staffs, walking sticks AND canes. I didn't mention the former two b/c the topic is canes. I've seen pictures of GDIs and fraternity men beyond KAPsi carrying canes from decades ago. Your founders carried canes as signs of injury but that doesn't mean anything for the general point. Canes were and are used for more than injury
http://www.canesandsuch.com/history.html [Pancocojams editor's note: That link is no longer active as of August 5, 2016 when this pancocojams post was revised.]
So the origins of the cane for black fraternity men is a washed up topic since it was used by "gentlemen" in general and college educated bruthas at that time were in the "gentlemen" mold. But who started associating the cane as a symbol for their fraternity and stepping with it is a different topic that may never be proven unless PBS and KAPsi have official documentation to share."
Comment #21: Badstep, 09-11-2009
"Ok, Let's seperate fact from fiction...
Fact number one: No one can actually lay claim to being the first steppers. Stepping originated in the DC/Baltimore area long before most of yall were born. The first fraternities were the Omegas, Sigmas and the Alphas.
It started during the doo-wop era and brothers used to sing in the quad. Like the old groups like the Temptations, and Four Tops, brothers began incorporating steps to mimic the groups. Back then tap dancing was really popular and damn near every brother on earth thought he had skills. Tap is still a major influence on how brothers step. Especially "Sigmas".
That's why when you went to step shows in that area back in the day they were called "Greek Sings".
Fact number two: The african boot dance and african influence was totally non-existant back then. It came into play a little bit much later. Think about it. In the 50's when stepping originated we barely heard of south africa. The african boot dance is very similar to stepping but it is a big misconception that it had any part in the development of what we call stepping today.
Fact number three: The first known cane steppers were Sigmas. Kappas didn't start stepping until much later. The Omegas, Alphas and Sigmas were the first steppers. They evolved it into what it is today.
That being said, you'd be crazy to say that the Kappas aren't the most innovative canes steppers on the planet. They definitely took it to another level. Cane stepping styles of Sigmas and Kappas are very different. If you ever seen step shows in the Chicago area back in the 80's you would know that the Sigma canes are very thick, heavy and medium length. They are used to tap out rhythms are not very easy to twirl. Kappa canes tend to be thinner, shorter in length and lighter. While they are stable enough to tap out rhythms, they are also easier to twirl and are better for their complexed routines.
We really need to get off that "who owns what - " non-sense. We are all brother and sisters.
What we really need to do is start thinking about the relevance of "BLGO"* [sic] in this modern era. Back in the day, our organization [sic] were the place where the "Black Leaders" of our country were made and developed. (Along with the church!). This was our history and our legacy.
What are we now? We run around like we are gangs and thugs offering nothing to the community but parties, YouTube images that embarrass our families.
I've been a Sigma for almost 30 years. I'm not happy with what I see. We all need to step up and "be about something" or watch our organizations that we love so much become corrupted and morphed into abominations of disdain!
"Blgo" is actually BGLO = Black Greek letter [or lettered] organizations. Click http://www.blackgreek.com/ for information about the "Divine Nine", the nine major historically Black fraternities & sororities that are members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
This concludes Part II of this series.
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