Thursday, January 3, 2013

Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. - Centaur Walk (Information/Lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series on Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.'s signature step walk & chant the "Centaur Walk".

Part I provides information about the Centaur Walk. Lyrics to two versions of the Centaur Walk song (chant) are also provided in this post.

Part II provides seven video examples of the Centaur Walk. Click for Part II of this series.

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, historical inspirational, aesthetic, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

I consider fraternity & sorority chants to be cultural artifacts which deserve to be collected, preserved, and studied. However, I also believe that fraternity & sorority songs and chants should only be recited and/or performed by those who are members or pledges of the specific organization that is affiliated with that particular chant.

"Iota Phi Theta Fraternity (ΙΦΘ) is a nationally incorporated, predominantly African-American collegiate fraternity. It was founded on September 19, 1963 at Morgan State University (then Morgan State College) in Baltimore, Maryland . At present, it consists of over 70,000 members. There are currently around 300 undergraduate and alumni chapters, as well as colonies located in over 40 US states, the District of Columbia, the Bahamas, Japan and South Korea.

The fraternity holds membership in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), an umbrella organization comprising nine (9) International Historically African-American Greek letter Sororities and Fraternities, and the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC)"
The Official Colors of Iota Phi Theta are Charcoal Brown...and Gilded Gold....

"Besides the Fraternity Shield, the next most readily identifying symbol of Iota Phi Theta is The Centaur. A Mythical beast with the head and torso of a man, and the body of a stallion, The Centaur is near and dear to all Men of Iota Phi Theta and its mythology, characteristics, and legacy are a binding force within the Brotherhood. Additionally, Iota Phi Theta intakees are referred to as Centaurs. (Note: The Centaur can appear in Green, Brown, or Gold but must ALWAYS have Red eyes.)"

From Elizabeth C. Fine: Soulstepping: African American Step Shows (Urbana & Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2003; pps 61, 62)
"As stepping evolved. many of the nine Greek-letter societies developed distinctive and characteristic steps and chants known as “trade” or “signature” steps that embody the ethos or character of a group and are nationally known by all its chapters…Audiences instantly recognize [these signature steps] as “belonging” to a particular group. Different societies may refer to rivals in either a salutary or derogatory way by how they imitate these trade steps...

Members of Iota Phi Theta, the newest fraternity to be admitted to the NPHC, still recall the name of the person who invented their “Centaur Walk” and the year he did so. According to Dwayne Dixon, the “Centaur Walk” was invented in 1966 by Brother Robert Young at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Because the Centaur, after the shield, as one of Iota’s “most readily identifying symbol”, embodying the symbol through stepping is important. The Iota Web-page carries the information that the Centaur, a “mythical beast with the head and the torso of a man, and the body of a stallion,” is “near and dear to all Men of Iota Phi Theta. The mythology, characteristics, and legacy of The Centaur are a binding force within the Brotherhood”. The Iota shield displays the image of a centaur, about to release an arrow from a bow. To evoke that image, the brothers mime pulling on a bow while they typically step three times to the left and three times to the right...
Even though trade steps are traditional, they change over time. When I asked [Iota Phi Theta member Dwayne Dixon] to provide a few verses of the "Centaur Walk" chant, he said it involves a call-and-response piece ("My brothers, what do you want?") and functions "like a framework, for other little mini-steps or breaks inside of it." Although "it has evolved", it is "a traditional step":

I say, my bro-thers....
I say, Who's fly?
-I Phi!
I say my....Iota-Phi brothers...
I say we're going to do...
-What are we going to do?
I say the Norfolk Slide!
-He said the Norfolk Slide!

At this point the "Norfolk Slide", which is a kind of "break," is executed. These breaks are usually four or eight bars long, and at the completion of the break the "Centaur Walk" resumes. Other examples of these breaks are "The Old Time Sound", "The Scramble", "The Lookabout", "The Replace", and on and on. That's one of the nice things about the "Centaur Walk". Because of this structure, the basic framework retains the traditional aspects of the step and provides the links to the past. On the other hand, these breaks allow for creativity and keeping the step fresh and up to date."
"Fly" is a mostly retired adjective from the mid 1980s African American vernacular English whose meaning is the same as or similar to "cool", "hip", "dapper", "in style" (i.e. someone or something that is up to date with the latest Black urban fashions, vernacular, and/or lifestyle/s").

From http:/

Video summary*:
"Brothers from the Eastern Region demonstrate the famous Centaur Walk.

Video was made possible by the Zulu Zeta Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Incorporated Hosted the 5th Annual Stroll Competition in Moore Gym.

Zulu Zeta Chapter is located in North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (Greensboro, NC)

The Centaur Walk was created in 1966 by IOTA brother Robert Young in celebration of the Centaur, a binding symbol which unites all members of the fraternity.

Brothers from the Eastern Region demonstrate the famous Centaur Walk.

(First part sung by 1st Brother on line. Number 1′s Song)

I know a place
Where the Centaurs Roam
And I know a place
Where the Centaurs call Home
And In that Place
The Streets are paved
In Brown and Gold
In Brown and Gold
And so I say
Release the Centaur
From Your Soul
(Sung by all brothers in unison)
I Say
My Frat Brother
He Say
I Say
My Brown and Gold Brothers
What in the H#$@
Do you want?
I Say
We’re Going to do…
What are We Going to Do?
I Say
that Centaur Walk for You
He Say
that Centaur Walk for You
It Goes
the Bow, the Bow
Nah, It Goes
the Shield, the Shield
God D#$* It,
it’s the Bow, the Bow
Nah, it’s
the Shield, the Shield

Break It Down (Centaur Laugh: Bruhahahaha!)

That Bow,
That Bow
That Big Old Bow
That Shield,
That Shield
That Big A*# Shield
That Bow,
That Bow
That Big Old Bow

*The video from which these lyrics were transcribed is no longer available on YouTube because the uploader's account was closed.

Click for a page of my Cocojams website which features a number of text examples of fraternity and sorority chants.

Thanks to the composer of the Centaur Chant, and all the other brothers of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. Thanks also to those whose information & transcriptions I quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important to document as much as is possible about parts of the history & culture of Black Greek lettered organizations, and not assume that things will be automatically known or understood about those organizations in the future.

    I've read that Iota Brother Robert Young created the Centaur Walk in 1966.

    For the historical record, I'm hoping that someone will answer these questions about the "Centaur Walk Song/Chant":

    Did Brother Robert Young also compose the lyrics for the Centaur Walk Song/Chant?

    If not, who composed this Iota song/chant, when was it composed, and who chose the song's tune?

    Also, would someone confirm the information that is included in the excerpt from the Soul Stepping book that the "Centaur Walk Song" may include a "break" such as "the Norfolk Slide" that is sung within the actual "Centaur Walk" song before resuming the "basic" song.

    Thanks in advance for any information* that can be shared.

    *hopefully with citations such as fraternity chapter & date that a particular version of this song with a break was sung such as ("break name & the lyrics, the early 1980s, Morgan State)