I’m taking a moment to write tonight as I fire off e-mails to alumni of our chapter talking of our many achievements of the last few weeks. One of them, oddly enough, was about an earlier post on Sanguine et Purpure about our annual Step Show that’s drawn a great deal of attention lately. Many of us here at the University of Tennessee at Martin had been hitting the “refresh” button on our browsers, watching as the count of total unique viewers grows ever higher, sometimes by hundreds at a time. As soon as that number hit 100,000 all gathered took a moment to think about controversy that has surrounded it.
First, let me say that I am very proud of my brothers that put on a hell of show. They practiced for hours on end to get every last move right, all the while balancing school work and other spects of their social life.
It was one afternoon when a lone post appeared on NPHC Online forum, linking to our video that a bit of a firestorm started. At first, many of the comments that came back were that traditionally African American fraternities and sororities were appalled by the notion that such a show was put together, seeming to be almost entirely lifted from Alpha Phi Alpha. Our coach was an APhiA, so the similarities weren’t coincidental. At the same time, many brothers felt a little
let down that their hard work had become a center of controversy.
A little history. “Steppin’” as it is called has been a UT Martin tradition since the early nineties. It was one of the first events those 10 years ago this semester when we were chartered Tennessee
Kappa entered. The event consists of synchronized stomps and other motions, all judged on their level of difficulty and performance. Ticket proceeds benefit whatever charity has been selected for the year; this one was for local chapters of the American Red Cross. The winner is invited to perform at the NPHC Step Show later in the year.
Scold and praise seem to have balanced out since posting the video on the Web. While no major changes will be made to the way we prepare for competition, I believe each participant will have a better understanding at the origins of the art form, likely through a heart-felt presentation prior to one of the practices. It’s not enough just to go through the motions until you appreciate what it is you are doing.
I think the thing we can all take away from this is that diversity matters, and cannot be ignored. Each and every SigEp across the country must recognize that our strength is in our unity and our
diversity. These two concepts need not be at odds.
On a recent visit to Louisiana, I had the pleasure of hearing a speech given by Mr. Leonard Pitts, Jr., an African American columnist for the Miami Herald. He was speaking on the topic of diversity in reporting, and that the public you serve is not just like you, and it takes an effort to learn more about other cultures and people to truly fulfill your job as a journalist.
I think that same philosophy can be adopted by the fraternity. If you take a look at your campus, does the makeup of your chapter reflect that diversity? Are you filled to the brim with Democrats and not a single conservative voice? Does your chapter have a reputation for
being discriminatory against other races or sexual orientations? Does your chapter truly live up to the billing of “Daring to be Different?”
Pitts also gave this analogy for diversity: “Diversity is a lot like broccoli. We don’t always enjoy it, but we know it makes us a stronger individual, a stronger organization.” Sigma Phi Epsilon embraces diversity with open arms, and that is one of the reasons that my heart was drawn to the Red Door. I hope that you will take a moment out of your day to tear down the walls that prevent you from being the true Balanced Man, one that sees that all of humanity is to be valued in order to achieve the purest form of Virtue.
In Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love,
Stephen Yeargin ’06