Soul Steps Dance Team from NYC Highlights Annual Activities
By Julia Ngoie
Seminole State College hosted a series of events during Black History Month, which explored different themes to commemorate the history of African-Americans in the United States.
This year’s series focused more on cultural arts, said Dr. Gerald Jones, director of the Office of Student Life at Seminole State.
A visit to three of the four SSC campuses by the nationally acclaimed dance team Soul Steps was one of the highlights.
“I’m hoping for many outcomes, including an opportunity for students to learn from the history these performers bring to our institution,” said Jones in an article on the college’s website, seminolestate.edu.
Founded in 2005 by Maxine M. Lyle, artistic director, the Soul Steps team is based in New York City.
Having started dancing at the age of 7, Lyle said she attended a predominantly diverse school where there wasn’t any step team. For her and her classmates, step was a way to feel connected to one another and remember where they came from as they were feeling homesick.
“Step is something where I am not only the dancer, but I am also the musician,” Lyle said, “I make rhythm with my body.”
She explained that she doesn’t need any other thing to dance but her body, and she said she loves the power of hearing the sound of people when they dance.
Lyle brought her team to the Altamonte Springs campus Feb. 12; the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus Feb. 13; and the Oviedo campus on Feb. 14.
The group engaged other students by teaching them some steps and inviting them to dance on the podium in the Student Center.
Soul Steps members performed “gumboots,” known as “Isicathulo” in the Zulu language. The dance started in South Africa with dancers wearing wellington work boots.
According to the CapeTownMagazine.com, workers in South Africa were often not allowed to communicate with one another, which led to them develop their own sort of Morse code through slapping their gumboot-covered feet with their hands. They would hit the side of their boots to make a sound in order for them to communicate with one another.
The dance was accompanied with songs sung by workers in their native languages.
“It is a dance of strength, perseverance, power and determination,” Lyle said, “sometimes it feels like a somber dance to me, but sometimes it can be joyful.”
What she did with her team during their performance felt like it was more of a strength and power, Lyle said.
Black History Month grew out of a frustration at the lack of acknowledgment African-American and other black people’s contributions to U.S. history.
First launched as the “Negro History Week” in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the commemoration occurred in the second week of February around the birthdays of Frederick Douglas on Feb. 14 and Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12.
Since 1976, every American president has proclaimed February as Black History Month.
It has become a month of celebration and learning of African-American poetry, literature, art, entertainment and culture.
On Feb.12 at Seminole State, the Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, featured the Seminole Choir as it revealed the Social Justice Wall in honor of Black History Month under the inclusive theme: “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The Social Justice Wall was in the Student Center hall at the Sanford/Lake Mary campus.
Led by Dianna Campbell, professor of music at Seminole State, the choir was dressed in the Seminole State College’s colors: blue and gold.
They performed, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song written 119 years ago first as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and later set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, Campbell said.
The song is often referred to as the Black National Anthem, and was adopted by the NAACP as its official song.
QEP also sponsored an Author’s Week Feb. 25 to 28 featuring women authors, including Toya Rochelle, who spoke about writing poetry; Fayeza Hasanat, who spoke about gender, Islamic feminism and short story writing; and Jazmin Bailey, WESH-2 news anchor, who spoke about memoire writing and read from her book, “Healing from the Inside Out.”
Other events included soul food, trivia and giveaways Feb. 13 on the Heathrow campus; an Exravaganza/Fashion Show Feb. 21 at the Oviedo campus; and screening of the film, “Something the Lord Made” on Thursdays during February on the Altamonte Springs campus.
The Black History Month programs were sponsored by the Office of Student Life and co-sponsored by the Pursuing ALL Careers Together Club as well as the African American Cultural Forum.