24th Annual Camille Armstrong Stepshow

By on February 10, 2014

Saturday brought the 24th Annual Camille Armstrong Stepshow: “Take Back the Nineties,” a competitive event that had an estimated  1200* UAB students at Boutwell Auditorium.

The first Camille Armstrong Memorial Step Show, in 1990, was a student-driven initiative intended to support the scholarship fund established in memory of the late Camille Armstrong. Camille was a graduating senior at UAB majoring in political science with a career goal of practicing law. She was tragically killed in an automobile accident on March 11, 1986, just weeks before receiving her degree.

Camille was involved in many student activities, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., served as a UAB Ambassador, and was best described as “a hardworking, dedicated student.” The scholarship fund was established in 1987 to honor the memory of Camille and to preserve the spirit of the life she shared with us. In October 1992, the scholarship was endowed, thus ensuring its continuation.

The Camille Armstrong Memorial Scholarship Fund, raised through various fundraisers throughout the year, benefits deserving and exceptional undergraduate African-American students at UAB, preferably in the Political Science field, or those with proven aspirations of law school.

Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations.

Drawing from elements of gymnastics, break dance, tap dance, march, 20th century R&B routines  or African and Caribbean dance, stepping may also find its origins as a combination of military close-order and exhibition drill, and African foot dances such as the Welly “gumboot” dance. The latter, was conceived by black miners in South Africa as an alternative to drumming during colonialism. Miners, who were also restricted from talking used the rhythm of the gumboot as a code to communicate with the other workers and a way to keep their spirits lifted amidst adverse working conditions.

Stemming from the National Pan-hellenic Council’s (NPHC) traditional “Greek Sings” of the early 1900s, in which chapters would gather and sing uplifting songs about their fraternity or sorority, and who gradually incorporated movements into the songs due to African initiates, “stepshows” are a direct offspring from the pedigree of “Greek Shows”, in which it is believed that the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated were the first organization to start stepping, followed by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

As of the late 20th century, each organization had developed signature steps and chants.

Organized and presented by the efforts of BSAC and SAC, but sponsored by Al’s, Moes, Proimagers, Roly Poly, McAlister’s, and Crowne on 10th, was hosted by comedian Lil’ JJ (most known for his role in the 2005 movie Beauty Shop), and saw the performances of rapper Lamar Johnson, and Miss UAB Chassidy Sumler singing the national anthem.

An exhibition that also features chapters of NPHC from surrounding universities, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’S), as well as members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), the participants in the competition this year were as the following: Delta Sigma Theta (from Jacksonville State University), UAB’s Alpha Kappa Alpha, UAB’s Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma (Tuskegee University), UAB’s Alpha Omicron Pi, and UAB’s Alpha Gamma Delta.

After creative skits and routines that ranged from Bad Boys interpolations to a hypnotic swirl as a prop, the judges, a mixed panel comprised of both NPHC and NPC members, awarded a total of four prizes. The four prizes included a first and second place prize for best fraternity performance and best sorority performance.

UAB’s Alpha Phi Alpha won first place and the Phi Beta Sigma won the second place fraternity award receiving $750 and $325 respectively. The Iota Phi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha earned the first place award with Delta Sigma Theta (JSU) coming second for the best sorority performance award, also receiving $750 and $325 respectively.

The real winners of the night, however, were the tuition scholarship recipients, and they are as listed: Kelli D. Smith (Criminal Justice)- $2500, Britney K. Baker (Political Science) – $1500, and Stefanie N. Stephens (Criminal Justice) – $2500.

To see a complete list of recipients from the past visit https://www.uab.edu/students/student-life/student-activities/camille-armstrong-memorial-scholarship-step-show.

Thomas Bailey, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, and also member of Alpha Phi Alpha said that the stepshow “is a way for all of NPHC to connect, even though we are competing, it’s a chance to show unity.”

In the same positive manner, Jontrell Curry, also a sophomore who is majoring in Communications, stated that he “enjoyed the show, “ especially the AKA’s and that it’s and “added bonus” that so many people could come together for a good cause.


*This article synthesizes a variety of sources, and estimations are based on reported student ticket sales as of 2/8.

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