The USC Homecoming Week step show was held Thursday at Colonial Life Arena for the first time since 2014, and fraternities and sororities that were part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council couldn’t have been more excited about its return.
“Having the opportunity to perform in front of 2,500 students, not including alumni, parents or family, that’s a dream honestly,” said Leland Williams, a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and the fraternity’s step team leader.
Although the Sigmas have been the reigning Homecoming step show champions for the past three years, the event has not been held on campus since 2014. Last year, the Homecoming Commission received backlash for not including the step show in the week of events in an effort to have an “inclusive, positive and fun week of events.”
Some members of the NPHC, which represents nine predominantly black fraternities and sororities, felt that by excluding the step show, the Homecoming Commission was decreasing inclusiveness for African-American students and alumni.
“There was a lot of anger when the NPHC found out that the step show would not be part of the week of events,” Williams said. “I don’t want to say there was resentment but there was a lot of anger because this is something that brings a lot of African-American alumni to USC.”
Despite being left out of the Homecoming lineup, members of the NPHC decided that the show must go on and began reaching out to local churches and community centers in hopes that they would be able to find another location to host the event.
Williams was grateful that one nearby church was willing to open its doors for the step show.
“Due to the complications with the step show and Homecoming week, the NPHC just decided that they were going to find another place to do it,” Williams said. “They found Brookland Baptist Church, which has hosted other Greek events in the past, and we were just lucky that they opened their doors and we were able to do it there.”
However, the new location was not without its complications. Kailah Jenkins, the co-president of the NPHC, remembers having to deal with the issues that came with an unforeseen change in venue.
“The church where we ended up holding the event was kind of small so we couldn’t accommodate everyone,” she said.
Jenkins said she felt discouraged that the commission didn’t allow the event to be held at Colonial Life Arena, not just because it decreased the number of people who were able to see the show, but because she feels that it was unfair to Homecoming tradition.
“Stepping is very near and dear to our hearts in the NPHC community and it dates back to African-American celebratory dances,” Jenkins said. “The point of Homecoming week is to provide quality programming, and the step show is a quality program that belongs right in the Homecoming line-up.”
Due to a renewed relationship with the Homecoming Commission, this year’s step show shouldn’t have a problem accommodating students and alumni since it’s back on campus at Colonial Life Arena.
“We have a really great relationship with this year’s Homecoming Commission. They have been very helpful and there has been a lot of open communication about the event,” Jenkins said.
For Williams and his team, the fact that the event will once again be held at Colonial Life Arena has given them peace of mind.
“There are a couple seniors on the team this year, and one of the biggest qualms they had was not being able to step on the Colonial Life floor before they graduated,” said Williams. “After I told them we were going to be able to perform at Colonial Life Arena, there was an overall sigh of relief.“
At the end of the night, Alpha Phi Alpha ended up taking home the trophy and ending the Sigmas’ three-year reign. And although the loss was a disappointment, Williams is just happy that he was able to do the thing he loves with the people he loves.
“I love stepping,” Williams said. “I love my team. I love being the step master. I love my fraternity.”