“Stomp the Yard,” the No. 1 box office film for two weekends running, may be popular among the general public, but raises concerns among active Black Greeks.
Bowie State University student Eunique N. Jones says she fears that the ideals of Greek protocol could step off line. Jones would like to stomp out any misconstrued ideas the youth may have picked up from the film.
“I’m just afraid that we are going to have a number of kids going to school with the wrong conceptions about our organizations. We are about service,” says Jones, the national second vice president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Jones’s position is the most prestigious undergraduate leadership position in the organization.
Other Black fraternity and sorority members are expressing concern that the movie may impact membership in their organizations. Instead of emphasizing the community service aspects of Greek life, they say the movie focuses solely on the narrow world of stepping.
Two alumni members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Will Packer and Rob Hardy produced “Stomp the Yard.” Gregory Anderson, their classmate at Florida A&M University and a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, wrote the script. The title of the film indicates that the movie’s main focus is about stepping, though much of the film showcases battle dancing more than traditional stepping.
“I think that if it was focusing on stepping, there should have been talk of purpose; why sororities and fraternities step,” says Nicole Bramletta, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. “The image portrayed was nothing of brotherhood.”
Stepping originated as a symbol of unity and a celebration to embrace African- American history. Today, many Greek-lettered organizations host step shows to raise money to donate to special community causes. They often go into the high schools and teach stepping as an alternative for at-risk youth.
According to Jones, Greek organizations are about change and people. Most of the public service work is specific to the goals of the individual organization, and consequently, the goal of the National Pan-Hellenic Council — community enrichment. Delta Sigma Theta is known for creating programs in the areas of economic development, educational development and international awareness, among others.
“It expands far beyond college,” Jones says, adding, “We are not in the recruiting business.” In the film, two fraternities approach the main character about joining their organizations, both hoping his membership will help them win the step competition.
“We don’t go around sizing people up for their ability to step. These kids are going to go to colleges and universities expecting people to approach them, and that won’t happen. And if it does, it shouldn’t,” says Jones.
Before the movie hit theaters, traditional Black Greek organizations threatened to file lawsuits and boycott the film. Sony Pictures Entertainment agreed to edit out symbols of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and donate money to build the planned memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall. Even after the film garnered the support of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Black fraternity and sorority organizations continued to express their concerns on the college social networking site Facebook.com as well as on blogs and other medium.
As Black culture continues to be depicted in films, the students hope that the real picture will emerge.
“There should have been more substance about the organization,” says Bramletta.
Adds Jones: “The acting was great, the story line was creative and the special effects were captivating, but I had an issue with the fact that the only thing they showcased about Greek-lettered organizations was stepping. I just hope someone paints the whole picture one day, and I’m sure it can and will be just as entertaining and interesting.”
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