Southeastern StompFest: Friday’s Homecoming Showstopper

Southeastern StompFest: Friday's Homecoming Showstopper

Photos taken from Pexels

A recounting of the last homecoming event, Friday before the big game.

Exhilarating is the only word that could come to mind. It’s 30 minutes before showtime, before the doors open, and already, the lobby is full. The music is so loud you can hear it from outside the auditorium doors. A 360-degree photo booth is set up in the corner. Green wristbands flash in the overhead lights as people wait patiently for the doors to open, and, again, it’s not even 7 yet.

That is the site that greets the early bird on their way to the last event of the night, the 22nd annual Southeastern Stomp Fest, a stepping competition.

Stepping is something that finds its roots in South Africa, where it was used as a method of communication between workers. As of today, it is utilized as an art form that strategically combines movements with your hand and feet to create a certain mixture of sounds.

However, since the 1900s, it has come to be strongly associated with fraternities and sororities under the umbrella of “the divine nine.” Created during a time of oppression and prejudice, these sororities and fraternities were designed to cater to African Americans and give them a place of belonging and a method of upward social mobility.

As for stepping, it was utilized as a way to showcase their pride in their organizations and unity as a family. Now, years later, the need has significantly lessened, but the tradition remains.

Hosted by the Black Cultural Programming Committee and the Office of Multicultural Student Life, Stomp fest is a staple in the University of Tennessee's homecoming traditions. It is an event where this age-old tradition of stepping gets to live on as members of certain sororities and fraternities of “the divine nine” get to compete with one another through stepping, though it has progressed to more than that.

After all, up on the stage, all that matters is that their hard work, dedication, and unity with one another are broadcasted. While performing with their sorority sisters or fraternity brothers, there is no other identification needed. Neither their gender, race, nor sexuality matter as much as their skill and pride in their organizations, and that is evident in the pure enjoyment that is seen on the members’ faces as they engage in this age-old tradition.

This year was no different. Hosted by Alton “Boogie” Williams, a comedian that hosted the annual homecoming comedy show that Monday, the night started with laughs as people poured in.

With a full house, UT’s student union auditorium welcomed both alumni and current students. The first performance of the night was done by the Strange Fruit Dance Company, a club on campus aimed at minorities and dedicated to “expressing the art of dance.” Complete with visuals and music, reminiscent of the 80s and 90s, this performance set the stage for the rest of the show.

“The sororities and fraternities did a great job with their storylines. Also, the opening by the Strange Fruit Dance Company was awesome!” audience member Tonyea Pruitt said.

Two sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Zeta Phi Beta, and one fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma competed for the first place spot in both the people’s and the judge’s minds.

The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha went first, dressed in black sweaters with white skater skirts and combat boots. Their performance was accompanied by a comedic video parodying a typical news report and especially bright colors illuminating their different routines and changing as the emotional intention behind their routine changed.

After them, came the men of Phi Beta Sigma. Most of the members on stage were dressed in blue joggers and plain white t-shirts. The only difference was one character, dressed in a suit with a Saw mask on. Their show started with a “Maury” parody that served as a backstory for the Jigsaw character, and they combined acting with the parody of “Saw” to narrate a story of the group stepping themselves out of a perilous kidnapping situation.

The last organization to perform was the ladies of Zeta Phi Beta. Unlike the other fraternities and sororities that went before them, they were not dressed in a unified fashion. They did a parody of “Friday”, and all of the girls wore clothes resembling the specific characters that they were parodying with blue being their only connection. Like the others, theirs was especially comedic and followed a specific storyline, complete with background visuals and acting to tell their story.

While the judges deliberated, “Boogie,” entertained the audience with calls to all of “the divine nine” present to show off their unity through calls and strolling.

In the end though, the cohesiveness and comedic aspect of the Friday parody ensured that the women of Zeta Phi Beta incorporated won both the viewers' choice award and first place in the competition, which earned them two trophies and a $2,000 check.
The Sigmas placed second and the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority incorporated placed third.

“Only three organizations performed, but they were all unique and organic. It was definitely worth the two hours,” audience member Carson Broughton said.

Overall, the 22nd occurrence of the Southeastern Stomp Fest was a success, and no one can say they walked away from the student union that night in a bad mood.