One day, Imara Rodney and Kayla Brooks, two juniors at Proviso Math and Science Academy, were watching videos of sorority members stepping — the practice of percussive dancing, in which the participant uses her entire body as a drum.
From the video, Rodney and Brooks, along with fellow student Jahnai White, hatched an idea. Why not start a step club at their high school? Last August, the idea became reality and a club, Sista Steppers, was formed last August.
During a Black History Month event at PMSA last week, the 13-member club reveled in what was likely their last performance of the school year. The performance capped an experience that the girls, in a joint statement, said went deeper than entertainment.
“Step team is not just a team, it’s a family,” they said. “It’s a sisterhood that has created a lasting bond that we will forever cherish as one highlight of our high school career.”
In a Feb. 26 phone interview, Rodney said last week’s performance worked “to get our names out to the school, showing people how they can join, too. It was also to empower other African American students at school because there aren’t as many of us here as there are at Proviso East and Proviso West.”
Rodney said she believes step club fills a void at PMSA, a paucity of extracurricular activities that cater to the school’s black student population. She added, however, that the step club is open to students of all cultural and ethnic persuasions.
The spirit of the club, however, is undoubtedly an extension of African American culture, said Brooks.
“We chose step, as opposed to some dance or something else, because it goes with our African culture and we wanted to feel more connected with our culture,” she said. “Normally blacks don’t really know much about our culture, so we wanted to do something to embrace it.”
According to state data, PMSA’s student population is roughly 29 percent African American while Hispanics and whites make up roughly 61 percent and 5 percent of the population, respectively.
“I think our club gives African American women a place to go not only to step and dance, but to form a bond with people you can actually trust,” Rodney added. “Since there aren’t many blacks at the school, this makes you feel a little less like an outsider.”