UMOJA Step Team Experience

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In the 1990s, the Liverpool Umoja Step Team began with the creation of a constitution. This document outlined the purpose of this club: “To provide an integral part of the instructional program and additional opportunities for the African American students at Liverpool High School to be compelled to assimilate themselves into school-wide sponsored activities and to promote the need for development of civic and personal responsibilities to themselves, their fellow man and society in general.”

In other words, this team mostly started out as a convention for African Americans to talk about their problems at home and the discrimination they face on the everyday basis. However, UMOJA has always been open to but not limited to only African American students.

As research shows, Mr. Pallota, Mr.Cacho, Mrs. Shaw, Mr. Williams, Pat Kieffer, Mr. Davis, Mrs. Lasher, Mr. Richardson, Mrs. Collins, and Mrs. Emas are previous advisors. The main goal of this team has always been to promote and encourage diversity.

The slogan used in January of 1990 stated “Pupu/Rainbow-People United for Peace and Understanding”. The UMOJA Step Team started out as a safe haven then, developed into something much more.

In the year of 2014, Jasmine Barnett and Julie were captains. According to past team members, they were the captains that “did not play”. They did not accept drama, nor did they tolerate it. An important rule on the team was if a team member was to be disruptive, disrespectful, or fighting, the team member would be kick off of the team. The next year, the leadership role was passed on.

In my personal experience, the Umoja Step Team came into my life at a very important time. In my freshman year, 2015, two captains named Dajier Davis and Tricia Murray were passed on the crown. Both captains came into my classroom to give information about the team.

Immediately, I was interested in joining the team. I raised some questions about the difficulty of the team and they both stated that it wasn’t hard that it was what you make it. The first practice, I was nervous and worried that the team wouldn’t like me especially since there were a few people on the team that didn’t like me.

I believed I wouldn’t be a good enough dancer. However, the team was very welcoming to me. The more comfortable I became, the more I showed out. I was involved with several matters concerning drama and was very immature dealing with the situations. Which made people not want to be around me, I hated the feeling; meanwhile, who could blame them. Drama was not tolerated on the team and although I brought it, I did not bring it alone. Eventually, I stopped keeping company that caused drama and was more open to the people I surround myself around.

One of the captains, Dajier Davis, grew heavily fond of me. He began to come over my house more often along with several other teams. Although, my place of residents was an apartment, we made the best of it. We would play fight and somehow I would always end up being the one that loses. We would order food, dance just for fun, and make fun of each other. Closer to the end of the year, Dajier’s co-captains has to unfortunately step down from their position; leaving Dajier on his own to finish one last show, which was the Spanish show. D’zyre Jones and I helped him finish out the year strong.

The upcoming year, 2016, Dajier’s co-captains, Alexus Price and Tricia Murry returned. We had a successful year. In the middle of the year, unfortunately, one of our captains had to move. I continued to help make magic within team dances. Dajier welcomed me into his life and we were able to make dance routines until midnight with others. The dances went beyond team dances, there were individual dances that were created for the May Show and other shows that were never used, sadly.

The teams last show was the Spanish show in March. The crowd enjoyed every second of it and the team got good feedback. In spite of our May show being cancelled and being unable to perform in the Spring Prep Rally, we had an awesome Black History Month Show and the team was proud of not only how we ended the year but of our strong, African American, reliable captain, Dajier Davis. He stayed with us without even the thought of quitting for two years. We are appreciative of all of our captains.

The year of 2016-2017 the captain position was passed down to myself and another fellow student. We had many achievements. The team had a successful fall and winter prep rally. The competition team was also created this year to compete at competitions outside of Liverpool. We performed in the “Heal The Cuse” competition. In this particular competition, the team won first place. We completed the year with the Spanish Show which was indeed highly successful.

On the other hand, the team had some difficulties this year. I had to keep fighting for my team. Drama was at it highest peak than it has ever been before. There was controversy between the captains and the advisors. There were disagreements between students and the captains. There were disputes among the captains themselves. All this drama, tore the step team apart.

One of the captains and the advisors decided to resign in the middle of preparing for the Black History Month Celebration. The other captain decided to move forward with Black History Show with the help of the principals, staff members, and team members. One team member decided to step up and take on captain responsibilities without being concerned about having the title.

The team was no longer acting like a family. It felt as if the captains were getting a divorce and the teammates had to choose. The family broke apart. However, no family is perfect. We may argue, we may fight, we may even stop talking, but in the end, family is family … the love will always be there.

The year of 2017-2018 was noted as the best year for the Umoja Step Team according to staff, some teammates, and in the opinions of both captains themselves. Only one teammate was appointed captain, her name is Llamily Medina. She has grown more than we could ever hope. Her courage, integrity, strength, and dedication inspires not only myself but other members.

The team will be in good hands the year of 2018-2019. Especially since, the team got the advisor they deserve. Mrs. Brown has chosen to stay another year. In my opinion, I believe she is here to stay. I’m not saying that it won’t be hard, depending on the students leaders and the teammates, sometimes it becomes unbearable. There is always several routes to take instead of using the last resort. In other words, there is always another option instead of quitting, be creative and use your resources. The team loves Mrs. Brown.

The team had a good fall prep rally; also an awesome winter prep rally! Performers were growing and they were able to spot their own mistakes. Most performances were perfect and others routines were mediocre; however, these ups and downs taught the team and captains lessons of what they could do better next time.

Instead of focusing on what we could’ve done better and should’ve done, we took the lesson as a blessing in disguise. The team grew more and more anxious to perform. It also taught the captains that it’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help. The former captain, Dajier Davis came back to help the team prepare for the winter prep rally.

He helped make dances, with auditions, formations, and teaching. The captains and our advisor are extremely grateful. The team had its first basketball game ever which is a huge deal considering that the team as never been able to perform at a sports event. The year continues and the students prepare for the upcoming show, the Black History Month Show.

My personal experience of the UMOJA Step team only shows how important this club is not only to African Americans but also to people of other ethnicities. This club does something to people that is very important especially for high school student. It provides a place where they can feel safe. In high school, almost everyone looks for a group to be involved in.

Whether it’s student council, I am norm, the debate club, mocktail, yearbook club, cheerleading, football, basketball, or other sports related extracurricular activities. What do you do if you are not good at arguing or didn’t make the football, basketball, or cheerleading teams? Do you just sit around bored or do you take action and look for other opportunities to be involved in your community?

This team is more than dancing and stepping. This team set a tone that helps teenagers show into a mindset that is needed to survive in this world. This team uses auditions as a tool to help them build up their self-confidence. If you don’t make all the dances that you really wanted, you don’t cry about it. You take the lesson, ask the captains what you can do better for next time; then, push yourself to do better. Nothing good in this world will be given to you for free.

Everything takes hard work, discipline, determination, perseverance, and persistence. In college, no professor is going to give you an A+ on a essay that you decided to write 6 sentences on. If you choose to spend every night in college partying instead of doing what you actually went to college for then not only are you wasting your time and money but you will find yourself in a load of debt. College is not cheap! Going to college without discipline can lead to serious problem.

When you go to a rigorous college, you will have loads on top of loads of homework. Your going to go to one class and the professor tells you that you have to read 300 pages of homework due next 4 days, the next class says you have to read 400 pages in 4 days, the next says you do not have to read however, you have an essay due soon.

Without determination and perseverance, you can and will crumble. The step team tells the team to go home every night and practice, come back tomorrow ready to move on. Those that do not practice at home often ask for things to be reviewed. Then, when audition time comes around they are not prepare. That’s when there is a problem. When I ask a teammate that is not pleased with their results from auditions, “did you go home and practice for auditions?” Few say “No.” Then, why do you feel as if you deserve to put into a dance? You only get out what you put in. Don’t expect anything more until you do more. That is just how the world works!

Umoja does not only help trains their teammates to prepare for the real world but, it helps build their teammates mentally. These teenagers go through things that are unbelievable. Our team does not entertain bullying and will not put up with it. If you bully one member,just one, you are in for a rule awakening because the captaisn DO NOT tolerate it!

They may be worried about going to a counselor or a teacher because they don’t want to feel crazy, looked at or treated differently in any kind of way. As an alternative, they go to a captain they know they can trust or they go to an advisor to vent and ask for help.They know they will not be judged or overlooked. They don’t’ have to be ashamed of afraid to share with us.

See we are your family. If you need anything come to a team member, come to a captain come to an advisor. If you need someone to talk to, we have an open door policy. We will give you the shoulder to cry on, we will give you the hug, and the love. We will feed you and we will clothe you if you need it. We are always here no matter the time, place, or situation.

At the end of the day, captains have to have the mentality that this team is not about us, or just one individual, this is about the whole team. Be there for one another! Teach one another! Help one another! Love one another! Cherish one another! Never take another for granted! Alumni always know that they are apart of this team. This team is your family and your family is your home; with that being said, you can always free to come back home.

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1 Comment

One Response to “UMOJA Step Team Experience”

  1. Rolondo on February 18th, 2018 10:56 PM

    I am in full support of the UMOJA Step Team at Liverpool High School and I can honestly say that there Black History Month Showcase was the best thing I’ve ever seen. I performed in it last year and watching it this year from an audience stand-point made it stick out even more. Never was there a dull moment and each member performing had me hooked from start to finish. It even got better during the dinner portion when I saw something I haven’t seen in awhile, a community of Black People Dancing in a circle having a good time and being a literally family. I applaud the captains and everyone involved for an amazing experience #BlackExcellence #UMOJAStepTeam


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