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Guest speaker, barbecue, step show highlight African-American Heritage Month


USAF photo: Senior Airman Evelyn Chavez Members of the Texas Tech fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha step dance at Cannon Air Force Base on Feb. 25, as part of African-American Heritage Month commemoration. Several fraternities demonstated the a dance form where footwork is the most important part of the dance. The event also included guest speaker Gary Williams, deputy director of the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs and a picnic-style lunch.

Cannon Air Force Base commemorated African American Heritage Month Feb. 24 to highlight accomplishments, contributions, culture and traditions of African Americans who contribute greatly to the Air Force’s diverse force.

AAHM is celebrated each year during February. For this particular event the base had a guest speaker, a stepping show, and a barbecue.

Gary Williams, deputy director of the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs and guest speaker, said he advocates matters related to health care, education, employment, fair housing, and criminal justice for minorities. He then spoke about the available resources pertaining to those issues in the state of New Mexico.

An information booth with pamphlets on OAAA services and history was offered after the stepping show, where fraternity and sorority students of Texas Tech University entertained the commemoration’s attendees.

2nd Lt. Amanda Altman, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron, and the AAH month committee chairman, explained how stepping not only tied into African American heritage but also to the military’s.

“In the 1950’s and 1960’s, music and war affected stepping. Fraternities started singing and dancing to mimic the styles of R&B groups like the Temptations and Four Tops. The fraternities with the best song and dance steps got the most recruits. This is how it was come to be known as ‘stepping’ today,” said Altman. “World War II is equally influential in the evolution of stepping. Soldier fraternity members came back to America and incorporated elements of drill routines such as military marching and line formation into their steps for crossing over rituals.”

Altman also added that influences from the military still exist in stepping to this day.

Zeta Phi Beta sorority and Phi Beta Sigma and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities showed off their routines throughout the event. True to today’s usual stepping routines which combine dance elements from the past and use elaborate movements between, the steppers used their feet and hands for rhythm, and incorporated whistles to balance beats.

“We loved coming here and performing for military members,” said Eveliz Tomety, vice president and member of Texas Tech sorority Zeta Phi Beta. “We would love to come back and give a little bit back to the military community since they serve for us.”

The guest speaker, stepping show, and barbecue concluded for the base a month filled with various events honoring AAHM and the African Americans who contribute to the diversity in the U.S. Air Force.


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