MUSIC Drill and Step
How have music and dance affected the Omaha community?
Stepping on Up... Drill and Step in Omaha
Research compiled by Aliyah C., Jimeace R., Diamond M., Rose D., Alexandria S., and Angeer K.
Published on August 5, 2017
Students created this documentary as part of the OPS Making Invisible Histories Visible initiative.
This photograph shows members of the Salem Stepping Saints drill team dressed up in beautiful purple and red uniforms for a performance. The Salem Stepping Saints of Omaha, Nebraska just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The group was founded by Phyllis Hicks and Jackie Bowles in 1967 as an outreach of the Salem Baptist Church. The Stepping Saints is made up of students age twelve to twenty that practice multiple times a week. They are best known for their performances in parades, like the Native Omaha Days parade. The Saints have had many opportunities to travel nationally to competitions and performances. They are known locally for their performance in the Native Omaha Days parade,The Salem Stepping Saints are part of a long history both in Omaha and throughout the United States of drill and step teams rooted in the music and dance history of African Americans. (Photograph courtesy of Salem Stepping Saints).
This photo shows young women in Salem's Drill team marching west on 30th Street in 1971. The Drill Team was celebrating the completion Salem's newly built church by marching from the old church at 2741 Decatur Street to the new one located at 3336 Lake Street. People of all ages gather up on the curb to see the outstanding performances. Drill teams were important to North Omaha because they helped the community mark important occasions. They brought joy and inspiration to the community. Salem's church moved again in 2000 to a larger church located at 3131 Lake Street. (Photograph courtesy of Great Plains Black History Museum).
In this photo, The Elks are marching and playing music for the Juneteenth Parade celebrating the freedom that slaves in Texas gained on June 19, 1865. While Juneteenth is not yet an official U.S. holiday, it holds significance to the African American community in Omaha. Currently, the parade is organized by Vickie Young and the Omaha branch of the NAACP. Even though Juneteenth's popularity has faded out over the years, drill teams and community organizations, like The Elks, still parade down North 30th Street every June 19th.
This photo shows one of the Black Letter Organizations (BLOs) step teams and the significance of staying together as a group moving and working as one. It is important for BLOs to stay together because throughout the twentieth century black people needed social organizations at predominately all white colleges and as well in black colleges for support and mentoring. BLOs can help people that are trying to turn their life around or trying to find some kind of organization to get involved in. (Photograph courtesy of Barry Thomas.)
Below is a photograph (c. 2009) of James Mason the III caught mid-step at a performance in Kansas City at the 8th district meeting the of the historically black fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. James Mason is a member of the Beta Upsilon Chapter which is the Omaha branch of Omega Psi Phi. James Mason III’s father helped begin the Omaha chapter. Notice the stylish and sparkling golden boots, a tradition of the fraternity. The origin of this tradition is a secret. (Photograph courtesy of James Mason III).
Tamara Jones looks at a cultural display of photographs of black women at the Stone Soul Picnic, which was a celebration similar to Native Omaha Days. Both events brought the African American community together to be proud of their cultural heritage (c. 1970).
Alamdari, Natalia. “Native Omaha Days Are Extra Special for Salem Stepping Saints as Drill Team Marks 50th Anniversary.” Omaha.com. Accessed August 10, 2017.
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Fine, Elizabeth C. Soulstepping: African American Step Shows. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
Howard, Ashley M. “Then the Burning Began: Omaha, Riots, and the Growth of Black Radicalism, 1966-1969.” M.A., University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2006.
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Tamara L., Brown, Gregory S. Parks, and Clarenda M. Phillips, eds. African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision. Second edition. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2012.