Morehouse's Phi Beta Sigma brothers grab the crowd's attention as they stomp out the rhythm of brotherhood, twirling canes at their sides and tapping them on the pavement in unison. The canes signify manhood and status, while the steps mark centuries of African tribal traditions.
Bryan Nails and his fraternity take pride in stepping, but they also do it to earn bragging rights on campus.
"At the AUC, if you win the step competition, you are the predominant Greeks," Nails says.
Nails and his fraternity brothers were the crowd favorite at Morehouse's 2006 homecoming competition where they performed Flight 1914, a step routine that incorporates dance moves inspired by various American cities and is named for the fraternity's founding year. Dressed casually as pilots in navy sweater vests, white dress shirts and khakis, the Sigma team took the homecoming crowd around the United States, stopping in Brooklyn with Jim Jones' "We Fly High," and then in Oakland, Calif., where they "went dumb" with an unstructured, head-shaking, arm-flailing dance. Next they visited Texas, sliding into a sleek, hip-hop version of a cowboy dance. Afterward, they flew on to D.C., Miami and finally, Atlanta.
"We do it for fun and we want the people in the audience to have fun watching it," Nails says.
When he isn't practicing for step competitions, Nails participates elsewhere on campus with the psychology club and glee club, and he works as a resident assistant. Total campus immersion is a lifestyle for Nails, who says students shouldn't be afraid to get involved.
"My freshman year I ran for office as justice. I didn't win, but I got my name out there," he says. His advice to students: "Get out of the room so you'll know what campus life is about."