Rumbling and thumping sounds echoed across the wooden floor in an auditorium in Manhattan Jan. 12. To the average ear, the stampede of sounds could have been disguised as noise or usual Friday night clamor. But every step pounded on the ground belonged to the passionate members of the St. Joseph H.S. Step Team, done in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
Standing in the center of the stage donned in her deep blue and bright yellow team uniform that read ‘Lady Cougars,’ one girl addressed the crowd attending the New York Encounter event by staring directly into their eyes and shouting a stern statement.
“It’s time for us to release our labels and our burdens and everything that’s holding us back,” said Team Captian Bethgeana Coq. “We ripped off our labels and we took off our hoodies to symbolize our burdens and we’re putting on a single garment of destiny.”
The junior from the Downtown Brooklyn high school said her team spent months practicing for their performance, including time during their Christmas break, in order to perfect their performance. The motivation to succeed was more than just entertaining the crowd.
“We really just wanted to minister to the crowd and give God glory and allow somebody to be touched,” she said. “All of tonight is about giving peace like Dr. King and that was just what we were trying to do.”
More than 20 minutes of the team’s performance, which included dancing to inspiring spoken word about equality, reciting verses from the Bible and acting out short skits, transformed the Friday evening ambiance into Sunday afternoon praise and worship. By the end, the crowd stood up and clapped their hands together.
Team coach Nichole Prime said her hope was to do just that.
“The real thing is that what’s missing from a lot of people’s point of view on Martin Luther King is the fact that he was a preacher,” said Prime. “Sometimes when we remember Martin Luther King, we remember the acts of non-violence and we miss the fact that he was a man of faith. It was all stemmed from faith. It wasn’t just out of anger and pride. Many movements today is out of anger and pride, but that’s why we’re kind of unsuccessful. But his success came because his movement came from Christ and faith and freedom.”