By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The featured speaker at Tupelo High School’s black history program on Friday told the school’s students about the importance of having options.
Those options, C. Brian Williams said, come from having an education.
Williams is the founder of Step Afrika!, the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The group has been in town this week for a public performance on Friday and a series of outreach events throughout the week.
The group also performed several stepping routines as part of the annual black history program at THS.
“None of what we do right now would be possible if we did not focus on our initial objective, and that is our education,” Williams said.
Stepping is a dance form that uses footsteps, claps and words to create rhythms and sounds. It originated in black colleges, and the performers and Williams used that fact to talk to the students about the importance of attending college.
Williams mentioned the community college tuition guarantee program, which pays for four semesters of community college tuition for high school graduates from Lee County and most Northeast Mississippi counties. He told Tupelo’s students it provided an awesome opportunity.
He also said all nine Step Afrika! performers had bright futures in front of them because they had completed their college degrees.
“Because they have finished their degrees, they have enough options to compete and make it happen,” he said.
The program also featured brief remarks by several Tupelo High School students and a performance of the THS Voices choir, which sang “You Were Born to Win,” “God Made Me” and “I Smile.”
The Step Afrika! members, who received a standing ovation from the THS audience after their performance, returned the favor by giving a big ovation to the student singers.
THS sophomore Devon Simmons, who sang with the THS Voices, said he enjoyed watching the step group.
“They were talented, and they were awesome,” he said.
Fellow choir member Tiffany Harris, a junior, said she was honored to be a part of the event.
“It means a lot to me because I love Tupelo High School,” she said.