Dearest Sankofa Step Team,
I can't believe you're turning 20 this year! You're no longer an itty bitty teenager, and now you're entering the big wide world of adulthood. You've been twenty years in the making, and I can't help but think how much history, love, passion, dedication, and long hours of hard core stepping has gone into your creation. Tweny years ago, five women stood on the steps of Chapin Hall and shook the entire campus with the mere clapping and stomping of their hands and feet. They stood together in percussive movement to create a rhythm and beautiful art form that had never before touched the Williams College campus, not knowing that they were forming a family that would change my life so many years later.
Sankofa, we first met eyes in the Spring of 2014, when I came to Williams for Previews as a pre-frosh, eager to learn about this amazing school that I randomly applied to minutes before the Common App deadline. I loved the campus environment of Williams, but I don't think I really knew what love at first sight meant until I saw you. During the Jamboree performance of various student performance groups, I sat quietly as I longed to get back to my host's room and go to bed, when all of a sudden you stomped on the stage. Your ladies squad, full of bold and beautiful women, stepped to Beyoncé's “Flawless,” and I honestly had never seen anything that was a more perfect embodiment of the song. Step after step, I stood completely shocked at what was before me, and I can't even describe how I felt when I saw “Where's My Squad” performed with the entire co-ed team. “I have to go here,” I told myself. “And I have to be on that team.”
Fast-forward to the year that changed my life. One thing I love about you, Kofa, is that you've honestly pushed me to be my best self, even from the very beginning. Going to your auditions my freshman fall was a little nerve racking, just based on the sheer amount of people that were trying out, but I have to admit that during the first round of auditions I thought I had it in the bag. I was having so much fun and feeling myself, and people were always cheering for me and calling out my audition number, so I thought I was a shoe-in for the team. And then call-backs came around I realized this little form of percussive dance called step wasn't as easy as I had chalked it up to be. I was struggling and I had to work ten times harder than I thought I would to somehow try not to make a fool of myself and wiggle my way on the team. But somehow I got on! I was so completely overjoyed, but still in my awkward freshman stage of being ashamed of my own accomplishments, and irrationally scared that some of my new freshman friends would resent me for me making the team and them not, I don't even think I told anyone I made the team. I didn't think people really knew until one day, while standing at the top of Mission Dining Hall, I got blindsided by a major “CONGRATS!” and abruptly thrown into the arms of what would be my fellow teammate, newbie, and first college best friend.
Kofa, you gave me the best freshman experience I could ever ask for. As a newbie, you let me be apart of hands down, the coolest group people on campus, and you let me feel as cool as I wanted to be, even when I (most of the time) was definitely not. You have me a gaggle of newbie gal pals who I could eat meals with, laugh with, complain with, gossip with, and just constantly gush over our love for you, and obliviously live in the bliss of newbie and freshman life. As a whole, you introduced me to the biggest, coolest, and most amazing group of friends I would ever know, and allowed me to constantly attempt (yet always fail) to somehow reach their infinite levels of beauty, wisdom, intelligence, royalty, and flawlessness. Each year more are added to this amazing group, and to this day, each and every one of them never fail to support me, drop insane amounts of wisdom, and make me laugh until I cry. As steppers, and as human beings, you gave me an amazing group of people that I will forever love and aspire to be.
Most importantly, Kofa, my freshman year you gave me the gift of step, something I had only done once or twice before in a few special church services, but the step you gave me was unlike anything I had ever done or seen before. With this step, you gave me so much confidence. You made me feel bold and sexy in a body that had been fat shamed and ridiculed my entire life. You made me feel powerful and creative in ways that I never knew were possible. You gave me an outlet to stomp out my pain and frustration at the white guy who ignored my existence in my entry, or the friend who had hurtfully turned on me without my understanding why. You gave me the addictive adrenline rush of performing in front of a huge crowd; something I had lacked so much confidence to do before, but somehow, with you, I turned into a completely different person. Performing with you was the most amazing feeling in the world, and nothing can describe the feeling I get when I hear the crisp sound of stomping, clapping, and moving in unison with you. You gave something that I finally felt I was good at, because all my life I had been searching for just that one thing, and could never find it. Most of all, you gave me lifelong friends and family, and so much love, fun, joy, and way too much laughter, even when sometimes I literally thought those things would never exist for me on a campus like Williams'.
Sankofa, freshman year you gave me so much, but sophomore year, we hit a rough patch. This year, you made me drill sergeant, a lead choreographer and captain of the team, and the daunting task of taking on this role as a young sophomore didn't phase me at first. I knew I was a natural leader, and I loved the team so much, so I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but I was wrong. You were literally always on my mind, to the extent where most days I couldn't focus on anything else. My running to-do list of things I had to do for Kofa were always longer than whatever real homework assignments I had. Whether it be thinking about a formation, a performance, a step, or an email, I was always thinking about you. I lived for the days when my phone would run out of battery so I didn't have to read and respond to a constant flood of texts and emails, and I found so much solace in a few hours in a day where I could just focus on homework and nothing else. I lead the team in a stern manner so I could make sure everything got done as efficiently as possible, but sometimes I would snap and lash out against people in ways I never intented to, merely because of stress. I would put on a face and act like everything was ok because I was doing everything for the sake of the team, and I didn't want people to see me crack, especially when I was dealing with so many other things in my life. I was barely passing my last few Div. 3 required courses, and I had no clue what I was going to do if I failed them. For most of the year, even though I had you and the amazing family you created for me, I still didn't feel like I had found my close group of friends outside of you, and considered transferring so many times because I thought if I hadn't yet found, I never would. I got my heart broken and felt the most worthless I ever have in my life, and all the while I thought I could bury myself in you and everything would be fine as long as the team was fine. I'm sure so many of my dark times are overshadowing the good times I had that year, but I wasn't fine, and we went through a lot together.
So, junior fall I decided to take time off from being drill sergeant. Not only did I need the mental break, but I honestly needed to figure out who I was outside of you. You had become my life and my entire identity at Williams, and I knew I didn't want things to be that way forever. I had gone from two extremes, from newbie to drill sergeant, and I needed to get to know you as a member on the team without so much attention, pressure, or responsibility. You helped make my junior fall my absolute best semester at Williams yet, and mostly because you weren't my entire semester. You let me take a step back from you in a way that allowed me to work toward finding myself. You allowed me to solidify an amazing group of friends outside of you, without ever letting your true family bond diminish or slip away. You allowed me to express my passions for writing, singing, and social justice in ways that I couldn't when I was strictly dedicated to you. You let me focus on my mental and spiritual health and get closer to God in ways I had never done before. You let me be free in ways that finally let me feel like a real college student that could enjoy herself and live life without you constantly lurking in the back of my mind. Through all of this, you gave me a space on the team that didn't make me feel any less confident, sexy, dedicated, and loved, even if I wasn't a newbie or a drill sergeant. You let me know that you, your entire family, and all of its alumni would always be there for me, no matter what, and that my love for you and stepping would never waver. Being abroad and not being able to be with you right now makes me so sad, but all the more excited to reunite with you in the Fall and get back to business. Thank you for giving the most hilarious, crazy, weird, unique, and overall loving group of people I could ask for. I love you, and I promise that I will always step forward while looking back.