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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

UTC NPHC Groups Celebrate, Compete, and Connect During Yard Show Performances

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Two members of Omega Psi Phi, Reggie Marshall and Jeffery Taylor Jr. do the splits during their performance at the Pan-Hellenic council’s Yard Show. Friday, Septmeber 16, 2022. Oliver Lampley, Staff Photographer

National Panhellenic Council Students practiced for weeks to perform shows unlike any other– all to welcome their alumni home.

…and maybe to prove, once and for all, just who runs Chamberlain’s yard.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Alumni Affairs partnered together to host a two-part event for the National Pan-Hellenic Council, consisting first of a NPHC Progress Update and then a “yard show” on Sept. 16.

Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Yancy Freeman helped host the events and explained the primary purpose of each.

“This first part is to acknowledge the UTC NPHC heritage park that we are building,” explained Freeman. “A yard show is a rhythmic dancing, stepping competition for students to engage in who are members of the NPHC groups.”

The yard show attracted over 100 people. Chairs became a rare commodity as alumni, faculty, staff, students and media occupied half of Chamberlain field. Fraternity and sorority members, spanning multiple generations, grouped with their organizations in eager anticipation.

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Eta Phi Chapter) performed first, acting and dancing along to pre-recorded voice lines and music. They invited dozens of alumni to join them, and despite leaving their studying behind, the alumni didn’t miss a beat of Alpha Phi Alpha choreography.

The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. (Lambda Delta Chapter ) harmonized the group’s historic rise from Howard University into music. The sisters commanded the stage and projected their voices.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Zeta Kappa Chapter) surprised the audience— several members gasped— with pink smoke cannons. Between fixing their hair and showcasing their style, they claimed to be “the original yard-runners.” In other words, they wanted to keep their reputation of being the best show.

Found in the midst of the seating, Student Government Association President Delali Gadzekpo— speaking personally— disagreed, claiming another sorority truly “won the yard.”

“I’m sorry, they killed it, no questions asked, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority— Incorporated— stole the show,” Gadzekpo claimed.

In truth, no other group achieved as much audience interaction as the Theta Rho Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Their alumni sisters flocked to the front row, and when it was Delta’s time to shine, the alumni didn’t hesitate to join in— bridging a connection between the student’s stage and alumni audience.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (Eta Beta Chapter) members performed next, drawing in the audience with their boots and slitted shorts. Jeffery “JT” Taylor completed a front-flip on the concrete, flipping up Omega Psi Phi’s signature gold boots.

“Gold boots symbolize something significant to us within the fraternity,” Taylor said. “When we put these boots on, we mean business. We are going to be all in, 100%, no matter if we are doing community service or speaking to the youth.”

His fraternity brother Cameron Schofield commented on the event as a whole.

“It was a good chance for us to come out, especially with us being kinda low on numbers,” Schofield said.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (Zeta Iota Chapter) kept the beat flowing well after their performance, evidenced by Keiara Price, a senior Integrated Studies major concentrated in social work and criminal justice. She and a few sisters brought their moves–which they had practiced for weeks– all the way to the line for 360 degree videos. Price felt the best part of her night was performing with her line sisters, even though they all shared stage anxieties.

“I don’t like to say that it’s my life because I am a part of the sorority, the sorority is not me, but it means so much to me, Price said. “The process that I took to join [Sigma Gamma Rho] was really a life-changing and life-saving process.

Dripped out in midnight black shades, dark maroon pants, and fancy collared shirts, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (Lambda Iota Chapter) packed the heat. They treated their girls onstage to rose petals and whipped cream.

Regardless of who ran the yard, the show united alumni and students alike over the NPHC‘s values.

Jayla Miller, a senior marketing major, attended the Yard Show to experience the culture of the NPHC firsthand. Her curiosity about the historically Black fraternities and sororities convinced her to stay. 

“[The NPHC organizations] provide a sense of belonging–a sense of diversity–for people of color and honestly anyone who wants to join them and belong to them.”

As the last rays of sunlight descended down the arches of Chamberlain pavilion, numerous brothers and sisters stayed beyond the event’s conclusion.They danced as one group, not to perform for anyone, but for their own enjoyment. Remaining students milled about, snapping group photographs and enjoying the music.

Prior to the yard show, the offices of Alumni Affairs and Multicultural Affairs co-hosted a Progress Reveal ceremony across from Derthick Hall, on the corner of Vine Street and Terrell Owens Way. 

The NPHC Alumni knew how to represent— they stylized hats, shoes, purses and shirts in their organizations’ colors and letters. Seats filled quickly, which left an impressive semi-circle crowd around the seating.

Brothers and sisters across varying fraternities and sororities reconnected like long-lost siblings, hugging and laughing together. They joked about the past and admired the power of Black love in between bursts of photographs. As they filled chairs, they filled each other with joy. 

Chancellor Angle addressed the crowd midway through. He explained the construction delays and reaffirmed the significance of the planned UTC Divine Nine Heritage Park.

According to Angle, the cost to build the park has nearly doubled due to post-COVID inflation, and the school’s commitment to save the tree on-site means much of the labor will need to be done by hand. 

One sorority charter member— someone who helped found a local chapter— valued the university’s decision to build the park.

“I think after fifty years, it’s a great time to show recognition of [NPHC’s] presence on campus,” Delta Sigma Theta, Theta Rho Chapter, Charter Member Wanda O’Neal said. “In ‘69, when it became UT Chattanooga, there was very little African American representation on campus, so sorority and fraternity life was one way for us to become a part of campus life.”

UTC’s website hosts more information regarding the plans for a UTC Divine Nine Heritage Park and National Panhellenic Council. 

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