Under the bright Coliseum lights before a crowd of thousands, the Cardinal Divas of SC debuted as the very first all Black majorette team at USC. The huge audience at the USC vs. Fresno State game gave the Cardinal Divas of SC a platform that sparked lots of debate on social media.
Princess Lang, a sophomore studying musical theater, is the creator of the Cardinal Divas of SC majorette team. Her long-awaited dream of creating a dance group for Black students finally became a reality Saturday, but she might’ve not expected the conversations that would arise after posting this video on Twitter.
The social media post went viral, generating support and discussions on bringing elements of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) dance culture to predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Many believe this bold move was a step in the right direction creating opportunities for Black students at USC to put Black excellence on display for the whole world to see.
However, others believed it was appropriating HBCU dance culture.
Since the late 1960s, HBCUs have a rich heritage in dance culture with majorettes accompanying marching bands with their show-stopping moves that have the ability to captivate a crowd.
“We’re not trying to bring something else to a PWI and just say that we’re bringing blackness here,” said Jada Walker, a senior at Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and the vice president and team captain of the Cardinal Divas of SC. “No, we live this; half of us are from the south. We know the background knowledge of this. I’m just trying to get everybody else to see that we’re not trying to take this away from HBCUs.”
With growing notoriety and opinions from different perspectives, Walker knew that social media attention meant being critiqued.
“I was expecting it to get backlash,” Walker said. “I was hoping it would get backlash because that’s the only way you know you’re good nowadays if a lot of people hate on it.”
Walker knew she had to be well prepared before their first performance.
“If I’m going to do something that’s coming from somewhere else, I’m going to make sure I do it in the most respectful way possible and I do it in the most correct way possible,” Walker said.
Building a platform that creates a safe space for Black students who love the art of dance and giving them the chance to exhibit what they love is the goal of the Cardinal Divas of SC. The importance of representation and the feeling of belonging play a major part for some Black students.
Amuche Okeke, a sophomore studying pharmacology and drug development, agrees and believes the Cardinal Divas give an opportunity for a bigger diverse platform at USC.
“I actually really enjoyed seeing the Cardinal Divas perform,” Okeke said. “I feel like as a Black person at a PWI, I’m always so excited to see different forms of Black culture being represented in a community that lacks Black people.”
Elizabeth Adebayo, a freshman studying aerospace engineering, believes the majorette team is opening doors for other students to go after their desires to diversify campus clubs.
“I thought it was a really cool thing for people to see, so that people could start adding more [culturally] diverse clubs because it gave people a lot of ideas of what they could also add,” Adebayo said.
The Cardinal Divas of SC have become a source of encouragement for Black students on campus.
“We’re continuing to build the Black culture at USC. The Black community is just so small, but when we’re together, it feels so big,” Walker said. “So why not make it bigger? Why not tell all the Black kids that are scared to come to a PWI because they feel like they don’t belong, ‘You got a place here.’”
Although the team has just started, Walker expressed their future goals of becoming a recreational sport on campus to get better access for the team.
“Hopefully it becomes a rec sport so we can travel with the team. I feel we bring a different energy than the other spirit teams. Right now I feel the school just sees it as an organization but we’re trying to get down there to that field,” Walker said.
Their first televised performance is just the beginning for the Cardinal Divas of SC gaining support for their platform. Many people and organizations, including celebrities like Saweetie, a USC alum who was also a part of a Black majorette team at a PWI, and San Diego State University have spoken out in support of the majorette team and believe the team should continue breaking barriers for Black students at PWIs.
“If you want to do this, I say go for it,” Walker said. “Don’t pull back. I say do what you want to do; you only get one life to live.”