The University of West Alabama's
Iota Theta CHapter
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
Why Do Kappas Carry Canes?
The use of walking sticks and canes may very well date back to centuries B.C. to the times when shepherds would tend to their flocks. This ties into the early roots of Christianity and leads to the candy canes of today being striped the way they are (3 thin stripes and 1 solid stripe) to remind us of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and the blood of Christ. The shape was believed to be chosen because the cane, if pointed upward, resembles the letter "J" for Jesus. The history of the cane also ties in with the African Rights of Passage, and was a symbol of manhood that had to be carried by initiates wishing to become adult members of their respective tribe. Dealing more directly with the evolution of the cane and how it relates to the Fraternity, canes started off as assistive devices, and later turned into social status symbols for society. In the 1700's and 1800's, canes were a fashion embellishment. One "wore" a cane. These old canes were decorative, objects to be admired and be proud of. They became collectors items and represented the true sign of a Gentleman.
Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity have always worn or carried canes since the beginning of the Fraternity in 1911. Although unintentional in its inception, this occurance soon became an unofficial tradition of Kappa men, as Kappas have always strived to be noble and productive members of the community. The cane, being the symbol of a Gentlmen who exhibits such characteristics, was then proudly adorned by members of the Fraternity. Earlier in the 20th century, new initiates of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc in would be seen carrying their canes
This type of display became commonplace up until the 1950's when Black Greek Letter Organizations, on an undergraduate level, began to practice what is known today as "Step Shows". Undergraduate members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity took part in the trade and soon incorporated the use of their favorite item, the cane, into the routine. This was something that spread to many undergraduate chapters during the 50's and 60's. Stepping was catching on at an accelerated rate among the Arican American fraternities and sororities during this time period. It was not until the mid to later 1960's that the undergrads of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity began to decorate the step canes with the colors of the organization. The usual design was to pattern the cane with a crimson and a cream stripe from tip to tip.
All throughout the 50's and 60's, canes used in the art of stepping were standard canes of approximately 36 inches in length, give or take half a foot. Eventually, as stated before, the canes would be adorned with the Fraternity colors of crimson and cream, but they were still standard length. Members of Kappa Alpha Psi would perform routines know as "Taps" where the canes would be beaten on the ground in time with the rhythmic beat of the step show. The turn of the decade would reveal an evolution in cane stepping known today as "twirling". Undergraduate members of Kappa Alpha Psi in the 70's, not content with Taps alone, would then create a new form of cane mastery which involved much more skill and talent than merely banging the cane on the ground in a certain beat. During the 70's, members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. began to "twirl" canes.