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 decorative objects to be admired and be proud of. They became collectors items and represented the true sign of a Gentlemen.
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 canes, being the symbol of a Gentlemen who exhibits such characteristics, was then proudly adorned by members of the Fraternity.
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 routine known 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.
Now that "twirling" had become the new style of can stepping among Kappa undergrads, members were constantly searching for better and faster styles. One problem that Kappas faced during this time is that they were still practicing the step show routines using the standard size, 3 foot canes. Kappas widely found that while standard length canes worked fine for tapping, they became a hinderance when it came time to twirl. Thus, cane stepping evolved once again with the birth of the short cane. This new evolution of the short cane during the later 1970's has remained constant to this day. Thus, full length cane, as well as standing straight up in order to perform a "Tap", has been sacrificed, making way for twirling ability and speed. These excerts from the The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi tell the National Organization's viewpoint concerning the whole cane stepping issue:
Backtracking for a moment, a very important part in cane stepping history was the acceptance of this trade by the Grand Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. All the aformentioned events have involved the undergraduate members of the Fraternity. However, cane stepping, even from its beginnings during the 1950's, has not been considered an official part of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. until as of late. The National Organization was slow to accept this as an official part of the Fraternity, even though undergraduate members across the entire United States, were widely participating in the art and tradition of cane stepping.
These excerts from the The Story of Kappa Alpha Psi tell the National Organization's viewpoint concerning the whole cane stepping issue:
"Although cane stepping had become one of the most popular and well-attended activities on college campuses throughout the country, Kappa Alpha Psi was slow to accept this form of entertainment as a national activity. Earlier, Senior Grand Vice Polemarch Ullysses McBride had complained in the Journal about the vulgar language and obscene gestures sometimes engages in by cane-stepping participants. Many complained of the profanity woven into the chants of the steppers and condemned what they considered "lewd and sexually suggestive gestures that accompany some routines.' Critics further contended that the hours spent in step practices by chapters each week would be better devoted to academic or civic achievement. 'I think it's more important to honor scholastic achievement. I think the attention given to stepping should be placed into developing an honor role or to recognize a group of Kappa scholars,'was the opinion of Arthur Grist, a member of the East St.Louis Alumni Chapter and adviser to the Zeta Pi Chapter at Southern Illinois university.
The Journal reported: 'What is undeniable, however, is the widespread popularity that stepping has attained. The avid attraction at college to stepping has caused show to be propelled from mere performances in the school dance hall to such prominent forums as homecoming celebrations, civic auditoriums and fraternity province meetings. Step shows have become events that are frequently attended by parents and relatives of collegians.'
The Fraternity succumbed to the pressure and during the 66th Grand Chapter meeting in Washington D.C. (in 1986 - 75years after the founding of the Fraternity), cane stepping was programmed as an official item on the Grand Chapter agenda. Cane stepping became an official part of [Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Inc. at the 66th Grand Chapter meeting in 1986] and a dazzling competition was held in front of hundreds of onlookers during a picnic in Washington's Rock Creek to illustrate the skills of the trade. Several groups participated, performing frenzied and entertaining steps."
Now that cane stepping was openly embraced by the National Organization of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, publicity of the old tradition was gaining and many television shows, T.V. commericials, and music video artists sought out to display Kappas stepping in their respective forums. One of the first natioanl airings came about on February 2nd, 1989 when NBC chose members of Kappa
Alpha Psi to perform a step routine on the Black college sitcom "A Different World". Later, members of Kappa Alpha Psi could be found stepping in Brother Montell Jordan's remix of "This is How We do It" in the summer of 1996. Also airing in the summer of 1996 was another display of Kappas stepping in an episode of FOX's "New York Undercover".
Kappas were again called upon to perform in songtress INOJ's music video "Love You Down" which ran in the Spring of 1997. WB's sitcom "Sister Sister" ran an epsiode that focused on college fraternities in the spring of 1999, and members of Kappa Alpha Psi were chosen to perform the stepping segment. Other music videos that feature members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity were in the video of Chubb Rock and "Woof!" by rapper Snoop Doggy Dog which ran in the spring of 1999, and "Imma Shine" by Mia X ran in the summer of 1999 and "Down for My Niggas" by those No-Limit Soldiers(C-Murder, Mr. Magic,and Snoop Dogg), ran in the fall of 2000.
Therefore, the tradition of the Kappa Cane has a longstanding history that reaches back as far the history of the cane itself, and sweeps forward with the introduction of Black Greek Letter Organization step shows, cane stepping, cane tapping, cane twirling, and finally the acceptance of this tradition as an official and integrated part of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity,Inc. which truly sets it apart from any other organization of its type.