Ngambika is one of the reasons I came to Emory this fall. I did not come particularly to step, but I was looking for a certain kind of community that was full of students striving for Black Excellence who were supportive of other brothers and sisters and full of students proud of their culture. When I visited the Ngambika table at Wonderful Wednesday on Admitted Students’ Day, I had a feeling that it would provide me with access to the community that I wanted at my future college purely because it seemed to be the table where Black students were stopping.
A very cheery Amber Wilson welcomed me to Wonderful Wednesday with a “Hi, do you want to buy a Bika brownie?” I walked over and started chatting with her about Ngambika. Besides the fact that it was a freshmen step team, I did not really get what the team was all about. I did not know then, but, I would not understand the meaning of Ngambika until I joined. The encounter floated to the back of my mind after that campus visit. Yet, over the summer, my roommate, Liz, was telling me how she was super excited to try Ngambika in the fall. We exchanged so many text messages over the summer about the team, but I was not really considering it. Still, I let her drag me to the first practice.
o be blunt, the first practice was scary. I had no idea what to expect and I did not know a majority of the girls. We did not even do any stepping the first few practices. Instead, the two girls in charge, who were called stepmistresses, drilled into us discipline. We had to rest, which meant falling into a specific position as soon as they yelled “REST” and we had to throw up an odd symbol to me at the time, a Bika, whenever they yelled “Bikas Up.” Girls who were unable to handle the rules and drills dropped out until we were a team of 27 or so. Personally, I was not interested in quitting. So, I found a way to understand the sacredness in the idea of a Black sisterhood reflected in our “Bikas.” Ngambika is an individual thing as well as a sisterhood sometimes, especially those first few weeks. Everyone has a different reason for being there. For me, it was the support system I found in girls who looked like me.
Over the first few weeks of practice, our step-mistresses, Aiyanna and Courtney of Ngambika ’15, taught us to hold and cherish our “Bika,” the symbol of Ngambika.
We were to look through it and “carry the load” for our sisters and that, as a team, we stood for sisterhood, academics, service and step. But, we were being told all of those things by our stepmistresses. It was not until we learned “Take It Back,” the signature step of Ngambika, did we became a part of Ngambika’s legacy at Emory. As a team with girls with minimal stepping experience, learning the step was a long process. For weeks, we were learning it piece by piece. At times, it was a frustrating process. But, it made us grow as a team because it was the first step we mastered. Being able to do rounds after rounds of the step meant that we were finally in sync as a team. The first time we successfully did it, that’s when I truly believed that we were more than just a step team—we were a sisterhood.
Naomi’s powerful opening to Bambika Beats sums up exactly what I felt over the weeks of practice:
“This is Ngambika's Dollhouse. The manufacturer of the smartest and baddest dolls since 1992. Molded by the frames of sisterhood, academics, service, and step and endowed with the beauty that is black. I'm inspired by these dolls every day, so tonight I want to share my inspiration with you. But you don't want to just hear me talk about them all night, right? Nah, you want us to show you. So, watch us carefully because satisfaction is guaranteed as we TAKE IT BACK .”
With every frustrating practice, every successful run-through, every community service event, and the late-night practices we became a team that inspired each other to be bigger and better than we imagined. We were friends during and outside of practice. We were Black Girl Magic everywhere we went. The magic has always existed in each of us but Ngambika helped it shine brighter than ever. Of course, I can only speak for myself. But, I am glad that I joined Ngambika, that I “took it back” and then “remixed” it, and that I carried the load for my sisters. Ngambika was a part of my special beginning at Emory and the memories will carry me through my next few years here.
If you missed our performance at Bamika Beats, you can check it out here. And, you can come see us this semester at Step It Up, Essence and other events! LINK
By: Imani Brooks, Staff Writer