By Tonesha Townsel, Special to the AFRO

Children and parents from across metro Washington poured into Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium on March 28 to help fight the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco—by step dancing.

The event was called Stomp D.A.T., a youth step show featuring local area teams showcasing their talents by stepping to promote public awareness about the dangers of using certain legal and illegal substances, namely drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, or D.A.T. The organizers hoped the show would help dispel myths about use of the substances.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the most common excuse for using drugs is that they aren’t harmful because they are “natural.” Nearly 4.2 million people over the age of 12 had a drug abuse or addiction problem, according to the institute.

Tony Redz, radio personality for WPGC 95.5, hosted the event and kept the crowd laughing with stints of comedy between each performance.

“Man, all the stomping and sweating and working,” Redz said. “Them kids stomping so hard they got my heart beating fast. I knew I should have slowed down with those hors d’oeuvres in the back. I’m getting tired just looking at them kids.

“Y’all gone have to help me, though,” he added. “I don’t know how to pronounce half of what y’all put in these introductions.”

Stomp D.A.T. is sponsored by the Federal City alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Federal City Public Service Foundation, both based in Washington. They aim to teach the youth confidence and the meaning of sister/brotherhood, and teach leadership through the power of step.

Coach Simone Martin for team Junior Stomp of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington, Md., said the primary goal of her team is to minister to people through stepping.

“This is why we incorporate scriptures as well as gospel music to our routines,” Martin said.  “You never know who may need to be touched by the word of God. Also, it allows them to show the community that just because we are a church affiliated step team, doesn’t mean we can’t do what other step teams do.”

Martin said the program also allows the church to mentor the girls who make up the team with school, homework or helping them with discipline.

“Performing gives them the chance to display who they are and their different characteristics,” she said “They show themselves in the skits they take on as well as their facial expressions and intensity.”

Before the announcement of the victors, Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, the nation’s 16th Surgeon General, was presented with an award for her service and leadership by Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

This year’s competition, the 13th year of the program, showcased eight teams, including the Polly Stompettes/P.Bodies, Beltsville Steppers, Eagle Steppers, Dem’ Raider Boyz, Steppers With Class, Jaguar Steppers, Jr. Stomp, and On Pointe Step Team.

Howard University student Candace Paschal, who has seen her share of stepping with the university’s various fraternities and sororities, said she was impressed by the performances.

“I was just completely speechless,” Paschal said. “I wouldn’t have guessed that some of these teams were elementary and high school students. And those guys that came out there in blue, man, honestly, some of the teams inside could rival some of them out there on the yard.”

At the end of the night, Eagle Steppers were awarded first place in the Beginners’ Steppers Division. Jaguar Steppers placed second in the All Teams Division. The showstoppers of the night were Dem’ Raider Boyz, who took home first place in the All Teams Division.

For treatment and help for friends and family addicted to drugs or alcohol, call the referral hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov for local treatment programs.