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The Ouida Whitaker Dean Collection, no. 14 - Greek Stepping Competition, Part I

Ouida Whitaker Dean

Silent | 1970s

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  •  A sorority sister sings a song for the audience 
  •  Another sister takes over the vocals 
  •  Members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity perform a step-dancing routine 
  •  Close-up shot of the foot steps 
 
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This home movie captures scenes from two performances made by African-American sororities and fraternities at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. In the first segment, sorority sisters perform a song and step routine for the crowd. In the second segment, fraternity brothers show off their step dancing moves. The performers in the second group are from the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first black, intercollegiate Greek fraternity in the nation.
A self-taught photographer, Ouida Whitaker Dean decided to learn filmmaking in her late thirties so that she could bring moving image production into her Shelby County high school classroom. After attending a seminar at the Rice Media Center, she launched an “Artists in Schools” media program, a joint effort of Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. With two school-bought cameras and her own camera, Dean and her students shot silent footage around the town of Timpson. She participated in the production of the films both on and off screen, personally editing the films at home.
 
Created just a year after the integration of the local public schools, many of the films eloquently capture the shifting socio-cultural, ethnic, and economic realities of East Texas in the 1970s. Dean also aspired to capture the area’s experience of the women’s rights movement, pitching her idea for Women in Agriculture (1976) to her students during the second year of the program. Perhaps her most compelling work, the film features candid interviews with community women discussing their roles on family farms. Dean, however, was dismissed from her teaching position not long after the film was completed, and Women in Agriculture was never publicly shown. Although she won a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school board, Dean never returned to teaching, choosing instead to continue her work in journalism, regional history, and photography.