Stepping up for good health and causes

 

 J.MOST and assistants (l-r):  Alvena Farrar, Connie Lee, J. MOST, Phyllis Braxton and Anita Wilson.
J.MOST and assistants (l-r): Alvena Farrar, Connie Lee, J. MOST, Phyllis Braxton and Anita Wilson.

The MSR once labeled Mr. J. MOST the busiest man in Twin Cities show business. He sponsors many events in the Twin Cities that aid organizations committed to helping fight various illnesses and debilitating conditions, such as last November’s Fashion Show fundraiser that raised money for a homeless, transitional housing nonprofit in St. Paul. This year another Fashion Show fundraiser is planned to help cancer survivors in recovery.

As busy as he is, J. MOST is quick to tell anyone that “I could never have done this all by myself!” Indeed, J. MOST has a dedicated group of assistants, the Command Steppers that hold classes in stepping, a smooth and creative couple’s dance that originated in Chicago’s African American community.

The MSR got to know a bit more about his four key assistants, as this writer attended a beginner’s stepping class at the Urban League. Each assistant spoke highly of being involved, and expounded on how the stepping community continues to grow here in Minnesota.

Command Steppers  assistants in action
Command Steppers assistants in action

“This started as a hobby for me. Doing something to help me stay fit and in shape,” said assistant Alvena Farrar. “I have become intensely involved, being an assistant instructor for eight months, and being in stepping now for four years. I go three times a week and I have had the opportunity to compete at some very large events. This has all grown into something adults can call their own,” she said.

When asked how stepping has helped her overall she replied, “The comradery and friendships are key. It has greatly helped me in developing leadership skills, being competitive and having much courage. I greatly enjoy modeling and am looking forward to this year’s Fashion Show. Stepping is about spiritual uplifting,” Farrar said.

Education and community building were vital elements for these assistant stepping trainers and Anita Wilson is another fine example of this ideology. She is currently a student at Metropolitan State University, and after receiving her Bachelor of Science Degree in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, she will be getting her Chemical Health License in early 2016.

Wilson said, “My family background, and losing loved ones to drugs and alcohol, inspired me to seek this licensing. I love helping others, and since arriving here from Indiana, I have seen many of these same problems.”

She continued, “I have loved dancing and singing since I was in the third grade, and I now really love Eight Count stepping with The Command Steppers. “

Next there is Connie Lee who started stepping in 2011. She won the “Y’all Can’t Beat Us” annual stepping contest here in 2012. Lee started assistant training in 2013, so she has consistently been on the stepping scene.

“I like to be around people who enjoy dancing. Stepping is very community-oriented and builds a sisterhood and brotherhood support system.”

She continued, “For example, I lost my brother, Don Powell, December 29, 2011, and to have support of the other steppers means the world to me. “

Lee is a licensed hair stylist and manager of Hair Studio 763 located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Born in Louisiana and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, she is the proud mother of two girls and two boys.

Lee continued, “I really love people, and being in the hair field, you hear a lot and share a lot. I just want to assist others in their growth and desires. We must overcome all adversities, and keep a positive outlook with what you want to achieve. “

Rounding out the assistants is recording artist and stepper extraordinaire, Phyllis Braxton, aka “Showtime,” who spent a lot of time in Atlanta before moving to Minnesota. She has been stepping for 11 years and has been assistant instructor for six. Braxton has a master’s degree in Adult Ed from The University of Minnesota. She is the founder and president of P I N K Consulting LLC, which provides coaching — both professional and personal — in diversity and cultural awareness.

“I have been in this business for 10 years, offering training and assessment for organizations and individuals to assist with their cultural retention. As for my stepping involvement, I simply love it, but if it were not for the hard work of J. MOST, we would not continue to grow with more steppers. This success is based, in large part, on J.s stick-to-itiveness and outreach.”

On July 24, J. MOST and the Command Steppers presents The Tangerine Ball, and on August 22, they will sponsor a stepping workshop at The Knights of Columbus in Bloomington.

 

Interested in learning stepping techniques? Call 612-237-5118 to inquire about classes, from beginners’ to advanced.

Raymond Jackson welcomes reader responses to rayjack49@yahoo.com.