hen he arrived on campus in 1999, Cross Thompson, BC ’03, was looking for a community. He knew that since there was no Greek life on campus, he couldn’t join a historically black fraternity, but he wanted something similar—an organization that would provide a sense of belonging and instill key values in its members. Thompson decided to take matters into his own hands and created the next best thing: a step team. Cue the birth of Sexual Chocolate.
When asked to describe in simple terms what stepping is, current Sexual Chocolate president Khari King, MCAS ’19, chuckled, stumped for a moment.
“It’s quite literally just hitting your body,” King said. “But there’s just so much more passion and intention behind it than just hitting your body. It’s very rhythmic, it’s very calculated…it’s very methodical.”
Step is categorized as a style of dance, but it is also a percussive art form that uses the body as an instrument through clapping, stomping, and shouting. Step requires military-level discipline and precision, and it’s difficult for newcomers to get accustomed to. Still, it’s a rewarding endeavor that forges strong bonds between the members of Sexual Chocolate.
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oday, 20 years after its formation, Sexual Chocolate has seen an increase in the number of members—from six to 15—as well as an increase in their diversity. But while there are now white members on the team, as well as Asian and Latino members in previous years, King emphasizes that Sexual Chocolate has never strayed from its purpose of providing a community for black students at BC.
“It is still primarily a space for black men to come together and have a safe space to grow and learn different tenets of manhood,” King said.
Sexual Chocolate continues to maintain contact with alumni members who were instrumental in the group’s formation. D.J. Maverik of Jam’n 94.5, for example, was an early member of Sexual Chocolate. Maverik, AKA Kahleil Blair, BC ’04, continues to maintain ties with the group and has even lent his talents to recent performances. At Sexual Chocolate’s Big Show in 2017, Blair served as the emcee, hyping up the crowd in preparation for the group’s entrance. The high level of alumni involvement proves that throughout its history, Sexual Chocolate has succeeded in its effort to make a lasting, positive impression on the lives of its members.
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n light of recent racist events on campus, Sexual Chocolate’s function as a platform for black students has become increasingly important. King makes sure to foster an atmosphere of respect and affirmation among the group’s members.
“I tell all the guys every day at practice that when you’re in this space, when you’re in the practice room, when you’re with us, there is no shortage of love, of overall gratitude of you just being a person in general—especially to my members who are directly affected, who are African Americans,” King said.
Sexual Chocolate not only supports its members privately, King noted, the group also makes an effort to publicly respond to racist incidents.
“Whenever something happens like this, we always like to make sure that we are calculated in the way that we respond publicly so that we do it in a way that is noticeable,” King said.
For example, in response to the defacement of a Black Lives Matter poster last year, King and other members of Sexual Chocolate recited poems to an audience of around 500 at the Arts Festival Showcase.
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t’s important, King said, to “acknowledge [incidents] in a healthy and digestible way so nobody feels as if they’re not being heard or listened to, and that all of our members feel safe and loved, and that they know that wherever they are on campus.”
Only four percent of students at BC are black, yet, 18 percent of dance groups at BC are comprised of majority or all black students. King explained that dancing in particular occupies a special place in black culture and history.
“Dance is so heavily embedded and ingrained in the African American and black community that … it’s something that I feel like a lot of people need, especially as an outlet of expression, as an outlet of stress, to sort of recenter themselves,” King said.
Step, especially, is an art form that has deep roots in black culture, evolving from traditional African drum-centered music and storytelling culture to its current status as a key feature of historically black fraternities and sororities.
“When we stomp and we step we feel that in our chest, and it’s something that even if you are not a lifelong stepper…you start to understand what that art form meant when it was first created, coming back to its roots,” King said. “It’s something that I feel a lot of pride for…It’s super important to keep that legacy going and that tradition going.”
Although stepping requires high levels of discipline and rigidity, Sexual Chocolate is also known across campus for its playful, frequently risqué performances.
“At the end of the day, it is dance,” King said. “We want to make sure that we’re having a good time with it, that that is reflected out into the crowd as well. We tell them loosen up a little bit sometimes.”
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he group’s Big Show performance on Friday was the first time in recent years that there was a clear plot accompanying the dancing, King said. Previous shows have featured more absurd scenarios, with the men of Sexual Chocolate traveling through time and finding themselves castaways on strange islands, for example. This year’s winter formal-themed show, in contrast, included an entertaining mystery plot, as the groups members tried to sleuth out what happened to their missing formal dates.
Sexual Chocolate draws predominantly female audiences at their on-campus performances, but King said that the gender balance is more even at other schools, since step is more widely known at colleges with Greek life. King cited the group’s performance in Charlottesville, Va. in November of last year as a memorable experience. Still, there are relatively few step groups in the country, so it can be difficult to find inspiration for choreography.
As a solution, King and the group’s two other captains, Chris Ferrari, MCAS ’20, and Mohamed Diallo, MCAS ’19, adopt hip-hop dance moves and incorporate them alongside the more traditional, fraternity-style step movements. The captains also find inspiration in the drum beat of the songs they perform to: King mentioned that many of Sexual Chocolate’s routines include choreography that directly mirrors the beat of music. King and the other captains encourage the rest of the members to contribute ideas for moves as well, resulting in performances that include a blend of genres and ideas.
Sexual Chocolate not only fuses together genres in its own performances, it also teams up with a variety of on-campus dance groups, including its sister organization, Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step (F.I.S.T.S.), Sexual Chocolate’s all-female counterpart. Other frequent collaborators are Dance Organization of Boston College (DOBC), Fuego Del Corazón, and Synergy.
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exual Chocolate prides itself on serving as a community that extends beyond just dance. Members form close relationships through the hard work and long hours dedicated to rehearsing. The group spends four hours a week practicing, and in preparation for shows, members can spend as many as four hours a day together. Although King also works as an usher and house manager at Robsham Theater, most of his time outside classes is devoted to the group.
“Behind the scenes, we call ourselves a brotherhood, and we take that very seriously,” King said. “We make sure that we have study hall sessions, we make sure that we hang out with each other after practice if we need to do any kind of work or if anybody’s struggling with anything—we’re there for each other as a family first and foremost.”
This strong sense of camaraderie affirms that the values that Sexual Chocolate was built on continue to exist among its members today.
“Our mission is to provide a safe space for black men, but not only black men, to come into their own as individuals,” King said. “To instill concepts of discipline, hard work, respect, self-love, and love for others, and for them to then take those concepts, bring [them] out into the world, and just make the world a better place, and continue to do that for generations of Sexual alumni members.”
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rom its humble beginnings as a stand-in for a black fraternity to its current status as one of the most popular dance groups at BC, Sexual Chocolate has seen tremendous growth in the past 20 years. It’s performed across the country, winning step competitions in Connecticut and Virginia, while continuing to be a formidable force on campus. Sexual Chocolate won second place at last year’s ALC Showdown, and Friday’s Big Show sold out within a day.
When asked what he hopes Sexual Chocolate will look like in another 20 years, King emphasized relationships above all else.
“The only thing that I … am pretty confident that it will stay is that close-knit, tight group of guys who battle adversity together, whether it be from outside sources like administration or from groups of students who don’t really understand us as people … guys that can stick together, stick in the trenches, have love for one another, that unconditional love that can only be forged through late practices and amazing shows and things of that nature, and just remain a family, because what I found here in Sexual Chocolate is a family—and that’s something that’s super important to me.”
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor