Jiana Smith, Contributing Writer
VCU senior Raven Jefferson said she grew up around Stomp ‘N’ Shake cheer, the predominant style of cheer in her hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.
When she came to VCU after participating on her high school’s Stomp ‘N’ Shake team and serving as junior varsity captain, she said she felt like she did not fit in because there was not a team on campus at the time.
“I was able to do competition and Stomp ‘N’ Shake when I was younger,” Jefferson said. “So I just felt like both my needs weren’t satisfied when I came here.”
Jefferson is one of the original members of the Elite Rams, a Stomp ‘N’ Shake cheer group on campus founded in 2019, by VCU alumna Precious Prailow and current students Jasmine Gladney and A’miaya Poindexter. Jefferson became president in spring 2020 upon Prailow’s graduation. VCU has a competition Stomp ‘N’ Shake group, named Atomic Gold.
The Elite Rams practice Stomp ‘N’ Shake cheer rather than traditional cheerleading, which emphasizes stunts and tumbles. Although it is a student organization, it is not officially affiliated with VCU like the VCU cheerleading team or the Gold Rush dance team.
Stomp ‘N’ Shake cheer is a style of cheer that incorporates African American cultural aesthetics such as dance and stomp/step, which emphasizes footwork. The style originated in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1970s. Jefferson said with Elite Rams, she feels like she can teach others on campus about Black culture.
“A lot of people don’t know what [Stomp ‘N’ Shake] is. They’ve never seen it before; they’ve come from areas where it’s not really much of a thing, they didn’t go to [historically Black colleges and universities],” Jefferson said. “I feel like it’s just important to embrace and showcase the culture as a whole.”
Markiya Thomas, treasurer of the Elite Rams, said she discovered the group after being sent their page on Instagram by a friend. She joined in 2020 after trying out a second time.
“I’ve found a sense of community and family at VCU,” Thomas said. “Being able to meet like-minded people on campus has been really great.”
The Elite Rams recently performed on Saturday in Petronius S. Jones Park as part of a field day event hosted to raise funds for the organization’s upkeep, according to Jefferson. This includes services such as music and media, as well as items for event activities.
Other activities from the field day included kickball, a giant Jenga game and a water balloon fight.
Thomas said she came up with the idea for the field day after seeing a TikTok that featured a field day hosted by adults.
“I thought it would be a cool fundraiser activity for us, as well as bringing something that other African American students would enjoy on campus,” Thomas said.
The event drew students from VCU, as well as Virginia schools like Norfolk State University and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
“I one-hundred percent support the Elite Rams,” said Kellie Bolden, VCU senior theater performance major. “I think they go off every time, so I’m just trying to be here for every performance.”
Jefferson said the Elite Rams also used the fundraiser to spotlight other Black students on campus and their businesses. VCU students Shawn Blake of Shawn Eats and Armond Harold, founder of Big Mon’s Le’MONade, were asked to cater for the field day. Both students maintain Black-owned businesses.
Harold, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, stated he has been following the Elite Rams since they were created and was excited when they reached out to him about the field day.
“When any individual, organization, or group creators on campus come together, they create the culture and environment of VCU with their events and projects,” Harold stated in an email.
Besides campus performances and events, the Elite Rams is also involved in the Richmond community. The group attended a community day cookout in Creighton Court on Sept. 4, where they performed and connected with the local recreational cheerleading team.
“One of our values is to spread culture and awareness,” Jefferson said. “It’s important that we work with other people, and we just get our culture out and meet organizations and other people. We like to get our people together.”
Jefferson said that the Elite Rams still have much planned for the semester, possibly an upcoming fall festival, performances and competitions.
“We are definitely cheering at a few events,” Jefferson said. “You’ll see us around.”