The Cardinal Divas of SC (Photo courtesy: Aziza Hutcherson)
The Cardinal Divas of SC (Photo courtesy: Aziza Hutcherson)

The Cardinal Divas of SC have made a huge splash in the world of college football and dance after making their first appearance in the stands of the USC-Fresno State game Sept. 17.

While the overwhelming coverage of USC’s first majorette team was celebratory, social media users mocked the creator behind the team, Princess Isis Lang, as the style of dance is one most people see and experience at historically Black colleges and universities.

Lang has been dancing and performing the majority of her life and says the goal of bringing a majorette team to a predominantly white institution (PWI) such as USC “is to show the world what our [Black] culture is.”

“Dance isn’t just ballet, jazz and modern,” she said.

The Chicago native began dancing around the age of 8, where weekly traditional dance classes turned into being invited to join a high school majorette team with a dance company called the Diamond Dance Movement as a middle schooler.


“‘I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Yes. Little ‘ol me. Amazing,’ ” Lang reminisced. “My majorette coach brought majorette to me. So I learned from her and studied with those dancers and it was a great experience. And then she sadly got sick and she passed away.”

Following the passing of her majorette coach, Lang tapped into her artistic abilities even more. Lang did plays, musicals and professional shows around the city of Chicago in addition to her regular majorette classes and a different style of modern dance called the Horton technique.

Lang said she is used to having a full plate since she was little, so when she started the first Black Student Alliance organization at her high school, Chicago Academy of the Arts, it wasn't just something to add to college applications. It was a need for the Black students.

“There weren't a lot of Black students at the performing arts high school so we never really felt like we had somewhere to feel comfortable with who we were, and our experiences,” she said.

Just like every other decision in her young life, Lang deliberated with her parents and planned out her dreams and goals when it was time to choose a college. She says USC was a no-brainer as an aspiring musical theater major. Lang was sold on the fact that the program valued dance, singing and acting equally. And although her freshman year was entirely remote due to the pandemic, Lang started thinking about starting the university's majorette team.

Once students returned to campus, sophomore Lang was at every football game and got noticed by Mike Munson, an associate of programs and facilities, by just being herself.

“Sometimes I was dancing but most of the time I was just yelling and hyping up the crowd,” Lang said. "I was making chants and I was just trying to be involved, you know?"

And with that, Lang started the process toward forming a team.

“USC is always encouraged and excited when our students demonstrate enthusiasm for university events," the University said in a statement. "We admire the initiative, leadership and passion demonstrated by the majorette team."

Upon approval, the full-time student knew she couldn’t do it all alone and sent out a message to Instagram for anyone that wanted to get involved.

“Princess and I were already pretty good friends before she created the team," senior dance major Jai Robinson said. " ... and then she posted about the team before anything had started. And I actually reached out to her and was like, ‘Do you need help with choreography or anything like that?’ ”

Robinson's experience at USC was a little different than Lang’s. During his freshman year, Robinson lived on an all-Black floor of the dorm that he called “Summerville.” He respected what Lang was attempting to do at a PWI.

“So Princess created another space where more Black identifying bodies could fit in,” he said. “And I feel like at a big PWI where the population of Black students is less than 5%, we can't have enough Black spaces.” (As of Fall, 2021, the university reported Black students were 5.8% of USC's overall population.)

And USC welcomes being one of the first PWI's with an all-Black majorette team: "By engaging with and highlighting our talented student body, we hope to create an energetic, inclusive and unique experience for our students and the USC community.”

Lang acknowledged that USC's histories and tradition began to make her feel more nervous than usual before performances, but she did what she’s done her whole life: just dance. And with no expectations that her and the Cardinal Divas of SC would go viral, what does Lang say to those congratulating and those accusing her of cultural appropriation?

“I'm a Black woman first. So I'm gonna be proud of it [majorette] every single time. I'm always gonna say that this is my culture as well. We're not here to let people steal it. We are here to educate people on what it is and let people know that this is what dance is. There is so much more to dance than what gets shown and I’m happy to be able to show Black culture on an even bigger scale.”

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