( ENSPIRE Man Code 101 ) Squallé Talks About Mentorship Program and Education
ENSPIRE contributor: WaTeasa Freeman
Torrance “Squallé” Wilcher is a community advocate and hip-hop artist from Athens, Ga. Squallé is the founder and creative director of the League of Step. Squallé’s organization was created to service at-risk youth in his community by providing them with a strong male presence, mentorship, a creative outlet, and a sense of working together to help them navigate being young and black in the world. The proceeds from his latest album, “Gone for the Summer, Back for the Fall,” were put into The League of Step to purchase a studio to practice in.
Squallé’s music is described as “(an) old school styled rhymes paired justly with a new-school flow (which) gives the indie artist an unmatched vibe that takes listeners on a smooth, yet enjoyable ride.” His newest project, “Gone for the Summer, Back for the Fall,” was created to signify his thoughts and feelings during the pandemic as the musician took a short break from working on music to focus on making a difference in his community. On top of music and community outreach, he is also a partner with the brand “Black Is A Vibe.”
What led you to start League of Step?
I’ve been stepping since I was a kid and it’s been a passion of mine. In college, I started my own Step team and we competed and were able to gain a lot of experiences through the art form. When I got back to Athens, I was asked by my nieces to come help coach their team because they knew that I knew how to step. While coaching, we had a lot of success and I was able to involve myself into their lives and into the community. I also learned that Athens had an amazing, competitive step atmosphere through the school system.
I wanted to take that blueprint and elevate. Some schools didn’t have teams due to funding or personnel. I wanted my program to be community-based so that all kids, regardless of their school, could participate. The unprivileged youth in Athens didn’t have the space, resources, and outlets as other kids, and I wanted to be in that gap for them. I wanted to give them the opportunities and teachings that the more privileged kids had. Also thought that since stepping was such an amazing outlet for me that would hopefully be something amazing for the youth. Six years after my return to Athens, The League of Step was born. My staff and I decided that we wanted the program to be more than an outlet of expression, more than just stepping, more than an escape from day to day trauma.
We wanted it to be something that instilled values, morals, goals, culture, knowledge of self, and self-love. So we decided to create programs within the program that would do so. Aside from stepping, we offer mentoring, tutoring, field trips, workshops, sessions with Black community leaders and activists, and community service. These kids get exposed to a lot of different things. They meet Black politicians, lawyers, doctors, policemen, firefighters, entrepreneurs, and more.
They receive one on one tutoring with staff if needed, also group tutoring to promote social skills and communication. We teach the importance of the community and why we do the service to our community. We teach them how to set up community events, how to organize, how to dress for interviews, how to balance money, and financial literacy. We put them in front of things that may have seemed impossible before. The Athens community had some programs in place for this prior to The League of Step, but we wanted to be apart of the Movement and drive it forward. The story isn’t written fully though, there’s much work to do, and we are indeed still writing.
As an HBCU alumnus, why do you feel HBCUs are important?
I feel like the experiences that you get from being around people that look like you and act like you is unmatched. HBCUs are not just important; they are integral to the growth of Black individuals. We are the minority. So when we graduate and go into a world where the majority doesn’t look and act like us, we will know how to transfer our skills and values into the workplace with us so that we aren’t just conforming to the world around us but so that we are adding our own personalities into it. HBCUs are so important my HBCU is important. I learned so much about what it means to be a Black man by my experiences at Alabama State, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I really discovered myself. We need to put money into our HBCUs; we need to preserve them. They are like diamonds: hidden gems that hold a lot of value.
Can you tell us about “Black Is A Vibe” and your partnership?
“Black Is A Vibe” is a clothing line created by Johnny Cedor and his brother Jeff. I saw what they were doing and knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve always been an advocate for the black community. I’ve performed at rallies, spoke at the protest, and even released two projects celebrating my blackness. I use to have a collective known as Black Liaison, so when I saw that “Black Is A Vibe” had the same goals that I did, I knew we had to make this collab happen, and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to work with such a growing black business. “Black Is A Vibe” started out as a tagline but evolved into so much more. It’s not just a phrase. It’s a lifestyle. Our Black is beautiful. Our Black is love. Our Black is intelligent. Which is evident in everyday life. So many of the trends, fashion, everything is derived from black culture. Our influence knows no bounds. You see it in music. You see it in dances. You see it in clothes. Our Black, literally, is a whole vibe.
Squallé and The League of Step have a lot of big things planned. You can stream his newest album “Gone for the Summer, Back for the Fall” on all platforms. The proceeds are to fund The League of Step. You can connect with Squallé on Instagram, @squalle_shottem, and Facebook, DaWiseOneSqualle. To donate to the League of Step visit the website, theleagueofstep.org.