Congratulations to Redbird Kanisha Lites ’07, a Junior Olympic (2003, 2004) baton twirler who recently learned she was the first African American feature baton twirler in the history of the Big Red Marching Machine.

A native of Chicago’s Western suburbs, Lites was on the color guard her first year at Illinois State and reintroduced twirling to the band and guard directors after many years. During her second year, Lites twirled alongside another student. Then, she became the feature twirler in 2005, showcasing rhythmic skills to handle up to three batons at a time.  

A member of the Chicago-area Twirling Bears, Lites holds state, national, and international titles.

Now, a baton twirling and dance coach herself, Lites called the acknowledgment as the first Black feature twirler at Illinois State an inspiration to work harder for her students.

“As a coach in the Chicagoland area with S.T.A.T,” she said. “Of Illinois, I get to see all the talent that is out there. My kids come from all different backgrounds and look to me as a mentor. This honor lets them know there are so many places you can go with twirling.’’

Check out Lites’ twirls in this “Celebrating Twirlers of Color” video (she’s at 5:27).