Founder’s Note
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Photo by Drew Xeron
C. Brian Williams
I am extremely excited to introduce Drumfolk, a new work by Step Afrika! that chronicles and celebrates the African-American experience in America. Grounded in extensive research and over 28 years of percussive practice, Drumfolk reveals hidden, transformative events that greatly impacted American life, and the performance explores the drum as an instrument of community, resilience and determination.
The Stono Rebellion of 1739, a revolt initiated by 20 enslaved Africans in the then-British colony of South Carolina, is one of the largest rebellions organized by Africans in the “New World.” Africans used their drums as a call for action, leading a fight for freedom that would spark fear throughout the colonies.
The subsequent Negro Act of 1740, a legislative response to the rebellion, singled out the drum as an illegal weapon and greatly restricted Africans’ rights to read, to gather in groups, to wear clothing “above their stature;” and to use their drums.
Who were these American activists? Are they early examples of American protest, speaking out against tyranny, oppression and systemic racism? Why haven’t we learned more about their fight against injustice years before American colonists revolted against Imperialist England at the Boston Tea Party?
Drumfolk is Step Afrika!’s intention to reclaim the history of these unsung American heroes and heroines who so bravely fought for freedom. There is still so much of American history to explore and uncover … and we welcome you on this journey. Thank you so much for coming!
C. Brian Williams January 2022