Step Afrika! Celebrates 30 Years Of Connecting Black America And Beyond One Step Show At A Time

Stepping is more than just a dance; it’s a unique form of storytelling and cultural expression. Here’s how Step Afrika! took the art form from college campuses in America to people across the globe.


Step Afrika! was founded with a clear and powerful mission: to use the art of stepping to bridge cultural divides and bring communities together. Stepping, with its roots on college campuses through African American fraternities and sororities, is deeply intertwined with the history and culture of the African American experience.

Stepping is more than just a dance; it’s a unique form of storytelling, communication, and cultural expression. Step Afrika! has leveraged this art form for three decades to educate, inspire, and entertain audiences globally. The company’s performances are known for their high energy, precision, and ability to convey powerful narratives that resonate on a personal and collective level.

C. Brian Williams, a graduate of Howard University and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, says he fell in love with the art of stepping during his college years. Willams shared that his time in South Africa, where he was introduced to the gumboot dance, further broadened his appreciation for the cultural and ancestral connections shared through dance. Those experiences inspired him to start the organization in 1994 to share the art form with the masses.

What started as a passion for stepping and a desire to connect cultures has turned into a movement that resonates with people around the world,” Williams told ESSENCE. “Step Afrika! has built many bridges between cultures; we’ve been to over 60 countries around the world. And it’s been amazing to see how performances rooted in African American culture are beautifully and very easily received,” adds Williams, who also serves as the dance company’s executive producer.

As Step Afrika! celebrates its 30th anniversary, the company reflects on its journey and the milestones achieved along the way. The anniversary celebrations include a national tour, community engagement initiatives designed to bring stepping to new audiences, and a recent gala held at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, to commemorate this special milestone.

“Our goal has always been to make stepping accessible to everyone, and this tour is a big part of that mission,” said Williams. “We are excited to share our art with new communities and to engage with audiences in small towns and cities nationwide,” he added.

Step Afrika! has made significant strides in promoting cultural understanding through its extensive educational outreach programs. The company reaches thousands of students annually through workshops, residencies and performances. These programs teach the basics of stepping and delving into its historical and cultural significance, fostering a deeper appreciation for African American heritage.

“We are showcasing this traditional art form, which you could see only on college campuses back in the day, and you could only see it with the historically African American fraternities, sororities, and fraternities. But now you can see it worldwide,” said Step Afrika’s Artistic Director, Mfoniso Akpan.

Akpan shares that “stepping is a galvanizing force that brings different cultures and people together.” Through its outreach, the company continues to inspire the next generation to appreciate this unique cultural heritage and see the value of connecting with others through art.

Over the past three decades, Step Afrika! has grown from a small initiative into a globally recognized company and cultural force. The company has performed on stages around the world, from the United States to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Each performance is an opportunity to share the rich history and vibrant energy of stepping with diverse audiences.

Step Afrika! ‘s signature work is “The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence,” a critically acclaimed show that merges visual and performing arts. This performance tells the story of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North in the early 1900s through the lens of Jacob Lawrence’s iconic artwork. The show has been praised for its ability to capture the essence of African American history and its impact on cultural identity.

The future of Step Afrika! looks bright as the company continues to innovate and expand its reach. Williams and his team remain committed to their founding purpose of using dance as a tool for cultural connection and education. With their 30th anniversary celebrations and ongoing community engagement, Step Afrika! continues to foster cultural connections and elevate African American art forms, remaining a beacon of cultural preservation and artistic innovation.

“Stepping is not something that you do it once, and you know, like, a lot of people will say, Oh, you weren’t a part of the fraternity or sorority, or you used to step no, it’s something that’s, it’s a living thing. I am a part of this organization; this is a lifetime commitment,” says Akpan.”Stepping is a part of this tradition, and it will always be a part of this tradition. And if you want to experience that through Step Africa and through the work that we do, then please join our family. That’s who we are—we are a family creating cultural bridges one step at a time.”