Step Afrika, founder, and dance team, poses for photos.
Caption for the featured image. C. Brian Williams (Center), founder of Step Afrika! and Step Afrika! Dancers. Credit: Laura Onyeneho

In a celebration of its homecoming, Step Afrika!, the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, hosted a grand welcome party at Houston’s legendary Eldorado Ballroom on Oct. 24.

The evening was more than just a welcome party; it was a return to C. Brian Williams’ roots. Williams, the founder of Step Afrika!, is a native of Houston, and has strong family ties to the city. His mother, Patricia Hogan Williams, founded The Imani School, a local private Christian elementary and middle school. Williams’ father is a successful criminal defense attorney. His brothers, Chris and Ben, are co-founders of Lucille’s restaurant, known for its soul food inspired by the great-grandmother Lucille B. Smith, a trailblazing entrepreneur and chef.

The cultural significance and history of the ballroom served as the perfect backdrop for the event. Its remarkable legacy of hosting blues and jazz musicians over multiple decades blends seamlessly with Step Afrika!’s mission of preserving the tradition of stepping, a unique form of percussive dance with deep roots in African-American culture.

The welcome party opened with electrifying step performances by local dance troupes. The Edison Arts Foundation After School Arts Academy and Tha Swagg Boiz wowed the audience with their incredible stepping routines and ended with a performance from Step Afrika! dancers.

“It means so much that our students be in a space like the Eldorado Ballroom and in the presence of Step Afrika! and others who have paved the way for them,” said Charity Carter, founder of the Edison Arts Foundation After School Arts Academy. “Art education is a necessity. Art helps discipline, empower, create focus, and build confidence. Art is power.”

Interested individuals and groups can catch Step Afrika!’s show, “Drumfolk,” at the Cullen Theater Wortham Center, Performing Arts Houston, on Oct. 28. “Drumfolk” will delve into the evolution of stepping from the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a crucial moment leading to the Negro Act of 1740, and a transformation of African life in the United Colonies.

“Hopefully, this inspires people to research more about Black history that we aren’t familiar with,” said Williams. “Even though people come to be entertained, the theater is a big classroom. When I think about ‘Drumfolk,’ I think about African people fighting against the tyranny of slavery before the country was even formed. They were fighting against injustice. Black folk were doing this work well before America was America.

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I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...