Stories of Migration

Jackie Weinberger, Ordway 10/29/16

This pre-show discussion was moderated by Sean Burns, of 2 Soul Stepping Scholars and CEO of Step With Soul. He was joined by Sylvia Loveless Amos of StairStep Foundation, Ordway’s TOPC partner and Fergus Falls, MN Descendant, and  C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! Founder and Executive Director. Brian discusses the influence of Jacob Lawrence’s art and how he combined it with the art of Step in their new production to tell the African-American migration story. Sylvia shares her own family’s diverse migration stories of leaving the South for Minnesota to make a home and a difference.

….“we knew that this great migration had transformed the country, had transformed opportunity for African Americans in the United States, and it just made the country a much much more rich and robust and freer environment as a result”

In this video, the panelists discussed how the Great Migration has affected them and their families lives and the influence it has had on their art prior to Step Afrika!’s performance at the Ordway.

Videography/Photography: Sherine Onukwuwe, Souleye Films

The “First 85” Lobby Display

In addition to the speakers, historical photographs were on display and available to view during the preshow and intermission.  The Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls, MN is home to “a collection of newspaper clippings and photographs, many donated by a woman named Lorraine Tate, tell the story of the “First 85,” 60 men and boys and 25 women and girls who migrated from Kentucky on April 7, 1898. According to an article published in the Fergus Falls Journal in 1933, the group of pioneers was the largest influx of African Americans to settle in a Western state. In Fergus Falls, they set up businesses and homes and raised families for generations.  We were honored to have the descendants of those whose stories are told in this article with us as we celebrated stories of migration.

Prince Honeycutt is pictured with his second wife and the rest of his family. Back row: Nancy Ann Honeycutt and Prince Honeycutt. Middle row: Rose Honeycutt, Albert Honeycutt, Mae Honeycutt. Front row: Iness Honeycutt. Photo provided courtesy of Otter Tail County Historical Society.

To view more photographs of the First 85

Speaker Bios

Sean Burns
2 Soul Stepping Scholars and CEO of Step With Soul

Sean has an extensive background in the art of step, an Artistic Director and coach for the past 20 years, teaching and working with youth of all ages to empower them through education.  He founded “Step with Soul Ministering with Hands and Feet” in 2009. This unique group provides young African-American males to opportunity to develop their character in preparation for life.  Since it’s founding, the step ministry has become an outreach ministry inclusive of many schools and churches throughout Minneapolis.

C. Brian Williams
Step Afrika! Founder and Executive Director

C. Brian Williams is a graduate of Howard University and a DC resident for over 25 years. Brian first learned to step as a member of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Beta Chapter in 1989. After living in Africa he began to research stepping, exploring the many sides of this exciting, yet under-recognized American art form and founded Step Afrika! in 1994. Williams has performed, lectured and taught in Europe, South & Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and throughout the United States. He is a founder of the historic Step Afrika! International Cultural Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Under Brian’s leadership, stepping has evolved into one of America’s newest cultural exports and inspired the designation of Step Afrika! as Washington, DC’s official Cultural Ambassador.

Sylvia Loveless Amos
StairStep Foundation, Ordway’s TOPC partner and Fergus Falls, MN Descendant

Sylvia, a longtime resident of North Minneapolis, alumnus of North High School and the University of Minnesota, civil rights activist and descendent of the Fergus Falls “First 85,” she is a recent retiree after 35 years of service with the Minneapolis Urban League.  Inspired by her mother, she is devoted to giving back to her community and has fought for civil rights all of her life.  In this video she shares her families’ stories who came to Minnesota under different circumstances to make a home and a difference.

Step Afrika! is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. It promotes an appreciation for “stepping” and its use as an educational, motivational, and healthy tool for young people. Step Afrika! accomplishes this mission through arts education activities, international cultural exchange programs and performances world-wide. Step Afrika! brings stepping and its associated values of teamwork, commitment and discipline to students in classrooms, community venues, and performing arts arenas.

View more photos in Stories of Migration Online Gallery


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