“Moonshine” – A Black History Month Tradition

Fifty years ago, the Black Student Strike made waves on the UW-Madison campus. For the first time ever at UW, Black students, joined by thousands of white allies, would go on strike in an effort to get administrators to adhere to 13 demands. Class boycotts, lecture hall takeovers, and blocked doors were not enough, as these brave students marched on the Capitol, forcing Wisconsin’s then governor Warren P. Knowles to activate the Wisconsin National Guard.

Now, 50 years later, Black History Month is an integral part of the University of Wisconsin, allowing us to reflect both on the tremendous strides that have been taken since early 1969 as well as the great amount of work that has yet to be done. The month is celebrated all around campus, from the large photos hung up in College Library to almost daily celebratory events. One large staple of the celebration is art.

Professor Chris Walker headshot
Associate Professor Chris Walker

Associate Professor of Dance, Artistic Drector of First Wave, and Artistic Director of NuMoRune Collaborative Chris Walker will direct the annual Moonshine event this February as part of Black History Month. The event celebrates African and Caribbean dance, as well as hip-hop, poetry, singing, chanting, and more.

Moonshine’s title derives from the natural lighting of the moon that accompanied many African traditions on plantations in the Americas during the period of African enslavement,” said Walker. “Under the sun, the African body was centered in the economy as a labor force. Under the moon, and on the periphery, the African body became a fierce instrument of cultural survival.”

Moonshine is part of the UW Dance Department’s Friday Forum Series, which occur during the school year on Friday afternoons at 3:30 pm. The forums present dance or arts-related content which aim to bring those interested in these topics together, whether those attending are UW-affiliated or not.

Each February, Walker brings in a host of performers from African dance classes, First Wave, the Dance Department, and students of color to celebrate Black History Month through dance.

Moonshine will provide diverse opportunities for the UW–Madison campus and local community to experience Blackness as embodied expression, and through process, begin to recognize/reaffirm black contributions to American culture,” said Walker. “It is our hope that through deliberate physical engagement in and with Black cultural expressions that we can begin to transform how we see and experience difference as a campus and local community.”

Muntu Dance Theatre performing on stage
Photo courtesy seechicagodance.com

This year Moonshine will feature the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, an organization which builds on African, Caribbean, and African-American traditions and “strives to create an atmosphere of communalparticipation, encouraging and inspiring audiences and participants to join in the celebration.”

As a new extension of the traditional Moonshine event, Walker and the Munto Dance Theatre will hold the first ever Moonshine Evening Concert. Munto Dance Theatre will be the focus of the show as they present their 2018 concert series “New Dimensions.”

Walker will also host an Afro-Contemporary dance masterclass in celebration of Black History Month, which will expand on the information presented in “Moonshine,” and will give students the chance to engage in African dance and explore traditional as well as modern expression.

“These master classes will introduce students to dance technique from a Black/African perspective, and will engage them in conversation about African and Black aesthetics and movement principles in contemporary dance expression,” said Walker.

Arts events during Black History Month include more than just dance. Free film showings, arts classes, musical events, photoshoots, and more will be happening all over campus, all month long.

Moonshine will take place Friday, February 22 at 3:30 pm in the Margaret H’Doubler Performance Space in Lathrop Hall. The Moonshine Evening Concert will take place Friday, February 22 from 8:00 – 10:00 pm in Margaret H’Doubler Performance Space in Lathrop Hall.

For more information on Black History Month at UW–Madison, visit wisc.edu/black-history.

For more information on Moonshine and other Dance Department events, visit the Dance Department event page.