Rain Wilson, playwright, spoken word poet, and educator, was hired as the Creative and Academic Advisor for the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester. Her artistic and educational work revolves around empowering African Americans, women, and other marginalized groups of people. Within her short time here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she has already brought her play, “Jungle Kings,” to life on campus in the 1st annual Multi-Cultural Theater Festival. Currently she is leaping forward with First Wave students to ignite an impactful women’s history month event at the end of March, working on launching a program with First Wave to do writing and performance workshops within the women’s prison in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and preparing for her one woman show, “Ink Never Dries,” which will be performed later in the year.
Wilson was attracted to the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative scholarship program because she admired the opportunity that First Wave students have to connect with the art of spoken word as cohorts within an academic setting where they do not have to feel isolated like she often did when she was in college. She also valued the element of activism within the artistry that she saw from various students in the program. First Wave was something that she just knew that she had to be a part of. As the Creative and Academic Advisor of First Wave, her goal is to utilize the experience that she has gained as an artist in order to inform and mentor students who possess a similar passion for theatrical performance and poetry. “I would like to facilitate the exploration of collaborating with one another as a collective to reach a common goal.”The transition to Madison has been nothing short of interesting for Wilson. For instance, as a playwright and producer, she has brought her play, “Jungle Kings,” to various venues in Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA. These heavily populated urban cities greatly contrast from Madison, Wisconsin. “At first there was a thought that “Jungle Kings” didn’t belong here as much as other urban cities where youth violence and high incarceration rates are easy to see because everyone is talking about it. However when I learned that Wisconsin has the highest rate of incarceration of African-American males and that more than 12 percent of all black men in Wisconsin are currently incarcerated. I felt like this was an ideal space to have the play.” Like many students of color who have come to UW from big cities and experienced this racial culture shock, she has worked tirelessly to create a space of support for herself and other people of color in Madison, Wisconsin. She hopes to solidify herself as a resource for students who feel these pressures and continue to create transformative conversations on the topic of social justice.
As a woman of color, Wilson also works to underline the intersection of race and gender within her identity. The next immediate project on her plate is in honor of Women’s History Month. She is going to be facilitating an artistic collaboration between female students of color on the UW campus and women within the prison system in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In order to bring these experiences to light, this project aims to examine how both of these positions are affected by race and gender. The work will culminate into a feature showcase at the end of March.
Although Wilson only has one school semester of work at UW under her belt, she has already established herself as a zealously productive member of the First Wave staff. Drawing from her own experiences, she offers this gem of advice to all students of color who are pursuing their undergraduate degrees, “as youth, continue to be heard through the work you do inside and outside of the university because your voice is vital to change.” We here at the Multicultural Student Center are looking forward to the work that Rain Wilson will bring to UW and the rest of the Madison community.