UW Staff Spotlight: Rain Wilson


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.” Continue reading

“Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person…”


Gina Crosley-Corcoran, a white feminist and activist, uses her background in an attempt to answer the question, “how do you begin to explain the realities of white privilege to white people who are economically disadvantaged.”  She refers to the impoverished conditions that she experienced firsthand as a child and how those hardships initially shaped her perspective on white privilege being something that she personally did not benefit from.  Her blog post takes the reader on her journey of coming to terms with her white privilege, understanding that she had better access to upward mobility because of her skin color, understanding that there is no such thing as upward mobility in regards to skin color, how undeserved societal privileges intersect with one another, and how she has helped other white people identify their privileges.

You can read her blog post, originally posted on November 20, 2013, “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person…” here:


Watch: The Biggest Stories of 2013


From Colorlines.com:

“As 2013, draws to a close, we’re waxing reflective about the last 12 months. As part of our year-in-review experience, we’ve already recapped the top ten racial justice wins of the year (http://fw.to/6XVvOgH). Now, we’re talking to some of your favorite Colorlines writers, including host Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) and panelists Jamilah King (@jamilahking), Julianne Hing (@juliannehing), Imara Jones (@imarajones), and Seth Freed Wessler (@sethfw) about covering the biggest stories of 2013 in the arenas of education, pop culture, immigration, the economy and more.”

Originally posted by Akiba Solomon, Thursday, December 12 2013, 12:21 PM EST

Artist Spotlight: Faisal Abdu’Allah confronts race, masculinity, and power through art

faisal 5In case your visual repertoire has been in dire need of an artist who will deliver

“confrontation and displacement through provocative installation pieces,”

have no fear, the Multicultural Student Center has just the suggestion for you. This year UW-Madison is proud to announce their 2013 Artist in Residence, Faisal Abdu’Allah.

As an internationally renowned artist born of Jamaican parents and based in London, Faisal focuses his work on race, power, masculinity, and violence. After specializing in printmaking at the Royal College of Art, he debuted his first major work in I wanna kill sam (1993)…... Further works of Abdu´Allah include ‘The Garden of Eden’ (2003) with architect David Adjaye, ´Gold Finger´ (2007), with the late Joey Pyle from the British mafia, and ‘Double Pendulum’ (2011) with British Olympian Sprinter, Jeanetta Kwayke.

faisal 1Through mixed combinations of photography, digital media, printmaking, installation, and performance, Faisal aims to create spaces that speak the unspoken and provoke the mind to challenge its comfort level and judgment calls in an urban environment. Abdu’Allah is a senior lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of East London, and on the rare down time that he has, he cuts hair at his own barber shop.

For Spring 2013, UW-Madison offered Faisal’s engaging and explorative course, “FauHaus: Bodies, Minds, Senses, and the Arts” in collaboration with Henry Drewal, Professor in Art History at UW-Madison; the course is grounded in Drewal’s theory of “sensiotics.” It consists of an expansive training series which hosts various artists from multiple disciplines. In addition to the work produced by students, Faisal will also be compiling a work in progress of his own through collaboration with the FauHaus conglomerate.

I’m currently enrolled in the course and can see how this innovative teaching method is going to be catalytic in each student’s artistic output.

A sample of a photo inkjet print used by a guest artist during a training session which includes Ely Lynch and myself.

A sample of a photo inkjet print used by a guest artist during a training session which includes Ely Lynch and myself.

Faisal will also be hosting a series of public events that will be held on Wednesdays on the Madison campus.

So if your mind is demanding content that is proactive toward the senses and work that challenges the institutionalized/normalized reactions to a particular environment, check out some of Faisal’s work by dropping in on one of the lectures offered by Faisal Abdu’Allah and friends.

faisal 3 faisal 2 faisal4

Written by Marvin Gutierrez, Multicultural Student Center Social Justice Intern and First Wave Scholar. Marvin is a MC, actor, poet, and visual artist. He is also the Secretary of the National MEChA Coordinating Council and a Culturarte Workshop Facilitator. 

The Color of Suspicion: Historical Racial Bias and Trayvon Martin

The ongoing investigation on the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has gained worldwide attention and an immeasurable outcry for justice.

President Obama spoke in personal terms on Martin’s behalf, referring to the slain teenager like a son of his own. Both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton delivered speeches to packed church congregations in Martin’s home state, declaring that a new battle in the fight for civil rights had begun. Martin’s parents and hundreds of protestors participated in the “Million Hoodie March” in New York City, a commemoration to Trayvon’s casual attire the night he was fatally shot. Even professional athletes like LeBron James have taken a stand.

From a surface level, the Trayvon Martin case tells the story of a malicious murder–an unarmed, black teenager followed, confronted and killed by a gun-wielding neighbor. Look below the surface and the case unveils a timeless anomaly about race, prejudice, discrimination, hate crimes and racial profiling in America. George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman who deemed Martin a suspicious character by the teenager’s attire, is not the first person to have a preconceived idea about young black men. This is also not the first time in history where a black man received unjust punishment for the color of his skin.

According to the 2006 Justice Department figures, one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is incarcerated. On August 28th, 1955, Emmett Till was brutally beaten and murdered for flirtatiously whistling at a white women. Recently, 20-year-old Bo Morrison was shot and killed in Slinger, Wisconsin by a white man who suspected the teen of suspicious behavior. Morrison, who was fleeing from police at a house party, hid on the man’s porch. He was completely unarmed. In each of these cases, the punishment was death. For others, it may be a lifetime of non-stop profiling and prejudice. Geraldo Rivera sparked much outrage after telling Fox news that being a kid of color in America is a risk and that there are instant “gangster” associations made with minorities and hooded sweatshirts.

At what point will a young black man be able to fearlessly walk down the street without the risk of bias “associations” that plague this country?  Right now, the answer seems unclear. Suspicious behavior should not have a race or color. Howard University Students for Justice group produced a video asking viewers to check their biases against black men by asking, “Do I look suspicious to you?”

As long as differences continue to exist between us, prejudice and bias thoughts might never fully be eliminated from society. The key is accepting these differences as neither right, wrong, good nor bad. These differences are unique and innate fabrics of our human species and ultimately should be praised and respected. Eliminating stereotypes and associations (African-American and criminal, teenagers and violence, minorities and hoodies) and fighting for justice may be the first step in having an equal, hate-free world.

Shelby Lewis is Communications and Technology Specialist and Student Life Intern majoring in Broadcast Journalism. 

Recommended Reading: Varieties in African American Religious Expression

Dr. Anthony Pinn defines black religion as the quest for complex subjectivity. Last week, Dr. Pinn gave a public talk on Body Language: Embodiment, Materiality and the Reframing of African American Religion as the kick off lecture for the R3 Symposium. Check out the live stream to hear him talk about how black bodies occupy time and space and how African American religion is about the effort to make life meaningful and ask existential and ontological questions.
 In the final installment of our recommended reading lists themed around Race, Religion, and Representation, we offer a list of books for those interested in exploring African American religious expressions including atheism, humanism, feminism, philosophies, African traditional religions, and earth-based traditions. 
  1. The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
  2. Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existential Thought – Lewis Gordon
  3. Reel to Real: Race, Sex, Class at the Movies  – bell hooks
  4. Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations – bell hooks
  5. Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery – bell hooks
  6. Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics – bell hooks
  7. Rock My Soul: Black People and Self Esteem – bell hooks
  8. Salvation: Black People and Love – bell hooks
  9. Island Possessed – Katherine Dunham
  10. Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery – Na’im Akbar
  11. System of Dante’s Hell – LeRoi Jones
  12. The African Aesthetic – Kariamu Welsh-Asante
  13. African Christianity: An African story – Ogbu Kalu
  14. Afrocentricity – Molefi Kete Asante
  15. Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom from Ancient Egypt – Maulana Karenga
  16. Autobiography of Malcolm X  – Malcolm X
  17. Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars – Sikivu Hutchinson
  18. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism – Patricia Hill Collins
  19. Black and Not Baptist – Don Barbera
  20. The Black Humanist Experience: An Alternative to Religion – Norm Allen
  21. Portal into the Light of Truth: The First Book of Wicca for African Americans and All Seekers – Jeanine de Oya
  22. Metu Netter Volumes 1 and 2 – Ra Un Neffer Amen
  23. Sacred Woman:  A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit – Queen Afua
  24. Master Book of Candle Burning – Henry Gamache
  25. Black Magic – Yvonne Chireau
  26. Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money and Success – Tayannah Lee McQuillar
  27. Jambalaya – Luisah Teish
  28. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica – Zora Neal Hurston

Related posts:

Is God a White Racist? and other Scholarly Books on African American Christian Theologies

As a continuation of our themed book list series intersecting faith and social justice, we compiled another reading list for those specifically interested in African American Christian theologies and traditions.
  1. Is God a White Racist?: A Preamble to Black Theology  by William R. Jones is landmark critique of the black church’s treatment of evil and the nature of suffering.
  2. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk  by Delores Williams uses the image of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael who was cast into the wilderness by Abraham and Sarah as a prototype for African American women
  3. Black Theology and Black Power by James Cone is an essential read for understanding Black Liberation
  4. A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone offers a searing indictment of white theology and society
  5. God of the Oppressed by James Cone reflects on God, Jesus, suffering, and liberation and relates the gospel message to the experience of the black community
  6. Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice
  7. White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus by Jacqueline Grant proposes a womanist theology and christology that emerge from and are adequate to the reality of contemporary Black women
  8. Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay on African American Religious and Cultural Criticism by Victor Anderson is a thoughtful critique of contemporary African American cultural, political, and religious thought.
  9. Handbook of Unites States Theologies of Liberation by Miguel De La Torre explores the interrelationship between religion, community, and culture in the social context of marginalized groups
  10. Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective by Kelly Brown Douglass tackles the “taboo” subject of sexuality that has long been avoided by the Black church and community
  11. The Black Messiah by Albert Cleague is a presentation on black consciousness and black power by one of America’s most influential Black religious leaders
  12. Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South by Albert J. Raboteau analyzes the transformation of the African religions into evangelical Christianity Continue reading