The Start of Something New
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company was established in Richmond, Virginia on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as a student organization in 1973. Founder, Tanya Dennis, a dance professor at VCU, recognized a need for multicultural enrichment in the Richmond community. She particularly wanted to help the African American students find a sense of ancestral pride and self-esteem.
Obtaining Our 501 (c)3 status
After maintaining its status as a university based group, Ezibu decided they could better serve the community with as a not-for- profit organization aimed at educating the community about African customs and traditions. In 1984, Ezibu established itself as a 501(c) 3 corporation and has been exciting and educating audiences all over the Richmond community for 50 years.
Evolving Our Mission
Our member’s talents extend beyond dance and drumming. Recognizing that Richmond had changed over the last decades, the founder and the sustainers knew that it was time for a change. In September 2018, Dennis returned to Richmond to assist Knight and Walker with the evolution of Ezibu Muntu beyond “just dance". Upon her return, the organization’s Board of Directors changed Ezibu Muntu’s mission to include, theater, music and education.
Climbing to Great Heights
Founder, Tanya Dennis, left the Company in 1975, to return to her native state of California, where she continued serving as an educator and community activist. Two award winning educators, and VCU alumnae, Renee Knight and Faye Walker, would take over to maintain the company in Richmond, VA for the next four decades.
New Era in Artistry & Costuming
Babdunjo Olagunke "Baba D" served as the Co-Artistic Director of Ezibu Muntu from 2000-2019. While a student at VCU in 1987, Baba D enrolled in Sister Faye Walker's African Dance class and went on to join Ezibu Muntu in 1990. In 2000, he moved into the position of choreographer, co-artistic director, costume designer, and many other roles with Ezibu. He is now the founder of Akoma de Gado Dance & Drum Performance Ensemble.
50 Years of Dance, Education & Culture
It is estimated that since it’s beginning, more than 1,000 individuals have been directly involved with the Ezibu Muntu family. The organization, reflecting its evolution from a company dedicated to dance, has rebranded itself as “Ezibu Muntu,” and adopted the tagline “Dance, Education and Culture". The tagline better reflects Ezibu Muntu’s mission and organizational focus to expand Ezibu Muntu’s roles in African education and culture.
We continue to strive forward in fulfilling our mission, by extending our each and impact throughout Greater Metro Richmond community, statewide throughout Virginia and nationally across the United States. Ezibu Muntu seeks to open up a community center, which will provide African-centered education and experiences to the community at large with additional programming for seniors and health advocates.
Sister Faye Walker
Lovingly known as Mama Ebun, Mother, Sister, Friend, Educator, Former Ezibu Muntu Artistic Director, Forever Board Member
Faye Walker "Sister Faye" taught African Dance at Virginia Commonwealth University for thirteen years and has been instrumental in keeping Ezibu Muntu a viable entity. Faye Walker was a teacher and performer of African dance, and one of the founding members of the Ezibu Muntu. Sister Faye studied extensively with many African and African-American dancers and musicians, who were or are now considered masters of the art form. She served Ezibu Muntu in many capacities throughout the years as a Performer, Dance Captain, General Manager, Board Member, Director of the Visual Musicians Color Guard Corps and Artistic Director. She has mentored, choreographed, and co-directed the company. Sister Faye also choreographed for other companies, and theatrical groups including: the University of Richmond’s Ngoma African and Modern Dance Company, the Kuumba Dancers and various community and recreation centers.
Her choreograph portfolio also extends to staged musicals for the Hampton University Players. A short list includes: “Dream Girls,” “Ain’t Misbehaving,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha.” Sister Faye happily worked at John H. Smith High School for 32 years, working with the Hanover Juvenile Correctional Center and finally at the Reception and Diagnostic Center at the W. Hamilton Crockford Annex High.
The Ezibu Muntu said our goodbyes to Sister Faye, a dynamic force within our company and all of our lives. Although, physically Sister Faye is no longer with us, her impact, mentorship, passion and love will forever be imprinted in the fundamental values on which Ezibu Muntu continues to serve our community. Your presence and talent was and will forever be our greatest treasure.