“Dare to Dream!”
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company and Cultural Foundation has made dreams come to fruition for forty-three years. It has sustained the dream from an initial generous donation by Virginia Commonwealth University in 1973, to the powerful impact it has in the region today. This financial support sponsored the company’s brilliant genesis. That genesis was the dream of bringing into existence a community based entity that would expose thousands of citizens to rich African culture, history and values, while fostering children’s ability to dream. In addition, it provided the opportunity to experience safe, enriching and uplifting community activities, including positive reflections and finding joy in belonging to a heritage of richness and majesty.
Ezibu Muntu’s seventy-five member company’s success can start to be measured by the following: The children’s performance company, eighteen in total; the number of collaborations the company has partnered with up and down the Eastern Seaboard; the thousands of performances in schools, colleges and civic settings; and the tens of thousands of lives that have been transformed as a result of the company’s impactful artistic excellence.
After forty three years Ezibu Muntu is, by the force of its far reaching inspiration, is naturally transitioning to the next level. It’s current location can no longer house their tremendous growth. Ezibu Muntu seeks to become even more invested in the community with the purchase of a 13,000 square foot facility in the Historic, Jackson Ward District in Richmond Virginia, a culturally rich and diverse community by forming a separate entity: The Leigh Street Cultural Center. By becoming property owners and collaborating with like minded community organizations as their tenants, Ezibu Muntu will have a more powerful, positive impact.
These organizations, under the Leigh Street Event Center banner, will become a part of a more diverse artistic community bringing in additional transformative art forms, for example: multi-media, theater, writing, and music. The Event Center will offer classes and special events to the community and will partner with organizations that require additional space to extend their services to the community. The Black History Museum, three blocks from the Center location has indicated interest in utilizing center space as a result of their existing space limitations.
This facility will offer a state-of-the-art platform conducive for multiple uses, from concerts to conferences, including tele-conferencing, banquets, receptions, seminars and workshops that extend into teaching, internships and mentoring.
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company and Cultural Foundation (The Company) has taught African culture to children and adults, and now recognize it is time to incorporate, collaborate and expand horizons further. What better way than by being the owners of a transforming multi-level, multi-use cultural center, The Company will attain financial stability for another forty-three years and beyond while establishing the foundation to teach and show children and adults how to build dreams and establish legacies. Leading by example!
The following entities have expressed interest in collaborating with The Center: The Black Repertory Theater, The Black History Museum, The Jackson Ward Heritage Foundation, and The Virginia Black Music Foundation.
Please go to our “donate” page to see how you can help.
BLACK MUSIC SERIES 2019
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company & Cultural Foundation, the iconic dance company of Richmond Virginia for forty-four years, has arrived at a juncture in their sterling career that the 78-member company is now prepared to extend its artistic reach into theater, music and art. Ezibu Muntu’s EM Productions staff consists of six 1973 charter members from the original company with the exception of Tony Hall: Renee Knight, Tanya Dennis, Brenda Bentley, Karen Barber, Tony Hall, Ron Carrington and Nancy Nelson-Ewing.
The Company is requesting the mayor assist us in establishing an annual Black History Music Series in the city of Richmond at the Carpenter Theater from February to mid-March 2019. The Mayor has delivered! Thank you Mayor Stoney! Our next mission will be to acquire $65,000.
Being a non-profit 501 (3)(C) we do not possess available resources to produce the first event alone and will be seeking corporate donations. The Mayor’s office assisted us in securing the Carpenter Theater, which is affiliated with Dominion Power. Dominion Power currently donates to our annual gala. The beauty of the Black History Music Series is that after the first event, all festivals thereafter will be self-funding. Attached is a breakdown of financials and schedules.
Ezibu Muntu seeks to fill a void in the Richmond community. The Company, always the torch bearer of African culture have a responsibility to provide access to African American art and history from an authentic point of view. Who better to tell “our” story and express “our” history then us!
African Americans have a rich culture that is embedded in Americana. Jackson Ward was once known as “The Harlem Renaissance of the South.” EM Productions mission is to restore that cultural flavor back into Richmond’s artistic community.
There is a long-term agenda connected with the Black History Music Series that has been addressed in our previous outreach to the City. The development of an event center in the heart of Jackson Ward.
For two years Ezibu Muntu has sought the acquisition of the Sharon Baptist Church located at 1st and Leigh Street. Ezibu Muntu applied for grants to buy the property and convert it into a center that promotes the arts, simultaneously serving the dual purpose of allowing the community to rent space for their private events, conferences and meetings.
We were not able to raise the necessary revenues but plan to approach the City and County regarding surplus property with the hopes of securing land that will enable the company to erect a 20,000 sq ft sprung structure to house an event center that will serve as a theater, community hall and teaching center for African American music, theater, dance, art and technology.
Richmond Art Alliance has generously agreed to work with the company to secure the Carpenter Theater. We are meeting with officials to finalize details.
Each event would cost approximately $25,000 -$30,000. Start-up costs including the first event will require $70,000. $30,000 for the first event; $20,000 in security deposits for the five remaining artists, and $20,000 for marketing and advertising. The Company can cover $5,000 of this expense and now that we have secured the Carpenter Theater, are in the process of presenting grant applications for remaining funds.
The Carpenter Theater seats 1,800. Even at 50% capacity the concert series would be a profit generating event. Please see “The Plan” for more information.
Marketing strategy would heavily highlight that the Black History Music Series is a fundraiser to establish a black arts cultural center in the city of Richmond and is a tax write-off to the participant. We would generate community interest by hosting a talent search competition for talented community members to compete via U-Tube, “Richmond’s Got Talent” and the group/person garnering the most votes would appear on stage. To engender a festival atmosphere, there will be interactive activities occurring during the concert (dancers, video, etc.), with arts, clothing and craft vendors in the lobby selling or displaying African-American and African items and artwork.
Now that we have the Mayor’s support for the Black History Music Series we look forward to speaking to you further regarding this exciting project.
Tanya Dennis, Founder
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company & Cultural Foundation