Ezibu Muntu’s New Name and New Mission
Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company, a student organization, was established at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 1973. Ezibu Muntu has been the Richmond region’s premiere African dance company for forty-six years. The founder of Ezibu Muntu, Tanya Dennis, left the Company in 1975, to return to her native California, where she continued serving as an educator and community activist. Two award winning educators, and VCU alumnae, Renee Knight and Faye Walker, maintained the company for the next forty-three years.
Two very talented and committed proteges of Knight and Walker, Roderick Davis and Babadunjo Olagunké, have kept the group viable and artistically solvent for 30 years. They’ve continued to teach and maintain the integrity of the traditions they learned from their mentors.
Knight noted that, “For years our internal resources had not been fully recognized nor maximized. We’ve lamented for years our inability to share our vast wealth of knowledge with the community because of location and money limitations. Our member’s talents extend beyond dance and drumming. In 2015, I started asking our founder, Tanya Dennis, to return to assist in expanding our service base. After many months and years of discussion and planning Tanya committed to return to Richmond.”
Recognizing that Richmond has 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, Dennis became the general manager of Ezibu Muntu. Since that time, Dennis and the organization’s Board of Directors have changed Ezibu Muntu’s mission to include, theater, music and education. Though the organization’s current studio space is currently located in Southside Richmond, plans are in the works for a return to a more centralized location within the “arts corridor” of Richmond. Ezibu Muntu has begun fundraising to purchase its own brick and mortar facility, with a particular interest in locating in the 23220 zip code. The organization has had early fundraising success, and that campaign will continue until sufficient funding is secured.
The organization, reflecting its evolution from a simple dance company, has rebranded itself as “Ezibu Muntu,” and adopted the tagline “Dance, Education and Culture.” The tagline better reflects Ezibu Muntu’s mission, reflecting their organizational focus to expand Ezibu Muntu’s roles in African education and culture, while extending their reach and impact throughout metropolitan Richmond. The Ezibu Muntu center will provide African centered education and experiences to the community at large with additional programming for seniors and health advocates.
Sustainer, Faye Walker noted the following: “We encourage everyone to celebrate African culture, but we feel it is particularly important that we reach Black youth and hit them with all of the positive knowledge, support and self-pride we can infuse into them mentally, physically and spiritually.”
From founder Tanya Dennis: “We are asking the public to support our growth and our mission. We assist youth to become better, more productive citizens, and the public can assist by donating to Company or our building fund simply by accessing the PayPal account found in the “Funding Opportunities” section on this website. We hope the public will support next year’s gala and summer concert, our two major fundraisers, a fundraising music concert at the Carpenter Theater on July 24, 2020 featuring Jeffery Osborne.
“Elevating our youth to excellence is our mission. It starts with teaching children their culture, showing them their power and supporting their potential. That’s what we’ve accomplished through the programs we’ve offered thus far. Once we attain our new space, we will do much more for many more children. The public’s generous donations and participation at our gala will help us achieve this goal.”