At 13 years of age, Tanya Dennis was a dance instructor at Grove Recreation and Parks in Berkeley California and had a professional dance company by the age of 16. For four years Ms. Dennis’ company performed for the Oakland and Berkeley Public Schools annually during Black History Month and performed for numerous events throughout the Greater East Bay for six years before leaving to attend the University of California where she attained a BA in Dance with a minor in English, and a secondary teacher’s credential.
In 1968 Ms. Dennis performed the starring role of “Luttie-Belle” at the Berkeley Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley California. Ms. Dennis was Miss Oakland in 1968 and Miss Berkeley in 1967 and the first African-American to compete in the Miss California-Miss America Pageant. She garnered third runner up and won the talent competition performing an African dance. She attained a secondary teacher’s credential and BA in Dance and English from UCLA in 1970.
Ms. Dennis attended Peabody-Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee where she attained her Master’s degree in Physical Education. In 1972 she became the head of the Dance Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. While in Richmond Ms. Dennis performed in the Equity show “Purlie Victorious” as a principle dancer.
Ms. Dennis formed a University sponsored 26 member African Dance Company, Ezibu Muntu which means “Universal Man” in Yoruba. Yoruba is one of the four official languages of Nigeria.
Ms. Dennis returned to California is 1975 and taught in Compton, Oakland, and Berkeley School Districts. She is currently a teacher in Long Beach California and a community activist with ACCE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. She is also a senior reporter for the Post News Group, the largest African American paper on the west coast. She was a finalist for the Miller-Coors Commentary Award in 2010.
Ms. Dennis was the recipient of the NAACP Community Service Award in 1995 for her work with at-risk youth in the Oakland Unified School District and received the national Jefferson Award in 1982 for her work with the disabled community. Ms. Dennis is a certified trainer in two character education modalities: “Living Values, An Educational Program,” and “TSI – Therapeutic Storytelling Intervention.” She formed the Ridgemont Neighborhood Association in Oakland to combat crime and create community in her neighborhood.
Ms. Dennis managed Dennis Properties in Berkeley and Oakland California and Maricopa Arizona. She has over 30 years of property management experience.
Ms. Dennis states that her proudest achievement in her life aside from her two children is the Ezibu Muntu Dance and gives all credit to Renee Knight and Faye Walker for being “Keepers of the Dream.”