In memoriam: Richmond stalwart and VCU alumna Faye Walker

The longtime educator and African dance enthusiast “was the glue that kept the whole African American community together.”

VCU alumna and VCU dance instructor Faye Walker (right). [View Image] VCU alumna and VCU dance instructor Faye Walker, right, passed away Nov. 25 at age 66. (Photo courtesy Renée Knight Lacy)

For 47 years, since meeting as Virginia Commonwealth University students in Tanya Dennis’ Afro Caribbean dance class, Faye Bettina Walker and Renée Knight Lacy saw each other at least two or three times a week, and often more. 

Walker, a former VCU adjunct African dance instructor and the artistic director of Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company, died Nov. 25, a week before her 67th birthday, leaving Knight Lacy devastated.

“This is a horrific blow to the total African American community up and down the East Coast from New York City to Florida,” said Knight Lacy, who, with Walker, was in the first cohort of Ezibu Muntu, which started in 1973 as a student organization at VCU.

“Faye was the glue that kept the whole African American community together,” Knight Lacy said. “Especially with the dance company. … Faye had an extremely big heart.” 

The Richmond dance company focuses on African dance, education and culture. “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,” Walker said in an earlier interview with the organization.

Faye was the glue that kept the whole African American community together. Especially with the dance company. … Faye had an extremely big heart.

Besides performing, over the years Walker served as a choreographer, artistic director and general manager of Ezibu Muntu. She also was a choreographer for other groups including the University of Richmond’s Ngoma African and Modern Dance Company, the Kuumba Dancers and the Hampton University Players. 

Walker also spent nearly 40 years working with the Virginia Department of Corrections, teaching middle and high school students in state juvenile detention facilities. She was still teaching classes virtually at the time of her death.

“She just loved life. She was vibrant. She was color. She was life,” Knight Lacy said. “That's all I can say. And for this to be snapped out like that — so fast — it took us all aback. It's going to take everybody some time to get over this to be quite honest.”

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