Titus Walker–director of the Ujamaa Black Theater, producer, actor, playwright and activist–passed away on April 7 of colon cancer. He was 54. A native New Yorker, Walker was born on September 12, 1954, in Harlem Hospital. After spending his early life in Harlem, he eventually found himself on Summit Avenue in the Highbridge section of the Bronx in the 1960s. As a politically active student at Medgar Evers College, he started writing monologues and plays that laid the foundation for the Ujamaa Black Theater in the mid- to late-1970s. Ujamaa means “working together” in Swahili.
“There’s a big breakdown between what is happening with the art and what’s happening with the reality of the Black community,” said Walker in an interview with Columbia Television News several years ago. “Sometimes, all you need is one person to say, ‘I see things differently.’”
“Dad is a pioneer of Black theater,” said Tajmal Walker, son of Titus. “He taught a curriculum of Black pride and Black independence.”
That independence is what made Walker hold onto his own business, stressing the importance of ownership. “Even today, a lot of people gave up their businesses. Jay-Z gave up ROCAWEAR. Russell Simmons gave up Def Jam. He still held on to his independence,” said Tajmal, referring to his father. “A lot of it has to do with his nationalistic values, like Black ownership; some of those fundamentals that we might take for granted.”
Tajmal will take over duties at Ujamaa. “I plan to continue the legacy of Dad,” said Tajmal. “We just had a tributary performance, which was basically a collage of most of his works. “Before Tyler Perry had, ‘The Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ there was ‘For The Love of My Black Woman’ by my father,” said Tajmal. “Spike Lee had ‘Malcolm X.’ My father had a tribute to Malcolm X, being a student under Betty Shabazz. Conceptually, he’s the originator.” Some of his other works under the Ujamaa umbrella include “Please Don’t Take My Rhythm and Blues” and “Never Walk Alone with God.”
On Friday, Unity Funeral Chapels Inc. will hold a wake from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and services from 12 to 2 p.m. Walker will be buried in Maple Grove cemetery in, Hackensack, N.J., following a dove release. Unity is located on 2352 8th Avenue, New York, NY.