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Photo courtesy Charles Walker

Magazine | Goodbye Oklahoma

Charlesetta Walker (1935-2011)

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Posted 04.23.11

“A lot of black kids are not exposed to folk dancing,” son Charles Walker said. “Especially the poorer communities. And so they were skeptical at first, but she really won them over.”

Charlesetta Walker started clogging in the 1980s as a form of exercise. As her dancing interest intensified, she went alone to clogging classes and conventions all around the country, learning and performing with myriad clubs.

“Clogging is not a mainstream thing,” Charles said, “but as with any subculture, there are people participating if you look hard enough.”

Charlesetta Walker with her clogging team. Photo courtesy Charles Walker.

 

The traveling in particular was a major perk for Walker. “She loved to travel,” Charles remembered. “Even when I was kid, she made a point to take me somewhere every summer—Detroit, Oakland, New York City.

Traveling was her favorite thing to brag about. And she felt that young people should be exposed to it too.”

A public school teacher, Walker began to pass her clogging expertise on to her students. She put them into performing groups and would organize performances at communities events like the Bluegrass and Chili Festival and Mayfest.

“She realized it was something different for them, something they wouldn’t normally be introduced to, and she realized it presented them with opportunities to travel. You have to understand that for some of these kids, their clogging trips were their only trips out of town, ever.”

Hands-on from start to finish, Walker went to thrift stores for costume materials and would sew and alter them herself. “Parents really admired her for being so involved, and for getting the kids excited about it.”

Walker trained dozens of students over the years, and she loved to watch them clog. Charles said, “I think she liked watching them dance more than she enjoyed dancing herself.”

Though Charles remembers his mother as a happy woman, he admits that she had a complaint or two. “Towards the end of her life, she voiced frustration with the lack of interesting activities and events for seniors in Tulsa. She wanted there to be more community-based events that were accessible and enjoyable for older people.”

Walker continued to clog as long as she was able. A true traveling fiend, she passed away at age 75 and was buried beneath a gravestone that reads: “On the road again.”

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