T’Keyah Crystal Keymah
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (born Crystal Walker; October 13, 1962) is an American actress and singer. In addition to her status as an original cast member of the Fox sketch comedy series In Living Color (1990–1994), she is also known for her roles as Erica Lucas on the CBS sitcom Cosby (1996–2000) Tanya Baxter on the Disney Channel sitcom That’s So Raven (2003–2005) and the star and host on the Keymáh Network sketch variety show The Cool Crystal Show (2020–present).
Keymáh was born Crystal Walker in 1962 in Chicago, where she was raised Catholic. Since the age of three, she has enjoyed entertaining her family – singing, dancing, and reciting original poems and stories. She wrote her first play and her first song in elementary school. She performed with Ali LeRoi and Lance Crouther in the Mary Wong Comedy Group in high school, before she enrolled in Florida A&M University (FAMU) at the School of Business and Industry. Her brother is former Commander of the DC US Army National Guard, current Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Major General William J. Walker
In 1988, Walker adopted the stage name “T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh” after she realized that her last name, Walker, reflected a slave name rather than her African roots. In Hebrew, “T’Keyah” means “mental revival of God’s spirit” and “Keymáh” means “to establish oneself.”
During college and after graduate from FAMU, Keymáh taught theater, dance, and mime. She has also done many theater performances, and produced and directed films.
One of the original cast members of Fox Television’s Emmy winning variety show, In Living Color, for five seasons Keymáh played a number of characters, including Cryssy, the central character of her self-written signature piece, “In Black World”. She also sang and danced on the show.
After In Living Color, she played contractor Scotti Decker in On Our Own; played comedy show writer Denise Everett on the 1996 TV series The Show; and provided the voices for Roz, Shavonne, Aki, Mrs. LaSalle, and many others in Waynehead. For four years, Keymáh was a series regular on Cosby, where she played flight attendant-lawyer-pastry chef-teacher Erica Lucas Hall. Following Cosby, she appeared for three seasons on the Disney series That’s So Raven as Raven’s mother, Tanya Baxter. In season four her character was written out of the plot so that Keymáh could care for her ailing grandmother.
Keymáh co-wrote and costarred in a two-person stage show with music, called Sellout!?!, with fellow FAMU alumnus Bryan C. Jones, who was also one of the many guests to appear in her hit variety show T’Keyah Live ! They did the first workshop presentation of Sellout!?! at FAMU in 2013.
Don’t Get Me Started!
Keymáh performed a solo stage work titled Don’t Get Me Started! She sang, performed impressions, and talked about the prison industrial complex as well as conspiracy theories. She rewrote pointedly political lyrics to songs by Nina Simone and Eartha Kitt. She debut the show in 2011 at The Black Academy of Art & Letters (TBAAL) in Dallas, Texas.
T’Keyah Live! is a variety show and is Keymáh’s third self-produced theatrical show. It includes witty repartee, musical numbers, endearing characters, audience participation, impressions, video presentations, jokes and guests. She has performed the show across the U.S. since 1999 with a number of different guest performers, including Todd Bridges, T. C. Carson, Ralph Harris, Dawnn Lewis, and Karen Malina White .
Some of My Best Friends
Some of My Best Friends is a series of monologues in verse and prose embodied by a dozen diverse but somehow connected characters. In this humorous, tear jerking, thought-provoking theatrical production, Keymáh champions societal issues that are as relevant today as they were when the show debut to sold out crowds at Chicago’s South Shore Cultural Center in 1991. Overcoming obstacles, the devastation of AIDS, the search for love, race relations, and teen promiscuous are just some of the topics explored. The show was chiefly penned by Keymáh but includes pieces written by or in collaboration with Ali LeRoi, Harry Lennix, and poet Angela Jackson (And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New); and includes a dance choreographed by Maurice Hines. About her work in this show critics have said: “Keymáh is a Charismatic Actress… Chameleonic and Effervescent” – Los Angeles Times;”…Beyond Superlatives; She’s Phenomenal!” – Earl Calloway, Chicago Defender; “Much More Than Comedy”- Lisa M. Pancia, New York Vignette; “…a Delightful, Multitalented Performer whose ability to create believable characters on stage is a Wonder to Behold”- Nat Colley, Los Angeles Reader; “Keymáh is Magnificent” – Linda Armstrong, Amsterdam News;”…Keymáh’s Poignant, Detailed Portrayals are Never Less Than Magnificent”- Randy Trabitz, Los Angeles Weekly. The show garnered an AUDELCO Award nomination for Best Solo Performer, an NAACP Theater Award nomination for Best Writing, and NAACP Theater Awards for Best Performance and Best Play.
Keymáh is an avid gardener and a vegetarian, as well as an active, Golden Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She was initiated into the Beta Alpha chapter at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
Keymáh self-published three books: Cycle of Love: 28 Days Rejuvenation and Meditation for Organization, Inspired Self Care, an inspirational self-help book with recipes, exercises and meditations; Some of My Best Friends: A Collection of Characters, the book version of the stage show she performed for ten years; and Natural Woman / Natural Hair: A Hair Journey – Hairstyles and Hairstories from the Front with Simple, Step-by-Step Instructions on Taking Care of your Natural Hair, an instructional hair care manual with anecdotes about her experiences with Afro-textured hair. She also contributed essays to “The HBCU Experience Book,” “Dining with the Ancestors: When Heroes Come to Dinner,” and “The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery.”[
Musical artist Flyy Moon pays tribute to Keymáh’s iconic “In Black World” performance piece, by including the opening lines in the intro of her 2021 debut song release, “Black.”
Associated Black Charities operates a donor-advised Keymáh Cultural Fund, which provides tickets to youth groups to attend theatrical performances and funds artistic groups that serve or comprises teens and children.
There is a theater scholarship named for Keymáh at her alma mater, Florida A&M University. and medical scholarship named for her at Meharry Medical College.
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh served as a K–8 substitute teacher for the Chicago Board of Education for 4 years. She has presented her “Tools of the Trade” actors preparation workshops at theater festivals and other events in the United States, and she has lectured abroad. In the fall of 2017, Keymáh served as Florida A&M University’s first ever W.K. Kellogg Foundation Artist-in-Residence in the College of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities Theater department. Her residency included directing Pearl Cleage’s The Nacirema Society Requests Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First 100 Years, teaching an Acting for the Camera course, and providing industry workshops and mentoring students.