© 2004 E.Vern Taylor

"A Lyrical Fantasy of My Personal Africa; Kilimanjaro: The Serengeti; Along the Underground Railroad", has grown out of the search toward my Identity. Though African American, I was not fully aware of who I was or how I got to be here. There was always this knowing of we were from Africa - ("or in my case, D.C.", facetiously speaking), and were brought over here…….were slaves…….and are now upstanding, working, citizens; but, none of the Story, in between, when we were going through some of the most unendurable times any people on the face of this earth had ever experienced. A longing and strong need had always enveloped my sense of knowing, to delve into our Black History. As an Artist and painter, to bring out the essence of my being, documenting it in "thought, word, and deed", so to speak - (vis-à-vis conveying my essence on canvas, authoring my Lyrical Writings in complement, as the Series takes on a life of its own).

My initiative was sparked by the opportunity to present my Work, as an Artist, in conjunction with The 8th of August Celebration, in Paducah, Kentucky. The better part of my growing up was spent there. "To assuage your curiosity why this particular date is such a significant point in time": Black folk there have been celebrating the January Signing of The Emancipation Proclamation, on the 8th of August, since way before the turn of the last Century, much like "Juneteenth Day" in other places in the country. The Celebrations were moved to the warmer months. This is also considered Homecoming for Paducah natives of color, all across this great nation of ours. It has grown into a well coordinated series of events and happenings that take place around Paducah. And people come for The 8th of August Celebration, "from the four corners", mostly every year!
During my youth, I can remember older loved ones talking about such names as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Louie Armstrong, Fats Waller, Esther Phillips (called "Little Esther" then), and even Lady Day herself. . . Billie Holiday, coming to Paducah. And in my time I seem to recollect when, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner, or James Brown to name a few, would be Headliners for The 8th of August Dances, at one time or another. Black folk from miles around would all come to enjoy "and get they groove own" during these early years, when I knew anything about it. "The 8th of August", as it is always called, was a big thing for people of color. Everybody would always come to Paducah when it rolled around.

By the suggestion of Mr. David Brown, fellow Artist and former classmate from High School, Mr. Dan Carver, Curator of the Yeiser Art Center of Paducah, in May of 1992, asked me to do a Dual Showing of my Work. Very shortly after, I was told that I would be sharing the spotlight with renowned Photographer Moneta Sleet Jr., because we both had connections to Paducah. Mr. Sleet, whose marvelous Work I viewed shortly after, at the St. Louis Art Museum in September of 1993, has brought many an image of the greats to the public eye, from his own. His touching photograph of Mrs. Coretta Scott King and her young daughter, in the pew of Ebenezer Baptist Church, attending the funeral of Rev. Dr. King which appeared on the cover of Ebony Magazine, epitomized the grief we were all feeling at the time of his assassination.

Our Joint Exhibit would be in conjunction with The 8th of August Celebration. Flattered by the Invitation, I considered it an honor, having the opportunity to share the same space with such a distinguished and celebrated Photographer as Mr. Sleet Jr., whose mother and father were friends of my parents. Both Prof. and Mrs. Sleet Sr., very fine individuals, worked at West Kentucky Vocational School, when my dad, Melvin W. Taylor Sr., was the Coordinator, eventually going on to become Director. The School was an "institution" in itself, as much as an inspiration; and, another strong source of esteem and sufficiency, to Blacks throughout the area. West Kentucky Industrial College (which has garnered several names since its inception) was the realized dream of Dr. D. H. Anderson, who established "West Kentucky" as it was endearingly called, in 1909, for the purpose of training and developing Blacks to become viable members of the Work Force and, by 1938, had grown to be the third largest junior college for Blacks, in the country. I fondly remember the fields of Tailoring, Barbering, Beauty Culture, Office Practice, Commercial Foods, Carpentry, Auto Body and Auto Mechanics, Brick Masonry, Electronics, and Electricity all being part of the curriculum at West Kentucky, when we first came to Paducah, in the latter part of 1954. The School was one of the elements of pride, within the Black community. So I was aware of Mr. Sleets roots as a celebrity of Paducah, (whose father even served as Acting President of the School from 1947-1948). I even obtained my Architectural Draftsman's Certificate from the School in 1970. And my Dad was President from 1972 to 1985. It was both disappointing and surprising, when Mr. Sleet could not be a part of the Showing. I was given the whole Gallery, to exhibit my Work. A major event of my artistic life, in no uncertain terms!

"This Showing would culminate the essence of my Blackness…….it had to!" And being the person I am, having studied Architectural Engineering, Architectural Technology and Design, Architectural Drafting, and obtained a Degree in Visual Arts, it really couldn't have been any other way! After much consideration and soul searching, I would develop a Series of paintings about my Heritage, which would be in conjunction with The 8th of August. It was a project that I had wanted to do for a number of years, and would tell of the plight of my people, in this country. And feeling that we had steadily been swaying away from the knowledge of ourselves and who we were, and from where we came, so it seemed, I decided to proceed with my Research and the paintings. So I thought, and I read, and I researched, and I sketched, and I pondered, and I researched some more….and I'm still researching, and sketching and pondering, and talking to those who want to talk about it. Having come up with a Narrative that conveys the brevity of my heartfelt sentiment, as a black individual "on this side", I am painting this series of paintings I now call (for short), "The Kilimanjaro Series".

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