Golden Globe-winning actor Regina Taylor has deep roots in North Texas. In partnership with SMU, where’s she’s teaching, Taylor created the black album project to express the lives of Black Americans in this past year of pandemic and social justice protests. This week, KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports, the project presented awards to artists across the country
Regina Taylor is probably best known for her roles in such TV series as The Unit and I’ll Fly Away. Most recently, she’s been cast as Michelle Obama’s mother for the forthcoming series, The First Lady.
But she’s also a playwright who grew up in Oak Cliff, graduated from SMU and has had her work staged at the Dallas Theater Center. She started the black album project last October with an anthology of videos, visual art and stage performances by her SMU students.
“I wrote the black album.resistance,” she said, “to speak on the issues of Covid-19, to George Floyd, to the very divisive, incendiary political race and the implications and implosions that still resonate.”
For her second black album initiative — the black album.mixtape — Taylor expanded the collaboration. She wanted to create a website and present $500 awards to showcase creativity in photography, music and performance but also in activism and technology.
“This initiative,” she said, “is to create a platform for people to think about where we’ve been, how we got here and where we might be going. We’ve all been touched globally by the same things, and that’s very rare.”
Within a month of the open call, more than 400 submissions had come in, including ones from Africa and Germany. The eight winners who were eventually picked ranged from professional artists in Chicago and California to a sixth-grader from Atlanta, a spoken-word performer named Nya Smith.
“Oh my goodness,” Smith exclaimed during Tuesday’s awards ceremony, “I’m so honored to be here tonight and to accept this award. I still can’t believe I’m here right now.”
The awards ceremony was an online block party that included testimonials as well as video and audio performances from the winners.
Alexandria Carrington is a senior studying voice at Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School. She was chosen in the ‘artist’ category — youth division — for her song, “In the Dark.”
“I like entering competitions because validation is great,” she said. “But I really loved this competition specifically because it gave black artists and people of color a voice, and I always love participating in events that do that.
In contrast to the Dallas high school student, Robert Daye is a veteran actor-singer-songwriter in New York. He’s performed on Broadway and writes music for TV series. He won for a song called “This Voice” that he composed with Sylvia MacCalla and Yvette Cason.
But Daye’s award was actually in the category of ‘activism.’
“This song came about because I’m a part of a group called Just One Step for Democracy,” he said, “which was put together for artists to get people to vote and let your voice be heard. So when I heard that this was being done, I thought that this was a great opportunity to also get that message out.”
The 11 judges for the black album mixtape awards included directors of North Texas arts groups, SMU professors and a Missouri state senator. Taylor has continued to expand her project with panel discussions and even a public dinner in St. Louis.
THE COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS IN THE BLACK ALBUM MIXTAPE AWARDS (see all the submissions here):
Leon Jones, Rhett Goldman, Caleb Mosley – “Through My Mind” (Film, Dance, Spoken Word)
Alexandria Carrington – “In the Dark” (Original Music)
Ben Woods – “All” (Original Music)
Nya Smith – “I Believe” (Spoken Word)
Bobby Daye – “This Voice” (Original Music)
John Tyler – “Make The Change” (Music)
Wilfredo Rivera – “Culture Loop” (Dance)
Mark Hirsch – “Portrait of a Nation” (Technology)
Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.
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