Glenda   R.   Taylor    is   an   American   scholar,   writer,   poet,   and   cultural   historian.   In   the   midst   of   a   career   as   a   formidable   executive   in   the nonprofit   sector   who   was   able   to   raise   $50   million   through   her   administrative   and   proposal   writing   skills,   Taylor   had   a   life   altering experience.   She   lost   95%   of   her   eyesight.   At   forty-five   years   old,   she   was   blind.   Taylor,   a   creative   thinker,   did   not   fall   into   the   depths   of depression   and   despair.   No   longer   able   to   drive,   feed   her   passion   for   photography   or   fully   engage   in   what   she   terms   her   only addiction,   reading   a   book,   she   sought   higher   ground   by   intensifying   her   study   of   how   her   ancestors   rose   above   the   depths   of   despair and   overcame   the   immense   obstacles   which   they   faced   in   the   Jim   Crow   south.   She   has   often   said,   “If   Berry   Gordy    could   do   what   he did   when   he   did   it;   if   Susan   Smith   McKinney   Steward    could   do   what   she   did   when   she   did   it;   If   Oprah   Winfrey ,   a   “little   colored   girl” from   the   dust   roads   of   Mississippi   can      cast   off   the   mental   fetters   of   growing   up   in   the   Jim   Crow   South,   becoming      the   most   powerful voice   in   the   global   community;   if   Harriet   Tubman    in   the   face   of   death   could   accomplish   her   agenda,   navigating   through   the   woods   in the 1800s, guided only by creative thinking and the sheer strength of her will and spirit, then blindness is no obstacle.” Blind Light Taylor   authored   two   motivational   books   before   her   crisis   and   acknowledges   that   “It   is   easy   to   motivate   and   spread   positive   thoughts when   one   has   not   walked   through   fire.   I   was   faced   with   fire   and   had   to   be   cremated   or   walk   out   of   the   furnace.   I   had   to   ask   myself: What do I believe?” Her stance resulted in the pursuit of a M.A. degree in History and Culture and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Exiting The Cave Distinguished   Professor   and   author,   Elizabeth   Nunez,   after   reading   a   New   York   Times   article   written   about   Glenda’s   work,   asked, “Why   don’t   you   go   back   to   school   and   get   a   doctorate?”   Days   later   Addie   Hampton   from   New   York   State   Commission   for   the   Blind posed   a   similar   question.   Taylor   began   to   believe   that   the   universe   may   have   been   sending   her   a   message.   With   encouragement   from her   mother   (Mary   J.   Taylor),   Addie   Hampton,   Robin   Dinerstein,   and   Horace   Smith,   Taylor   learned   how   to   type   and   use   the   computer, both   necessary   for   the   pursuit   of   an   advanced   degree.   She   always   held   that   if   she   were   to   research,   study,   and   share   the   secrets   of how   the   most   harried   Americans   overcame   their   obstacles   to   achieve   greatness,   all   citizens   would   gain   immensely   and   have   access   to the   knowledge   they   need   to   overcome   their   personal   hurdles.   When   she   asked   Derrick   Skeete,   who   was      in   the   process   of   completing the   rigorous   journey   of   obtaining   a   doctorate,   his   thoughts   on   the   road   ahead,   he   said,   “Those   who   can,      should.   Most   cannot.   You can.”   After   much   contemplation,   combined   with   the   laser-like   focus   for   which   she   had   a   reputation,   undaunted   by   the   road   ahead, she counted her blessings and redefined her goals. The Jalimuso’s Drum Taylor   credits   educator,   certified   appraiser,   and   author   Dr.   Elvin   Montgomery,   whom   she   met   in   the   mid- 1990 s   and    with   whom   she has   taken   courses   in   appraisal,   as   the   person   who   recognized   that   she   had   an   extensive   knowledge   of   entertainment   history.   Taking that   into   consideration   before   she   attended   graduate   school   and   listening   to   her   mother’s   advice   “Study   what   you   love,”   Taylor decided   to   focus   her   research   on   African   American   entertainers   who   were   born   in   the   early   to   mid-twentieth   century.   She   questioned how   they   were   able   to   hone   their   creative   skills   and   talents,   excelling   amidst   insane,   life-threatening   obstacles.   Her   research   focused on   how   African   American   female   entertainers   use   their   autobiographies   to   act   as   cultural   historian/griottes/   jalimusos   and   record American   history.   She   demonstrates   how   their   autobiographies   preserve   perspectives   that   have   been   discarded   and/or   minimalized. Artists   such   as   Lena   Horne ,   Marion   Anderson ,   Nina   Simone ,   Katherine   Dunham ,   Aretha   Franklin ,   Diana   Ross ,   Eartha   Kitt ,   Cissy Houston ,   and   Josephine   Baker    were   a   part   of   her   research.   Taylor   establishes   that   their   autobiographies   are   an   archive   of   significant data   on   early   20 th century   American   history.   She   completed   her   research   for   her   M.A.   in   March   of   2010   and   decided   that   she   wanted to   obtain   a   Ph.D.   and   expand   upon   her   findings,   using   an   interdisciplinary   approach   to   researching   the   creative   processes   of   these artists. Doctoral Research After   much   contemplation,   Taylor   made   the   decision   to   use   the   data   she   had   obtained   from   the   autobiographies   of   African   American female   artists   as   a   foundation   to   understanding   African   American   cultural   traditions   and   how   African   American   artists   had   a   tradition of   using   their   voice,   their   platform,   and   their   art   forms   to   promote   societal   change.   While   Taylor   was   working   on   her   thesis,   Michael Jackson    shocked   the   international   community   when   he   unexpectedly   transitioned   on   June   25,   2009.   Three   years   later,   as   she   was steadily   engaged   in   the   coursework   of   her   Ph.D.   program,   Whitney   Houston ,   only   48   years   old,   also   stunned   the   international community   when   she   ascended   on   February   11,   2012.   Taylor   was   haunted   by   the   death   of   these   great   artists   who   rose   to   fame   during her   generation.   As   a   scholar,   she   was   disturbed   that   while   lauding   their   excellence,   academicians   and   historians   knew   little   of   their creative   processes.   She   was   saddened   that   at   a   time   when   creativity   is   on   the   decline   in   America   (1),   the   public   knew   more   about   the personal   challenges   of   these   artists   than   they   knew   about   the   techniques   that   they   used   to   achieve   excellence,   nurture   their creativity,   and   polish   their   creative   geniuses.   As   a   cultural   historian,   she   held   that   it   was   imperative   that   the   unique   knowledge   of master artists be placed into the historical record before their deaths. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ Taylor’s   book,   Wanna   Be   Startin’   Somethin’   (2017)   which   she   calls   the   appetizer,   the   prelude   to   her   dissertation   on   how   Michael Jackson in the African American cultural tradition consciously used his art forms to promote social justice, explains: My   journey   towards   seriously   studying   Michael   Jackson’s   artistry   began   while   I   was   pursuing   my   doctorate.   In   the   Fall of   2012,   I   took   a   course   in   visual   culture.   This   was   three   years   after   the   death   of   Michael   Jackson   and   only   four months   after   the   passing   of   songstress,   actress,   and   film   producer,   Whitney   Houston.   Their   voices   filled   the   airwaves, bringing   forth   memories   of   a   not   too   distant   past.   Their   early   and   unexpected   deaths   made   those   in   my   generation realize   their   own   mortality;   for   Michael   Jackson   and   Whitney   Houston   were   dead.   Films,   videos,   and   recordings   were the   only   method   of   accessing   them.   There   would   be   no   more   incredible   live   performances…..Michael   Jackson   was   an American   master.   His   contribution   to   American   and   world   culture   will   be   studied   in   the   future.   I   became   transfixed   by his   voice   and   the   images   of   his   performances   which   flooded   the   airwaves;   and   as   a   humanities   scholar   trained   to assess   art   and   artists,   I   deduced   Jackson   may   have   been   using   his   art   forms   to   make   a   difference   by   promoting   social justice   and   a   global   community   in   which   all   beings   called   human   worked   together   for   as   John   Stuart   Mill   would   say, “the   greater   good.”   I   began   to   ask   myself,   why   was   I   not   studying   this   exceptional   artist?   Why   do   we   wait   for   an   artist to    die    and    attempt    to    understand    his    genius    posthumously?    When    I    did    a    search    of    peer-reviewed    articles, dissertations   and   scholarly   books,   I   was   shocked   at   the   paucity   of   materials,   considering   his   artistry   and   a   career which   spanned   over   four   decades;   there   were   few,   if   any,   who   debated   his   mastery   of   the   performing   arts.   He   was remarkable.   Were   we   as   intellectuals   asleep   or   blinded   by   the   public   discourse   lead   by   the   media,   forfeiting   our responsibility   to   our   culture?   Was   I   eagerly   studying   dead   European   artists   in   the   halls   of   academia   and   not   open   to studying   the   artistry   of   a   “living”   legend,   an   American   master?   Why   were   so   few   of   the   erudite   probing   into   and publishing books and articles about his work? Was it not worthy of an ongoing inquiry and discourse? (19-20) Tears From The Heart Immersed   in   the   sounds   and   clouded   images   of   a   painful   televised   funeral   service   for   Whitney,   Taylor   remembered   that   Whitney   had come   from   a   bloodline   of   talented   artists.   Her   mother   Cissy   Houston   was   a   master   artist   who   had   bred   and   skillfully   trained   Whitney, one   of   the   greatest   American   masters   of   the   twentieth   century.   Taylor   believed   Cissy   Houston’s   ability   to   nurture   and   train   such   a gifted   vocalist   as   Whitney,   lauded   by   the   international   community,   made   her   knowledge   invaluable   pearls   of   wisdom   to   be   analyzed by   future   scholars   who   study   the   performing   arts.   She   knew   Houston’s   knowledge   would   add   insight   to   a   study   of   African   American cultural   traditions   and   creativity   and   felt   fortunate   when   she   was   granted   an   opportunity   to   speak   with   Cissy   Houston,   a   distinguished elder. Unearthing An American Past Taylor    held    long    conversations    with    and    interviewed    many    artists    to    discuss    their    creative    processes;    she    read    dozens    of autobiographies   and   memoirs   to   analyze   similarities   and   identify   cultural   traditions;   she   listened   to   hundreds   of   interviews   and documentaries,   searching   for   patterns   and   if   and   how   African   American   artists   were   using   their   art   forms   purposefully;   and   she   had the   opportunity   to   speak   to   patriarch   Joseph   Jackson    on   more   than   one   occasion   in   an   attempt   to   understand   the   roots   of   his   creative mind   in   the   midst   of   the   obstacles   that   he   faced.   Taylor’s   dissertation   examines   creativity,   the   creative   process,   African   American cultural   traditions,   and   how   African   American   artists—particularly   Michael   Jackson—have   used   their   art   forms,   their   voices,   their platforms to promote social justice. The Dissertation Taylor’s   dissertation   takes   an   interdisciplinary   approach   to   examining   Jackson’s   consciousness,   his   artistic   statements,   his   worldview, and   his   creative   process.   It   deconstructs   his   evolving   consciousness,   unveils   his   creative   process,   and   decodes   his   songs   and   short films based upon his unique perspective. Taylor’s Creative Process Taylor’s   research   forced   her   to   focus   on   studying   her   own   creative   process   and   the   processes   of   artists   whose   creativity   was   not diminished   by   the   immeasurable   challenges   before   them.   She   realized   that   the   pursuit   of   social   justice   had   always   been   central   to   her life’s   journey.   As   Taylor   completed   her   dissertation   and   obtained   her   Ph.D.,   she   simultaneously   understood   that   she,   in   the   African American   cultural   tradition,   had   a   responsibility   to   use   her   voice   to   raise   consciousness   and   promote   social   justice.   Taylor   determined that she was what she terms a “literary activist.” Literary Activism Taylor   defines   literary   activism   as   “the   act   of   using   the   written   word,   one’s   writing   or   written   published   works   to   challenge   societal norms,   traditional   forms   of   perceiving   reality,   institutions   or   the   brokers   of   power.”   She   is   the   author   of   eleven   books   of   prose   and poetry.   Her   writing   activates   critical   thinking.   She   has   authored   over   one-hundred   proposals   and   developed   projects   that   offer innovative   strategies   that   promote   the   education   of   young   people   and   adults,   so   that   they   can   actively   engage   in   uplifting   themselves and   their   country,   therefrom   becoming   a   better   citizen.      In   addition,   she   writes   letters   to   political   leaders,   corporate   executives, media   moguls,   university   presidents,   college   administrators,   and   public   intellectuals.   The   letters   chide,   praise,   advocate,   encourage, and   distill   Wisdom   by   placing   current   issues   in   a   historical   context.   She   holds   that   words   have   power,   and   history   demonstrates   that words   have   the   ability   to   heal,   alter   public   consciousness   and   create   a   better   America.   Taylor   is   a   member   of   Pen   America ,   and organization   committed   to   protecting   human   rights,   promoting   diversity   in   literature,   and   defending   the   freedom   of   expression through writing in the global community. Museum: Background The   Glenda   R.   Taylor   Museum    for   the   Preservation   of   African   American   Women’s   History   &   Culture   (a.k.a.   The   African   American Women’s   History   Museum)   is   a   21st   century   monument   (website)   documenting   the   history   and   culture   of   African   American   Women. It   was   founded   in   2009   by   Glenda   R.   Taylor   and   Mary   J.   Taylor.   The   museum   provides   an   inclusive   perspective   of   American   history. The   exhibits   allow   the   public   to   discover   the   enormous   contribution   African   American   women   have   made   to   our   nation.   First published   online   on   August   28,   2016,   it   is   the   first   museum   dedicated   to   the   preservation   of   African   American   Women’s   History   & Culture. The   museum   was   a   project   conceived   by   Glenda   in   2009,   as   a   part   of   her   research   in   graduate   school.   Glenda,   the   museum   curator, created   the   project   under   the   tutelage   of   Dr.   Loree   Miltich   and   Dr.   Woden   Teachout.      She   read   Paula   Giddings   book   recommended   to her   by   Dr.   Miltich   titled,   When   and   Where   I   Enter.   The   book   documents   the   history   of   African   American   women.   Taylor,   whose mother   took   her   and   her   sister   to   museums   since   they   were   children,   had   included   a   study   of   museums   as   a   part   of   her   graduate research.   She   became   curious   as   to   how   or   if   museums   were   archiving   and   exhibiting   any   of   the   African   American   women   noted   in Giddings   book   who   had   made   significant   contributions   to   American   history   and   culture.   As   she   continued   her   research,   touring museums   and   historical   sites   located   in   the   Northeastern   United   States,   she   noticed   that   there   were   few,   if   any,   exhibitions   on   these women. Museum Mission The   Mission   of   the   museum   is   to   use   21st   century   technology   to   provide   access   to   educational   exhibits   and   data   which   document   the history   and   culture   of   African   American   women.   The   museum   does   not   duplicate   what   is   currently   exhibited   in   other   museums.   It contains   original   exhibits   which   are   held,   unseen,   in   private   collections.   The   collectors,   committed   to   preserving   American   history   and culture,   have   permitted   their   items   to   be   photographed.   The   items   are   displayed   in   online   galleries.   The   galleries   combine   artifacts, art,   rare   documents   and   ephemera.   New   exhibitions   are   added   to   the   galleries   on   a   regular   basis.   The   museum   is   supported   by   an international   online   community   of   researchers,   historians,   collectors,   scholars   and   those   interested   in   American   history,   specifically the history and culture of African American women.   Chronology Works Cited: Bronson, Po and Ashley Merryman. “The Creativity Crisis.” Education. Newsweek. Web. 10 Jul 2010, www.newsweek.com/creativity-crisis-74665. Accessed: 16  Jan 2014.   Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: Michael Jackson -A Social Activist? New York: Scholars of The African Diaspora Press, 2017.
Glenda R. Taylor Biography
Copyright 2010-Present