In 2011, Kevvin Taylor was honored with a Living Legend Award by the NAACP and PC’s Black Student Union (BSU) for his ongoing commitment to share the stories, struggles, and history of African American women. Much like the BSU silver plaque in PC’s Fannin Library on which his name is now engraved, Taylor’s career path has mirrored that of a strong tree. Though in his twelfth consecutive year of producing the award-winning play “Black Women Walking” and fully rooted in the entertainment industry as founder of Seek First Entertainment, Taylor had originally started on quite another path.
A Seed Develops
Taylor received his Associates in General Studies at Phoenix College and went on to study business at Arizona State University (ASU). However, in his second semester at ASU, Taylor felt that the winds were carrying him in another direction. He had recently become interested in playwright, August Wilson. Wilson is best known for his series of ten plays charting the African American experience throughout the twentieth century, entitled “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” The small seed of passion for theatre as a means of showing a greater truth began to develop within him.
A Seed is Nurtured
Taylor reflected on his time at Phoenix College, noting how several people were placed along his path to help form this new passion. Morris Johnson, then Vice President of Student Services, who was a family friend and helped him transition from high school in Des Moines, Iowa to college life in Phoenix. And finally, Professor Larry Soller, his speech and drama professor. Taylor owes much gratitude to the man who opened the world of theater to him as a means of communication.
A Tree takes Root
Taylor began work to adapt the three-woman play, “Black Women Walking” into a larger, more inclusive, production. His first few performances were at his local church, but the popularity of the program soon grew too large for the venue. Taylor also wanted to take the show on the road and expose more people to the stories of these remarkable women in history.
As Taylor conceptualized the play in its original form, instead of one actress playing three or more black women from history, he reached out to his network so that more women had the opportunity to embody these brave and historically significant women.
In addition to adding more actors, Taylor incorporated a local all-female choir and dance company. Building upon the musical and dance performances, Taylor added visual slides with graphics and images that complement the theatrical moments on stage.
Planting Seeds in the Community
His purpose in producing the play is to strengthen community dialogue and lift up women of color. For those younger generations, they can see that brave women have paved the way and that they are on strong shoulders. For the older generations, it is important to keep the memories alive and share the stories of these women so that they are not forgotten with time. The women in the play found their strength through their struggle. This resonates with the human spirit.
“Black Women Walking” was performed at Phoenix College for the second time in March 2019 at the Bulpitt Auditorium. Taylor has always had a passion for mentorship, learning, and education. He is proud that his production is the perfect complement to the work that Phoenix College is already doing regarding equity and inclusion. His goals are to educate through entertainment.
“It’s a dream to share work with an institution that developed, trained you, and prepared you for the world.” – Kevvin Taylor
A Tree Blossoms & Grows
Taylor recently took another leap of faith. Eight months ago, he left his corporate job to pursue his passion in Broadway Theatre and was awarded The Broadway League's Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship. The Broadway League's Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship Program matches young professional that have theatre management backgrounds with Broadway producers, general managers, and marketing specialists in order to help them explore possible careers in the Broadway Industry. It also addresses the lack of diversity in the industry's workforce and offices.
Today, Taylor’s award-winning production travels across the country to spread the story of the African American women who set the groundwork for racial and gender equality. He continues to add new components to the play to keep it relevant, including adding current events and local artists/performers.
When asked what advice he would give to fellow aspiring playwrights and entrepreneurs, Taylor says to follow your passion and the purpose will come.
“Prosperity doesn’t come before preparation. Don’t be afraid to go through the process. Know that there are roots always growing under the soil. At birth, a seed is stuck in darkness and there can be uncertainty and fear but if you continue to push through it, a light will shine.” – Kevvin Taylor
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