Dr. Charles Taylor Retires from
Under the Radar
|Dr. Akbar Ally (l-r), Rev. Carmen Porco, Dr. Charles Taylor and Kathy
Martinson at Dr. Charles Taylor’s retirement party held at the Urban
League of Greater Madison on May 24, 2017
Bobby Williams,” Taylor said. “He sort of instilled that in us at an early age. But when you look around at all of the different problems and
issues, how could you not be concerned about those issues, how could you not? And I think that I have used my talent in an educational way to
try to inform people, whether it is through film or books or teaching. My role has been an educator, to shed light on some of these issues. I hope
I’ve done it in some meaningful way.”
While Taylor has taught and held positions of responsibility at area higher education institutions over the years, he has also had an
entrepreneurial spirit in pursuing his social justice priorities.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur,” Taylor said. “I’ve had a number of positions here in Madison. I never lost the educational part, the creative part or
the entrepreneurial part because that also is a part of me. My son surprised me when he was making remarks at my retirement party. He said
that throughout his life, he really was pleased that I remained an entrepreneur. No matter who I worked for, I still had that entrepreneurial spirit
so that I knew I could depend on myself if it came to that. It gives you a certain degree of independence. I strongly encourage entrepreneurs,
especially in the Black community. We need economic independence. And the masses of Black folks need to be integrated into the economic
mainstream. A lot of the problems that we suffer, whether it’s poverty or homelessness or lack of health care, they all revolve around that
economic base. And we need to really try to buttress that in the future.”
In recent years, Taylor’s creativity has been influenced by a friendship he developed several years ago.
“I met Carmen Porco through Akbar Ally,” Taylor said. “Akbar was telling Carmen that he knew of a person — at the time Akbar didn’t have
enough time to work on the project — who could take a look at his program and do some things in the community. Akbar introduced us. We
instantly hit it off. I took Edgewood on the Diversity Institute on Wheels. And Carmen had a chance to introduce people to his place. And then it
occurred to me that the story of what he was doing needed to be told. I sat down with him over a series of months. Since then, we’ve become
good friends. I did a whole series, Journey of Hope, on his programs and his model.”
And although Taylor officially retired from Edgewood College, there are several unfinished projects that are keeping him busy, one in particular
“I’m working on a film called A New Urban Center,” Taylor said. “It’s in Milwaukee. It’s not a physical building. They work with other
organizations. This is from the Housing Ministries of American Baptists of Wisconsin. They hosted two panels of what they call a consultation
for the past two weeks of the most influential religious and community leaders in Milwaukee to begin a dialogue of how the church and the
community can use its power collectively to address some of these systemic issues. And so I am doing a documentary of that whole process,
which I hope to have completed later this month. I’ve been working on this project for a month and it will take another month to finish.”
In fact, many of Taylor’s recent projects have been done in conjunction with faith communities.
“What I am finding is that I am really enjoying the work that I am doing with faith ministries,” Taylor said. “The work in Milwaukee is with the
faith ministries. Last year, I spent nine months — I put together a team — literally travelling 25,000 miles doing a diversity audit for one of the
largest evangelical religious organizations in the country. We did focus groups and surveys. I put together this great report, flew down to
Orlando in November and presented it to them. Now they are beginning to implement some of the recommendations. But if we can get the
churches involved in social justice issues, that could be a turning point. I think the churches are finally beginning to wake up again. These
evangelical organizations are almost all white. In Milwaukee, they are trying to get the Black churches and the white churches in the suburbs
to work together. All of this work that I’ve been doing for this last year is coming together now. And this film is going to be distributed to most of
the churches in Milwaukee so that they can see firsthand what some of the issues are and rethink what their role should be in solving some of
After finishing these projects, Taylor is planning on taking a breather to regroup.
“Right now, it does not feel like I am retired,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “At some point, I want to take a real break. My wife is going to retire in
December. We’re going to use 2018 to travel. We want to go out west and see if there is a state that we might like to spend our winters at. We
have 4-5 states that we have narrowed down to. We’re going to visit those. We both will continue to be involved in projects and things in the
Madison community. That won’t change. People have asked me to be on their boards. I’m trying to say, ‘Give me a little time to step back first.’
But we’ll see what happens.”
But since social justice is in Taylor’s DNA, he will engage again on some level in the cause for social justice.
“I want to take a pause to heal my body and reflect on where I’ve been and think about where I want to go,” Taylor said. “This is a great
opportunity to use the few remaining years that you have in a positive way, in a way that you really want to make a difference in this world.
There is no silver bullet. I guess I was surprised and amazed at what people said at my retirement that I really hadn’t thought about. A couple of
the words were perseverance, don’t give up. If you have some goals and they are something that you really believe in, then stick with it. And
out of that journey towards that goal, you can grow and learn. I think there are gifts in all of us. There are talents that are just waiting to flourish.
People just have to take the risk or leap of faith and go for their dreams.”
Taylor should know. He has reached for and achieved his own dreams.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
For the past 40 years, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Taylor has rather quietly
worked on social justice issues in his personal and professional
lives. From producing a television show called ‘Your Neighbor:
The Minority Voice’ in Green Bay in 1978 to teaching as a professor
in Edgewood College’s graduate school, a position he recently
retired from, Taylor has sought to educate and uplift people about
race and poverty through the opportunities that came his way since
growing up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Over the course of a 40 plus year career, Taylor worked under the
radar on social justice issues, incorporating them in whatever
occupational endeavor he was involved in at the time.
“Working for social justice is built into my DNA, from the time that I
was a teenager when I was involved in a local civil rights
movement in my hometown with a local leader by the name of