tary school. I know what it is like when people are mean to you and tell you that you will never amount to anything. I understand. I know about labels and name
calling. My father, August Taylor, was the hardest working man I know. He only had a sixth-grade education. He worked from ‘can’t see’ in the morning until ‘can’t
see’ at night so that we could have a better life. I was born in poverty, but as Jesse Jackson says, ‘Poverty wasn’t born in me.’”
Taylor recognized the importance that a mentor played in his life, Bobby Williams, one of the first college-educated Black men he had ever known who worked as
the director of the community center.
“We started having discussions about poverty and racism and why there weren’t any Blacks on the school board or city council,” Taylor recalled. “We noticed how
these conversations made our parents nervous. We didn’t pay much attention to it at the time because we felt the civil rights movement was someplace else. But
Bobby made us realize that it had to happen in our hometown too to have any meaning. He frightened the town leaders just by insisting that the Bill of Rights should
apply to everyone. He told me that the most important part of the Pledge of Allegiance was the part that said, ‘With liberty and justice for all.’ Bobby told us that
America could offer us more than drugs, jail or the military. He challenged us constantly. Bobby led marches and forced people to take sides. It didn’t take long for
him to be viewed as an outside agitator and our hometown’s ‘Public Enemy No. One.’”
Williams was eventually sent to prison on trumped-up charges and Taylor has always appreciated Williams’ sacrifice. Taylor also emphasized the importance of the
students giving back. He relayed the story behind Shay’s Day, when two baseball teams sacrificed competition and winning to make the day — and life — of a
“We need you to make a difference because we need a Shay Day at Packers and Northport Apartments,” Taylor said. “We need a Shay Day on Allied Drive
and in our schools and our community, so go out and make it a Shay Day tomorrow. Go out and help someone and you’ll find that you get something back in return.”
Taylor also emphasized that the students needed to persevere against any kind of obstacle that comes their way.
“Life is not easy,” Taylor said. “There will be times when it will knock you down. But as Les Brown says, ‘When life knocks you down, try to land on your back
because if you can look up, you can get up. And if you can stand up, you can keep on fighting.’ I want to close by speaking to our young scholars in the audience
because I strongly believe that education is your ticket out. And I know some young folk think they can dribble or sky hook their way up or gangster rap their way up.
Sports and hip hop are long shots, like winning the lottery. But education is a sure thing. It’s your ticket out. What is required is some sweat equity. As an old wheat
farmer once said, you can’t plow a field by turning it over in your mind. You’ve got to work.”
Taylor closed his talk by urging the students to empower themselves.
“Become the guardian of your own education,” Taylor said. “Learn how to code computers so that you tell the computer what to do instead of the other way around.
The Internet is the best library on the planet. You can study any subject from law to history. You can learn how to start a business, become fluent in a new language
and connect to the world.”