In this second part of the episode on Ella Baker, I talk to Gerald Taylor. We discuss the influence Baker’s approach and vision had on him as an organizer, how he sees her understanding of organizing play out on the ground, and his own involvement in myriad grassroots democratic initiatives. Along the way, he recounts a compelling set of stories and reflections on what it means to do organizing in the spirit of Ella Baker.
Gerald Taylor was a national senior organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) for nearly 35 years, and for much of this time he was the IAF’s Southeast Regional Director. In 2015, he co-founded Advance Carolina, the first state-wide Black led 501c (4) in North Carolina focused on building Black political power. His organizing career began as a teenager through involvement in the civil rights movement, with him eventually being elected as New York State President of the NAACP Youth and College Division at 17 years old. He then organized with the National Democratic Party of Alabama, an interracial third political party, in their historic election victories of 1970. He went to be involved in numerous organizing initiatives in the US, most notably in New York City, Baltimore, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, and Jackson, Mississippi. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, he spent four years organizing African American communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to receive disaster relieve leading to the formation of a coalition that negotiated nearly one billion dollars in disaster relieve funding for these communities. He has trained thousands of leaders, including clergy, over the past forty years in community organizing and congregational development. He has also lectured at colleges and universities, including Shaw Divinity School, Hood Divinity School, North Carolina Central Law School, Duke Divinity School, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Garrett Evangelical Methodist Seminary, and UNC Chapel-Hill on theories of social change, community organizing, and leadership. He has also worked internationally with organizations such as Bread for the World, the Sidney Alliance in Australia, and been a consultant to democratization initiatives in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Resources for Going Deeper
See the show notes for the previous episode