Community Launch & Preview – Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male features images of Black men from the Muskegon community as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro. In the artist’s words:

“[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary Black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.”

94 portraits comprise the exhibition, exploring how the Black American male perceives himself and how he is perceived by others. The men pictured in the exhibition were nominated from the Greater Muskegon area by a committee of their peers. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent not only the Black men of our community, but also to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans. The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors.  In many cases, it is also the first time many of these men have been publicly recognized.

Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male is an invitation to share the experiences of the Black men in our city, to see them as individuals, hear their stories, and better understand how their lives have been impacted by a legacy of racial and social injustices. In bringing this exhibition to Muskegon, it is the hope of the Sons Committee and the staff and Board of Trustees of the Muskegon Museum of Art that we can foster an open and welcoming dialogue that leads to greater understanding, empathy, and community.

Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began when he was posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued, and in 1985 he was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. After returning to the United States in the summer of 1985, Jerry began doing assignments for advertising and design firms. In July 1988, he left the military and began his pursuit of a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography.

Special thanks to the members of our Sons Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: Andrew Sims, Arthur Garner, Bernard Loudermill, Chris Dean, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Ed Garner, George Walker, J. Arthur Sanders, James Waters, Jon Covington, Justin Jennings, Kelly Richards, Marvin Nash, Rodney Walker, TJ Chappel, William Muhammad, and Jonathan Wilson.