Golden Globe-winning actor Regina Taylor has deep roots in North Texas. In partnership with SMU, where’s she’s teaching, Taylor created the black album project to express the lives of Black Americans in this past year of pandemic and social justice protests. This week, the project presented awards to artists across the country.
Regina Taylor is probably best known for her roles in such TV series as “The Unit” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Most recently, she’s been cast as Michelle Obama’s mother for the forthcoming series, “The First Lady.”
But she’s also a playwright who grew up in Oak Cliff, graduated from SMU and has had her work staged at the Dallas Theater Center. She started “the black album” project last October with an anthology of videos, visual art and stage performances by her SMU students.
“I wrote ‘the black album.2020.resistance,’” she said, “to speak on the issues of COVID-19, to George Floyd, to the very divisive, incendiary political race and the implications and implosions that still resonate.”
For her second black album initiative, “the black album.mixtape,” Taylor expanded the collaboration. She wanted to create a website and present $500 awards to showcase creativity in photography, music and performance but also in activism and technology.
“This initiative,” she said, “is to create a platform for people to think about where we’ve been, how we got here and where we might be going. We’ve all been touched globally by the same things, and that’s very rare.”
Within a month of the open call, more than 400 submissions had come in, including ones from Africa and Germany. The eight winners who were eventually picked ranged from professional artists in Chicago and California to a sixth-grader from Atlanta, a spoken-word performer named Nya Smith.
“Oh my goodness,” Smith exclaimed during Tuesday’s awards ceremony, “I’m so honored to be here tonight and to accept this award. I still can’t believe I’m here right now.”