D’angelo Taylor, assistant director of USI’s Multicultural Center, is known for his dedication to mentorship and helping students thrive. He worked with first-generation and low-income students across Illinois and Missouri before accepting a position at USI, where he continues to make his mark on the lives of students and their endeavor for academic success.
In his book, A Political Life: Black Culture, Civic Engagement, Education and Hope, Taylor recounts his own journey navigating the political landscape, using his voice to make a difference in the community, reflecting on his own mentors and how this journey changed him personally.
He says that many people fear getting involved in politics for a number of reasons. “Sometimes we feel like politics is too overwhelming and that one individual can’t make a difference,” he said. “Many people are also afraid they may be ostracized for their beliefs and they fear being marginalized. I like to say ‘one man or one woman can change a lot of things in this country but it all starts with taking that first step.’”
Taylor has lived in areas where the community is very politically active and others where people seem to just tune out. “I would wonder why it’s going wrong and I’ve found there is a sense of hopelessness, and folks who don’t believe in the political process,” he said. “I like to equate it to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle, as well as other civil rights activists. They had to believe in something. They weren’t expecting a perfect world without conflict but they had to keep believing and pushing toward equality.”
In the book, Taylor has published every speech he has written, and gave specific instructions to the editors. “I told the editors not to touch them because I wanted people to see my level of improvement over the years.” Along with improved speeches, he says he, himself, was improved as a person. “Political science helped me with my anger,” he said. “Because I always wanted to be right or the person who could solve any problem in the community and change the world. Being in political science forces you to listen to people on the opposite end of the spectrum. It helped me to understand it’s not about emotion, it’s about logic and how you take other ideas and break them down. It’s about pragmatism.” He has used this lesson to create positive change and think about the best possible outcomes. “Being right is great sometimes, but you have to be sure you’re not polarizing because no one will listen.”
Taylor, a first-generation college student, credits his grandmother as his ultimate mentor. “She would do research and say ‘Here is a scholarship. You need money. You have to apply for school. Figure it out.’ Without her, I wouldn’t have gone to college. Not only did he go to college and complete his undergraduate degree, he continued on to obtain a Master of Arts in Political Science from Western Illinois University.
At USI he uses the lessons he’s learned from his mentors and his own experiences to encourage students to believe in themselves and to not be afraid of failing at something. He pushes students to step outside of their comfort zone and to aim beyond what they think they are capable of. “I had mentors that instilled confidence in me and pushed me, and they always came at the right time with the right message,” he said. “I tell young people that now is the time to be successful because tomorrow is never promised. You are going to fail sometimes and get hurt, but overcoming those failures and becoming the person you can be is where you’ll see the reward.”
Taylor’s book is available for purchase in the USI Campus Store and online.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia