Empowered by his brothers death Andre Taylor is emerging as a credible voice in Seattle’s African American community.
By Omari Salisbury
[email protected] / @ItsTheBigOShow
It is 5pm at Seattle Vocational Institute (SVI) just off 23rd and Jackson in Seattle’s Central District and Andre Taylor has arrived an hour early to set up for what has now become a weekly gathering and finds there is already a small group assembled. Every Wednesday at 6pm Taylor hosts a meeting in room 401 to address community issues ranging from black on black violence, human trafficking, drug abuse, and community relations with the police. Taylor, impeccably dressed, well groomed, and with an impressive vocabulary begins to tell me in a gentle but certain voice about what has now become his life’s work and what the Wednesday meetings at SVI are all about.
On the surface Taylor sounds like so many of the tree hugging grassroots social justice advocates that can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest who are constantly espousing the cause of justice and equality that seems to have caught fire lately especially in this election cycle and the exposure that groups like Black Lives Matter and socialist organizations have received on the national level. However, unlike so many other self declared change agents who find themselves taking on social issues after being seduced by catchy soundbites or liberal ideology, it was a tragic turn of events that has now propelled Taylor to the head of the #NotThisTime movement and to be an emerging voice for social change within the African American community in Seattle and of course what has him here at SVI this evening.
Taylor, who is also a preacher or perhaps spiritual leader is a better description these days, has spent much of his life following the path of a sinner rather than a saint. Years ago Taylor fell from the pulpit and onto the streets where he followed his father’s footsteps and became a notorious pimp or human trafficker in today’s terms, As a pimp Taylor was recognized on the streets for his movie star looks and impeccable style of dress which earned him the name Gorgeous Dre. At the height of his pimping career Taylor was a consultant and a star in the 1997 Hughes Brother’s documentary “American Pimp”. That same year Taylor caught a Federal case and found himself behind bars. Since his release over a decade ago Taylor claims to have gravitated back to his religious roots and has stayed busy working as a motivational speaker, life coach, and these days he can now add community activist to that list.
It is not Taylor’s sorted past nor his transformational change in lifestyle that has him at SVI tonight where the topic is community empowerment. It was the shooting death of his brother Che Taylor by the Seattle Police Department on February 21, 2016 that set in place a chain of events that prompted Taylor to start the weekly meetings amongst other things.
The shooting is still under investigation but in what has been a common narrative these days the police claim to have feared for their safety in trying to arrest Che Taylor and the Taylor family claims that the police were reckless in the shooting death. Unlike similar police shootings where dash cam video has been able to give clarity, the dash cam video surrounding this shooting leaves more questions about what happened that day than answers. The shooting of Che Taylor, galvanized portions of the African American community in Seattle leading to mass media coverage and several protests around the city about the shooting and overall police policies.
Che Taylor was a convicted felon and according to police was found with a gun as well as drugs in his possession but the fact that some of the initial reports from the Seattle Police Department of what happened that day changed in the hours and days after the shooting leaves substantial doubt in the minds of his family and community members that the shooting of Che Taylor was a clean and justified shoot. There appears to also be some doubt in the King County Prosecutor’s office as just last week King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered an official inquest into the shooting.
However for Andre Taylor his conversation with me today around his brother’s death was not focused on detailed specifics of the shooting but rather how Che Taylor’s death has ignited a spirit of community activism inside of him. Prior to Che Taylor’s death, Andre Taylor was already a successful motivational speaker and life coach in Southern California where he was also doing some youth outreach but with the death of Che Taylor, Andre promptly moved his family from Los Angeles to the Seattle area and has immersed himself in community issues especially those surrounding police relations and economic equality.
Taylor is behind the #NotThisTime movement which he launched as a platform for community expression around police issues following Che Taylor’s death. According to Taylor the #NotThisTime movement represents the anger within his community of people who see the shooting of Che Taylor by the Seattle Police as the “last straw” and that #NotThatTime members are committed to holding the police accountable to the community.
Since Che Taylor’s death, Andre has been an ever rising star so to speak within the Seattle area African American as well as Native American and Hispanic communities and these days he can be found around the city attending meetings and participating in rallies. He was one of the guest speakers at the May Day march earlier this week and he has been able to effectively use social media to push his message of social justice as well as community empowerment well beyond the city limits.
According to Taylor his focus is not just that of putting a spotlight on community relations with the police but an even bigger calling as he sees it is the work to be done in his own community to communicate with so many young Black males that are on the streets basically living a life of crime. Taylor’s past life as Gorgeous Dre offers him a platform to take his message of salvation and redemption to the streets and gives him a level of acceptance and credibility by those who he struggles to reach.
“I have to get in the fight where the fight is” says Taylor in discussing his efforts to reach the youth. “Somebody has to deal with them and that’s me, I’m going to deal with them and I’m going to love them and I am going to help as many as I can” added Taylor.
It appears that everything that Taylor has gone through in his life thus far has positioned him to potentially be a very capable and credible leader in the African American community. The death of Che Taylor has perhaps brought to the surface a leadership voice that was always there but now is being used in a larger format. The death seems to have also sparked a sense of community responsibility within Taylor to the youth especially those that might have glamorized his life as Gorgeous Dre.
As far as this writer is concerned, I grew up on 29th and Jackson in the Central District and graduated from Garfield High School. These days I still live in and work in my old neighborhood. Over the years I have seen many people come to the forefront of community social justice issues especially when the cameras are plentiful and the lights are bright but over time more people have silently faded into the background noise of the streets once the cameras fade than have persevered and stayed the course of their cause. Only time will tell if Andre Taylor has to stamina and commitment to drive his work of social justice and community empowerment forward. Those legends of the civil rights movement that came before us will tell you that the cause of social change is a lifetime’s work.
Taylor says his cause is sincere, that he is up for the challenge, and here to stay. For the sake of our youth on these Emerald City streets, many of whom look up to him, I hope he is right. Now back to the Wednesday meeting.