Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male

Business News |Dec 7, 2018|7 min read

Muskegon, MI – The Muskegon Museum of Art presents SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male, an exhibition of portraits of black men from greater Muskegon, as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro. The exhibition runs December 13, 2018 through March 10, 2019.


The 94 portraits in the SONS exhibition explore how the black American male perceives himself and how he is perceived by others. The men pictured in the show 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. It is the first time many of these men have been publicly recognized.


In the artist Jerry Taliaferro’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.”


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.


About the Artist

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 during his post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued and, in 1985, his work was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. Jerry returned to the U.S. and began doing assignments for advertising and design firms in 1985. He left the military in 1988 and began a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.


SONS Committee

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


SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male is underwritten by Fifth Third Bank, and co-sponsored by Arconic – Whitehall Operations and Warner Norcross & Judd, LLP. Program support is provided by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media Partner is WGVU Public Media.


Community Programming


SONS opens with a public reception from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Thursday, December 13, 2018. A free Community Day on Saturday, December 15 begins a series of free community programs related to the exhibition, including the premier of Black Man, a feature-length documentary, at the Frauenthal Center on Monday, December 17.


Opening Reception

Thursday, December 13

5:30 – 7:30 pm

Meet artist Jerry Taliaferro at this celebration opening event for SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male. Refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.


SONS Saturday Free Community Day

Saturday, December 15

10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Celebrate the opening weekend of SONS: Seeing the African American Male with a FREE community day at the MMA. Schedule:

11:00 am – 12:00 pm Reading, in the gallery, of children’s books written by African American authors

11:00 am & 1:00 pm Film in the Auditorium

12:00 pm – 3:00 pm Docent led tours through the exhibition and in-gallery activities


Black Man Film Premier

Monday, December 17

6:00 – 8:00 pm

Frauenthal Center: 425 W. Western Ave., downtown Muskegon

The MMA, in partnership with Jon Covington, presents Black Man, a feature length documentary that tells the stories of the men behind SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male.

“Black Man is a kaleidoscope of raw, riveting, candid conversations with black men about their lives, their loves, their losses, their AMERICA! Close to three dozen men share first hand, their perspectives in ways we’ve not seen on film of the everyday black man. Muskegon, Michigan is the backdrop for “Black Man,” but the stories are Any Town, USA.” (Jon Covington)

FREE Admission courtesy of Community Foundation for Muskegon County.


Book Discussion

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Thursday, January 17

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

The MMA will host a guided book discussion about Ralph Ellison’s classic novel, Invisible Man, exploring text in context with the SONS exhibition. Books are available to check out at local libraries. Hackley Public Library, Fruitport Area Library, and the Muskegon Area District Library’s Norton Shores and Muskegon Heights branches will also host book discussions on varying evenings. Free and open to the public.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Free Community Day

Monday, January 21

10:00 am – 8:00 pm

The Muskegon Museum opens its doors to welcome the community on this day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitors can enjoy the galleries, films in the auditorium, crafts in the classroom, and guided tours. The MMA will host a panel discussion on community and regional issues in the evening. Admission and all activities are free.


10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Led by MMA docents

1:00 – 3:00 pm

Led by Muskegon High School AP Art students

Films & Crafts

10:00 am – 3:00 pm

Enjoy crafts in the classroom and view the film Black Man in the auditorium.

Panel Discussion

6:30 – 8:00 pm

Jon Covington will moderate a panel discussion with experts on community and regional issues. The discussion is free and open to the public.


  • William Muhammed

James Jackson Museum of African American Art, Board Chair – Member of Board of Trustees

  • Andrew Sims

Michigan Minority Business Development Council, V.P. Central & Western MI, Marketing & Communication

  • Alfredo Hernandez

Michigan Department of Civil Rights in Lansing, Equity Officer


Open Mic Night Hosted by Kaizen Kabir

Thursday, February 28

5:30 – 7:30 pm

Local poet Kaizen Kabir (also known as: Kumasi Mack) of WriAck Radio will host a spoken word open mic night with a DJ and invited artists in the MMA’s auditorium. Free and open to the public.


Comedy Night with Hen Sapp

“Keepin’ it Clean!”

Thursday, March 7

5:430 – 7:30 pm

Hen Sapp has been dubbed “The Doctor of Comedy” for the healing properties of clean humor. This comedy program by is suitable for families.  Free and open to the public.


Free Brown Bag Film Series

See free lunchtime films on 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month. Auditorium doors open at noon. Films start at 12:15 pm. Most films run an hour or less.

Thursday, December 13

Up From the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream

Thursday, December 27

Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

Thursday, January 10

National Archives: Five African American Artists, 1971

Thursday, January 24

Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace

Thursday, February 14

Black Man by Jon Covington


The Muskegon Museum of Art is located at 296 W. Webster Ave. in downtown Muskegon, Michigan. Visitor information is available at or at 231.720.2570.


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