Press Releases


SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male opens December 13, 2018 at the Muskegon Museum of Art. An opening reception, free community day, and the premier of a new documentary film introduce the exhibition and start three months of special programming.

SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male is an exhibition of portraits of black men from the Muskegon community as photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro. SONS runs December 13, 2018 and through March 10, 2019. The MMA will present a variety of free community programs, including the premier of Black Man, a feature-length documentary, along with the exhibition.

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.

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.

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.”

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

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
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 films in the auditorium and crafts in the classroom.
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.

Open Mic Night
Hosted by Kaizen Kabir (also known as: Kumasi Mack)
Thursday, February 28
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Local poet Kaizen Kabir (also known as: Kumasi Mack) 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