Recognition comes in a lot forms, mostly in words and many times by hand in the form of a card with kind and thoughtful words written within its folds. However, recognition delivered in the form of a large celebration for all the good works a person has performed for those in need is demonstrative of a truly exceptional person. The Southwest community is unique, not only for its almost small-town feel, like a city within a city, but also for the people who reside here. One such person resided in Southwest a few years ago. However, his presence in this community is everywhere that matters, so much so that it seems he never left. That exceptional person is Southwest’s own Paul ‘Big South’ Taylor.
On Nov. 19, 2017 at Blind Whino, the Southwest community celebrated Taylor with a ceremony that included more than 100 of his closest friends. His two sisters, along with numerous well wishers, delivered tributes that were so heartfelt that at times there was not a dry eye in the room. Both current and former Southwest residents attended this event to honor Taylor because of his faithful and sincere service to the community.
Accolades for Taylor are so vast that it would occupy so much space in The Southwester to list them all that I would probably be required to pay for an ad. Taylor is so well known to the residents that he was unofficially named the “Mayor of Southwest.” Taylor is more than a man offering encouraging words to those who reach out to him, he literally gives back to the communities in which he was reared, which included Greenleaf Gardens high rise and the Greenleaf Gardens Extension. Taylor attended neighborhood schools Syphax, Amidon-Bowen, Jefferson Junior High, and then Wilson High School in upper Northwest. Community is at the forefront of the work he has committed to do in order to keep the promise he made to himself more than years ago. That promise was to truly give back to his community, in action and deeds. As an employee of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), at the King Greenleaf Recreation Center he is in his element. Taylor’s promise took him one step further when he founded a nonprofit organization, the Southwest Comm-Unity Forum, which provides mentoring, educational, and recreational activities for Southwest’s youth. Parents look to Taylor when seeking events or activities that aid in positive citizenship. Taylor goes the extra mile to ensure that children are able to participate in educational and physical fitness programs, in fact, he actually goes to their homes and knocks on doors to make sure permission slips are signed and the child has the proper equipment or attire to participate. Whenever one sees Taylor in the neighborhood, everyone knows that he has something positive to bring, whether it’s to sign up for a Thanksgiving basket, student book bag distribution, or an invitation to Big South’s Toy Giveaway, which occurred this past holiday season.
Since 2007, Taylor has organized the “Summer in Lansburgh Park,” which is an event designed to bring the entire Southwest community together for free food, carnival and pony rides, and music. During this annual event, the generation gap is blurred as people of all ages intermingle through historical discussions, dance, music, and board games. The event is the highlight of the summer, and many who have attended over the years affectionately call it Family Day. Taylor was instrumental in revitalizing this annual event because for several years it did not occur. But thanks to his love for this community and the promise he made to himself, attendance at the summer festivities continues to grow, and attracted more than 1500 people this past August.
In 2010, Taylor was awarded a community grant that initiated the well-known Groups and Hoops program that provided workshops on life skills, resume writing, healthy living, and a late night basketball tournament.
In Sept. 2014, during the fourth annual Dr. McKnight amateur boxing event along with the DC Boxing & Wrestling Commission, Taylor was recognized for his outstanding commitment to DPR; most notably for his dedication and mentorship to motivate and uplift the youth in Southwest DC. In that same month, he was named Employee of the Year by DPR. The Goodman League honored Taylor with the Community Assist Award. In 2016, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen recognized him for his outstanding public service at the 10th annual Brickie Awards. Taylor’s most recent award was bestowed upon him by the Cafritz Foundation, which recognizes DC government employees that deliver above and beyond the call of duty.
Taylor is highly engaged in the civic matters that affect Southwest residents. He is an active member of the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council and the Wards 5 & 6 Youth DC Prevention Center. Taylor believes that it is vital to be the conduit for information and services that address the social and economic issues that are important to those who are underserved. For those reasons, Paul ‘Big South’ Taylor is worthy to be honored, especially by those he is so committed to serve. For that, we again say, thank you.
By: Dena Walker