BERKELEY – Robert Taylor has been working as a mentor and community leader for decades without asking for recognition, but now everyone who comes to play ball at the courts in Manitou Park will know his name.
Lots of people came out for the 30th anniversary of Unity Pride, the nonprofit Taylor started to give neighborhood kids the structure and support they needed to stay out of trouble. There used to be just one basketball court, some picnic tables, and not much else. Now there are several courts in good shape, bleachers, and more.
The first Family Day he started was 27 years ago. They are basically a big block party and barbecue. At these events, all are welcome, a step in the right direction since it takes place on the grounds of a dilapidated historic schoolhouse that at one time had been a segregated school.
For some, Family Day is a place to meet new people, and for others, it’s a reunion. This year they chose the anniversary to give thanks to the man who started it all. A long list of people took turns at a microphone.
“You’ve only set a good example for me. I hope I’m as big a man as you are. I love you,” his son Elijah Taylor said.
“Growing up, I always thought he was picking on me and bullying me. I know he was making me stronger. I’m just proud to call the GOAT my father,” Isaiah Taylor said.
Chris Melvin was there from Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, which is known for its community service that extends beyond the college years. They were handing out school supplies to kids. He said Taylor is one of the legends in the region. “A lot of us do big things. The reason we do what we do is because of this man.”
Danny Alexander said that Taylor does things no one else knows about. When Alexander had stage four cancer, Taylor was feeding his family twice a week.
“Thank you for the things that are seen and thank you for the things that aren’t seen,” he said.
Many people came out to celebrate him, including family, friends, and young men that he had mentored as they grew up. The one person who found it hard to talk was Robert Taylor himself. He was in tears, and at a loss for words at the honor.
He said it was good to see the community support his hard work – and the hard work of all the people who helped him over the years.
The last person to speak was Mayor Carmen Amato, who was joined by Police Chief Kevin Santucci and Township Council members Michael Signorile, Sophia Gingrich, and John Bacchione.
“On behalf of your family, we’re pleased to rename this the Robert L. Taylor Community Basketball Courts,” Amato said. With the outpouring of applause, it seemed that Taylor was the only one who didn’t know this was happening.
A sign was revealed at the entrance to the property. It read: “Recognizing 30 years of commitment as a friend, a mentor, and as a Community Leader.” They used to just be called the 3rd Avenue basketball courts.
Rob and Shaniyah Taylor started a fundraiser to help support the Family Day efforts at gofund.me/24ce9f86
“I started a basketball program at Manitou Park in 1992 with one basketball court, no playground, and 100 people coming out to play,” Taylor said in a press release advertising the event. In the description of the fundraiser, he wrote: “When I started this event, I wanted to bring the community together (all different races, religions, and beliefs) for a good time! I wanted us to celebrate each other and give the kids something to look forward to. I wanted to create a safe place filled with so much joy, laughter, and the most important thing of them all: love. As a community, we exhibited just that and Family Day became an annual thing that the community appreciated and supported. Here we are, 30 years later, with a beautiful park and a diverse community. To a good time and to 30 years, thank you!!”