From his small apartment on California’s campus to the mainstage at the 2023 Grammy Awards, Damon Jamal Taylor ’02, has made some noise across the U.S.

On Feb. 5, Taylor’s music career reached the apex of the industry as he earned a Grammy Award for his production on the recent Alphabet Rockers album “The Movement” – which won the award for Best Children’s Album.

“This was one of the most joyous occasions of my life,” said Taylor, who earned a degree in parks and recreation management from California and played basketball for the Vulcans. “It was something that I always dreamed about as a kid. This is the highest level you can achieve in music.

Official film poster for Taylor's documentary "Black Daddy: The Movie"

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and living in Oakland, Calif., Taylor has taken the music and film industries by storm – working with high-profile musicians such as Fantastic Negrito, Los Rakas and the San Francisco Symphony and launching his first highly acclaimed documentary, “Black Daddy: The Movie.”

In his documentary, which has earned 30 awards across 25 film festivals in 7 countries, Taylor used his own experience as a father of two children and his conversations with other Black men about the experiences of fatherhood. The result of these conversation is a hybrid documentary that celebrates Black men who constantly maintain presence in the lives of their children.

“When I separated from my wife, it sent me into a downward spiral – emotionally, mentally, physically, Taylor said. “Some men in my life really showed up for me. They kept encouraging me and reassuring me that I had a lot of work in me. When I started to heal, I said to myself that I need to show the world this type of love that we have for each other as Black men.”

This love for his friends and neighbors and his desire to be a role model for his two children were his main goals in creating the narrative. But the treatment of Black men in the media is one of the key motivating factors from taking the story from page to screen.

“When we’re on screen, we’re either hyper-violent, comedic relief or athletes,” he said. “Nobody gets a chance to see what I experienced. The Black man in America has his own issues. I don’t think anyone knows how we’re navigating through them.”

But the acclaim and success of his media career only makes him recall the days in his California apartment, where he dreamed about playing professional basketball. Following graduation, Taylor played a few seasons of pro basketball in France before making music and filmmaking his life’s passions.

“California – the town with one traffic light – really saved my life,” he said. “This was the first time being an adult, having my own apartment and building my own schedule. I was challenged to go to school and play basketball.”

Taylor also credits folks in California’s athletics department with helping to shape his life’s trajectory – people like Karen Hjerpe who facilitated at the NCAA Foundation Leadership Conference in Orlando – for which Taylor was selected during college.

“Damon gained person skills in the type of leader he was, problem solving while working in groups, effective communication, setting goals, team building and discussing issues facing student athletes at that time,” Hjerpe said.  “I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him when he was an athlete here. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”

Damon Taylor aka Dame Drummer