Local photographer chronicles black leaders, role models


The Capital-Journal
If a picture is worth a thousand words, “Images 2006 Leaders and Role Models: African American Men in Topeka, Kansas” tells quite the story.

Photographer Yolanda Harley Taylor began working on the book a year ago to raise the profile of Topeka’s black community.

“I felt that black men in Topeka didn’t get a fair share of attention,” Taylor said.

The book features 163 black men who are seen as local leaders.

Community involvement was important from the start, Taylor said.

“I let the community decide who should be in the book,” she said. “I let them decide who the African-American male leaders and role models are in the community.”

The project has enabled Taylor to expose the public to her work. She said she was inspired by GO Topeka’s First Step FastTrac, an entrepreneurial training program.
While the book is a showcase for Taylor’s photography, Taylor also noted its higher purpose.

“I want it to bring the African-American community together,” she said. “There is a lot of division in Topeka. I hope this brings unity.”

Another goal Taylor set is to help younger African-American men and women by identifying all the occupations, as well as community involvement, of the men. This, Taylor said, will give young people names of people they can go to who can help them find jobs or make contacts.

One man featured in the book, John Lewis, 52, a teacher and coach at Topeka West High School, said he thinks the book is a positive thing.

“Sometimes we think that only famous people on TV are role models,” Lewis said. “We all have to be positive role models. It is the everyday man that goes to work every day. Young people need to see that, especially our young black men.”

Terry Crowder, 59, Goodyear Tire & Company, and W. Lazone Grays, 45, IBSA Inc., also are featured in the book. They said it is a great opportunity for young men to see local role models.

“We don’t realize the impact these people have on our community,” Crowder said. “You see them every day, and you don’t see them as role models. You don’t realize it. Then you see them in the book and say, ‘Wow, these guys are really something.’
“This is going to have an impact on our community.”

Leaders come from all parts of the community, Grays said.

“There are other people out there that are leaders that aren’t in sports or entertainment,” Grays said.

The book was self-published by Taylor and printed by Jostens Printing & Publishing with a limited number of volumes.

The book will cost $55. Orders go directly to Taylor at (785) 608-3291 or her Web site, heavenlyvisions@sbcglobal.net.

Taylor has started working on three more photography books: one that would feature black women, one on youths and one on couples who have been married for more than 50 years.

Taylor said she also wants to one day update the book focusing on black men by adding new faces.

“It’s going to become apart of Topeka’s rich history,” Taylor said

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