SPRINGFIELD, MO. — A Springfield woman partnered with a local photographer to celebrate Black women in the Ozarks and give them a space to share their stories, accomplishments and contributions.
The creator says it’s about visibility, taking credit and taking up space. It’s called the We’re Here Campaign, and it includes a glam photoshoot and a conversation.
Natosha Lancaster came up with the idea in the midst of 2020.
“I was struggling to cope, so I wanted to do something productive,” she said. “My thought process was ‘I want women in Springfield who are feeling like they don’t have visibility, feeling that they don’t have a platform, to have that. I want them to feel empowered.”
Lancaster had worked with photographer Cory Powell before and thought she’d recruit his talents for an online campaign.
“We really connected,” he said. “The mission behind a lot of my photography is helping people feel seen and loved. And that resonated with her well.”
Through social media posts and word of mouth, they found several women.
“A handful of them were like ‘You want to feature me? Really? Me?” Powell recalled.
Each woman came into Powell’s studio for a glam photoshoot. The project also includes a series of questions to share their perspective on work, community and life in general. One of those questions was ‘what is it like being a Black woman in Springfield?”
“[The idea is to give this] group of women, Black women, who are not featured in anything, give them a platform and a space to step forward and be seen, and to embrace who they are,” Powell said.
“It’s a hundred percent taking up space,” Lancaster said.
Through volunteering and working in social services, Lancaster says she has seen a great need for diverse young professionals to stay in the area.
“We are all better when we have diversity, but not just diversity, when we have inclusion in the community, when people feel like they belong,” Lancaster said. “I feel like it’s my duty as a citizen who wants to see better and to see continued improvement and evolution of this community that I love. I feel like I have to be involved, I have to be engaged, I have to speak up.”
It takes a village, and Lancaster wants the We’re Here Campaign to be the first step in showing black women in southwest Missouri that they have a village supporting them.
“It’s building a bigger table and inviting everyone,” she says.
For young professionals now and for future generations, too. Like Lancaster’s daughter, 8-year-old Michelle.
“She has had a mind of her own since she was born. She knows how to stand up for what’s right. I want to help build a world that accepts that and doesn’t want to silence her voice,” Lancaster said.
The We’re Here Campaign is on Cory Powell’s Photography blog. The plan is to make the Campaign a magazine soon and have more women included in it.