A monthly column highlighting D.C.’s music, Black culture and diverse members of the community
Rev. Dr. Sandra Butler-Truesdale has been a good friend of mine for a couple years. Our visits typically turn into hours-long conversations about her time on the road with James Brown and Ray Charles, what D.C. neighborhoods used to be, the history of musicians and what it was like to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in the summer of 1963.
At 83 years old she is a deep well of wisdom. Her stories span decades; she appears to have lived many lives, some of which existed during times of adversity. It only made sense for us to collaborate on a column where she lifts up diverse members of the Black community in D.C. and their stories. This is one of those stories, and one of those people in her words…
Lawrence A. Randall, “The Eye,” is a local Black photographer, who delivers tales of D.C.’s music history through imagery. Befitting, since our nation’s capital holds an indelible place in the pantheon of cities that have contributed historically to the development of great musicians and their music.
Randall’s portfolio highlights and salutes musicians of the District, Maryland and Virginia in the genres of jazz, blues, R&B and go-go. His work catalogs these musicians’ histories, works and identities.
He has documented such greats as vocalists Sharon Clark, Aaron Myers, Amy K, Bormet, Coniece Washington, Lady Mary, and Jimi Smooth and musicians like saxophonists Herb Scott, Davey Yarborough, Paul Carr; trombonist Manny Kellough; master drummer Mosche Snowden; bassist Wes Biles and many others. He has also captured the works of such artists as Leroy Campbell, Larry (Poncho) Brown, Deborah Shedrick and Stuart McClean.
“Having photos of the grassroots culture of the Black community has always been important and will be in the future,” Randall says.
View this post on Instagram
Setting the camera aside for a time, Randall worked at Howard University Hospital’s Mental Health Clinic until retiring in 2001. After retiring, he returned to his old passion of photography. His first big break came not long after, when he was hired by the former at-large councilman, Kwame R. Brown. He then received contracts from the Congressional Black Caucus, The John F. Kennedy Center, the National Bankers Association and City First Bank to capture their events celebrating the Black community. He showcased his talent next when he was brought on as a photographer for the Great American Songbook Documentary for PBS.
One of the necessary components of history is the art of having it captured. When local historians dive into their work, one of the first things they look for are pictures and imagery to accompany the facts. Years from now in Washington, in a room full of books and a computer, one will be grateful for Lawrence A. Randall.
Randall’s photography can be found on his social media @l_a_buck.