The video begins and the hip-hop beats ring first. This is the dynamism of Gary Taylor. He looks at the camera, dances, vibrates. The blue hoodie he wears reads: No Wealthy Relatives. No investors. No documents. Out of the mud.
“You know where I am, baby, we at Home,” he says from his gym, Power House Fitness. “Pushing is a habit, you have to make a habit of grinding your teeth … if you only want money – God leaves the conversation as soon as you bring money into it.”
He continues in the video, posted Feb. 2 to Facebook, urging black businesses to support each other, asking partners to help organize seminars to teach young black entrepreneurs.
“Let’s push each other to be better,” he said. “Let’s push each other to be awesome.”
Taylor, a father of three, was gunned down months later, just after 10 p.m. on April 25, near the intersection of 19th and Vine Streets. He was 34 years old.
The mourning of the community was immediate. The mayor offered his condolences and countless friends and family reposted Taylor’s Facebook videos on their own pages, again sharing his words of inspiration and motivation. The day after his death, his girlfriend, Rashouna Harris, changed her Facebook profile picture to her honor.
Harris first met Taylor in 2017 when she walked into the gym at Swope Parkway where he was teaching.
It was a small space. No bells and whistles, just the basics. At least 20 people were there, and he was training them all – individually, one at a time. He moved skillfully around the room, she said.
“Everyone was drenched in sweat. Everyone looked half dead, at least, ”she laughs.
She felt everything she would come to learn Taylor Incarnate, she said: motivation, hard work, consistency.
In the years since that day, they fell in love and had a son together. Harris even became a personal trainer too, working out at Taylor’s gym, Power House.
Then, when everything seemed to line up so well in Taylor’s life, he was gone.
Within hours of the shooting that injured two other people and claimed the life of Taylor, Kansas City police said they believed a fight or argument broke out at a nearby facility; shortly thereafter, shots were fired in the street outside. It is not known if Taylor was involved in the altercation.
Police are still asking the public for help in gathering information about a possible suspect and motive.
“When I say this town loved Gary, this town loved Gary. Like, they loved him, ”Harris said, clapping into his hands to insist. “And I just hate that he didn’t realize how much he had already changed people, inspired people.”
Giving back to the community with fitness
“Sometimes you can be busy, but you’re wasting time. You see, we don’t have a lot of time. We need to work smarter, not harder. – Taylor, via Facebook Live, February 3
Taylor loved to make lists. He put pen to paper and set goals, set deadlines.
Bouncer for years, he recently created his own security company: Power House Protective Services.
It was just one dream among many.
He and another personal trainer talked about starting another gym together in the urban core. He has facilitated programs to help fight childhood obesity and loved working with young athletes.
Taylor dreamed of retiring in her forties so that she could travel with her mother and family.
But Kansas City was still home.
“That’s what lifted me up,” recalls Harris. “I want to give this to my people.”
He knew there were a lot of other young people, especially young men, who needed inspiration, who lacked someone to look up to, to push them on, Harris said.
Taylor used exercise to help overcome hereditary health issues, she said, and he wanted to help others improve their health from the start.
“We have to take care of ourselves so that we can be here for our children and that will teach them to take care of themselves as well,” he said.
Over the past week, Harris has heard countless people tell their own stories of how Taylor’s training and motivation has improved their lives.
“I couldn’t walk,” one woman said of the intensity of Taylor’s workouts. “But I loved it. I’ve never been pushed this way before… but I didn’t give up.
For him, pushing people beyond their limits wasn’t just about being successful in the gym, it was supposed to permeate every other aspect of life.
“He always believed, if you want him you have to go get him,” Harris said.
‘The city needs love’
“Love is not something that is really valued. I don’t think God likes it. … I’m not really trying to die for my loved ones. I try to love them enough to live for my loved ones. It causes pain if I am dead and gone. It brings joy and happiness if I am here. You understand, we have to value love. – Taylor
If community was his inspiration, Taylor’s children were his motivation.
Sundays were reserved for the family. They spent evenings at her mother’s for dinner with her brother.
Most days of the week he had his three children with him at the gym. He would lift his youngest son to reach the pull-up bar, let his oldest son help with the weights on the bench – all four hands wrapped around the bar – while his daughter jumped in one of the women’s cardio classes.
At home, it was time to be silly – dancing, piecing together TikTok videos.
Taylor has always talked about his life plan, Harris said. And his children were the base.
He has spoken of giving his children the opportunity to take over the Power House legacy one day. He had already started teaching his daughter entrepreneurship.
She made T-shirts and he helped her sell them. He taught her how to make a profit, pay overheads, and put the money that was left to save.
“He really put it all into these kids, and that’s such a beautiful thing,” Harris said.
On Sunday, she was standing in the now almost empty gym. Just a week before, it was filled with sweaty people making jokes. Music explosion. Taylor’s photo-bombing selfies.
The walls are bare now, the equipment is gone, and the fake turf is rolled up in heavy cylinders.
Harris takes over the Power House business, but she must first take a step back, to find her bearings as she searches for a new space and works to bring Taylor’s plans and dreams to life.
“I’m so proud of the fact that even though he’s gone, he left nothing but good,” she said.
She still doesn’t know why her boyfriend lost his life to senseless violence all too common in Kansas City.
Taylor’s death marked the 48th homicide in Kansas City this year, most of which was the result of gun violence. Kansas City finished last year with 182 homicides, the most in city history in a single year, according to data maintained by The Star.
Asked at the time of Taylor’s death whether the town’s criminal strategies were working, Mayor Quinton Lucas – who also visited the site of Taylor’s murder – replied “obviously no”. Taylor’s blood was still visible on the sidewalk next to him.
“Gun violence is literally out of control,” Harris said, before repeating what the pastor at Taylor’s funeral said the day before at the High School Center. The crowd was packed into the stands as if they were there for Friday night football.
“This city needs love.”
That’s what Taylor meant: to teach people to love themselves, so that they can cherish others. So that the violence stops.
Power House Legacy
“You know me, it’s a good day to have a good day, baby.” Do something, be a phenomenal person. You are a phenomenal person. You are great. You’re amazing. You are beautiful. You are captivating. You are all divine. You are perfect just the way you are. – Taylor, via Facebook Live, February 3
About 100 people, most of them wearing Power House shirts, gathered in front of the old gym, now just an empty room between Chinese and Mexican restaurants.
A line of bikers roared in the parking lot, then joined the crowd. Their black leather jackets and vests labeled them Zodiac Motorcycle Club, Kansas City’s oldest African-American motorcycle club, located at 18th and Vine, a few yards from where Taylor was killed. A rider dismounted, then kissed Harris.
Blue and silver balloons flickered in the wind. Large balloons with Taylor’s initials were taller than the others.
“Love each other while you’re here,” Taylor’s brother Brian said to the crowd gathered like a crescent moon around him.
Harris and Taylor’s son was dragging himself around in a shirt that said “awesome like daddy.” Her grandmother momentarily slowed down her roll to wrap a balloon around her wrist.
The crowd calmed down. Together they threw a few hundred balloons upwards. Harris held his phone up, registering the smaller and smaller bright bulbs against the sky. She smiled.
“He never realized how much he inspired, changed and motivated people,” she later said. “And for him to look down and see this; I know he’s smiling at us.
Gun violence will be the subject of a new statewide journalism project that The Star is undertaking this year in Missouri in partnership with the national service program Report for America and sponsored in part by the Missouri Foundation. for Health. As part of this project, The Star will be enlisting the help of the community.
To contribute, visit Report for America online at reportforamerica.org.