Women and Girls Lead makes a stop in Kansas City and airs on KCPT.

Pastor Alice Pigee-Wallack, minister/leader at the Emancipation Station. Photo courtesy of Brazos Films.

While March is officially Women’s History Month, the multi-year global initiative known as Women and Girls Lead and its subjects and documentarians have been striving each and every day to keep the light shining on human rights, identity, and opportunity. The stories are from mothers, leaders and girls who are involved in their communities and innovators in science, the arts, business and government.

Women and Girls Lead shorts profile American women from all walks of life who inspire us with stories of resilience, hope, and empowerment. Producer Carl Crum and his wife Betsy, owners of Brazos Films and Video, (One Square Mile Films Documentary Media Production, Forth Worth, Texas) filmed six separate documentaries over four days and allowed one day for pick-ups. Austin was the first stop for the couple and Kansas City was second. The shorts are a collaboration between Brazos Film & Video, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and public television stations in the United States. The shorts should be available this month online and KCPT could show the shorts as interstitial breaks.Three more cities will be selected for this round. That means there will be a total of 30 stories. The stories aren’t lengthy, but they are representative of many stories that have that universal appeal. Carl says, “In each city we try to get a representation of what is happening in the city. We try to capture the feelings. We seek out women who viewers can relate to and who can meet with us during our time in that city. No matter what, we have had great success.”

Kansas City reminded Carl and his wife of Fort Worth and Austin. They saw similar creative elements similar to their Texas hometown. “The city the size of Kansas City has a diverse cross-section of landscapes such as the Plaza and the River Market and the backgrounds should play well on public television. We have two artists, an urban leader, a writer, a high school athlete and a cancer patient. We originally have about 20 names that are submitted by the local PBS station. We then try to find the stories that aren’t often heavily documented. Sometimes it’s a little about detective work and sometimes serendipity on how the stories fall into place. I know we are a small part of this worldwide initiative, but it’s an honor to be a part.”

Carl and his small crew visited six women in Kansas City. One of the visits involved filming local visual and performance artist Peregrine Honig. “I want to be known for my art, not necessarily my gender,” she says. “Really everything I do is art.” The crew visited Honig in her role as a small business owner with the shop Birdie’s in the Crossroads. They also participated in Honig’s Mardi Gras celebration.

Honig has had some accolades as a lead competitor on the first season of Bravo Television series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. She came in second. Her work is at one moment playful while being combined by a sort of dark realism mixed with a certain sexuality. Some of her work may not be for the faint of heart. Of course, some of her pieces are charming such as the Shuttlecarts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Gilded Cage and Sweet Chariot are favorites among guests. Honig was attracted to the Shuttlecart project because she enjoys making art that surprises people, and was also intrigued by the idea of visitors climbing into a work of art.

Pastor Alice Piggie-Wallack is another Kansas City woman featured. The Emancipation Station on 31st Street is also full of art. It may not be under the artistic hands of someone like Honig, but women who have been lost within the city. The ministry called Emancipation Station is young. The shelters in town require most to leave during the day and return in the evening to sleep. Emancipation Station is a safety net for these women to receive comfort, counseling and perhaps a few skills. Activities include creative writing, Bible study, sewing and nutrition classes.

Piggie-Wallack says the organization fulfills her need to serve. “My role and the role of Emancipation Station is to pick women back up after extreme disappointment and failure. I also knew I need help so I could offer more than what I can do. I sought out volunteers to teach classes. That’s how I like to see this … we are a resource center. We are small, but we have an impact. We really practice the team concept here.”

While the Station is young, the needs are growing. Piggie-Wallack says they need more skilled volunteers to come in and share their expertise, perhaps teach a craft of create a project. “We need some folks to pass on skills that the women could then market. These ladies have gifts and talents that are untapped.”

Piggie-Wallack started mulling the idea for the Station in 2005 and opened less than a year ago. “It’s part of the dream fulfilled. I used to think it was terrible to be a dreamer. I realized it’s not bad at all. When I was a social worker in Chicago, I knew when folks were depressed, they didn’t dream. I never want to stop dreaming and I want others to remember how.”

The Station has a semblance of home for the women who come in with heart-breaking stories, Piggie-Wallack says. “I am still hopeful to transform something not beautiful and a life that has been in chaos can be embraced. Beauty can unfold. I have seen that a lot in this place. The women find encouragement.”

Piggie-Wallack demonstrates the sort of woman who enjoys her job. “I am compelled to come here. It’s what I am called to do. I remember a professor at Loop Junior College in Chicago asking us students what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. I started that journey. The social and mental health work was preparation for this time in my life. I have that faith in others that they will find their journeys.” While Honig is more the visual artist, Elizabeth Suh Lane is the performer. She founded the Bach Aria Soloists and continues to lead the group, an ensemble that presents the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, his contemporaries and those inspired by them. She is also known for her musical collaborations and teaching. She serves as executive/artistic director.

“I’m honored to be part of this. I have created my own path here which is so different from what I did in Europe,” Lane says. “In Europe, I played, but here I have the satisfaction of creating a course for an active ensemble.” The core players are Lane, soprano Rebecca Lloyd, organist and harpsichordist Elisa Bickers and classical guitarist Beau Bledsoe. Guest stars have been from the metropolitan area such as saxophonist and teacher Bobby Watson, actor Robert Gibby Brand and dancer and choreographer Jennifer Owen to national and international stars like pianist Gustavo Casenave and Héctor Del Curto, Argentinean bandoneónist.

“Seeking out guests that add to the diversity is critical. I enjoy actors, musicians and dancers. Collaboration gives me a chance to program selections I would want to go hear. It also keeps us from getting bored.

Lane says it’s critical for her to grow along with her students. “They make me think about the multitude of musical possibilities. I learn from that too. I would say that is critical in being a leader. The very nature of chamber music is a give and take with colleagues.”

The remaining three stories belong to Kansas City Star columnist Jeneé Osterheldt, cancer patient and mother Monica Steiner and student athlete Brionna Williams.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

  1. I consider it a privilege to be among the women in this series. I love this great city and especially the midtown of Kansas City. May God keep me strong and able to serve many more years. Thanks, Carl and crew and KCPT.

    Alice Piggee-Wallack

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