March 30, 2014

Jazz artists gather to help women’s shelter

A gathering of jazz artists helped raise money for the True Light Family Resource Center and Emancipation Station, a women’s day shelter at 31st and Charlotte.

When Kansas City’s Rogina Harden belts out the soulful “I know I’ve Been Changed,” it clearly comes from somewhere deep inside.

Harden, a recovering drug addict, sings like a woman who knows something about long, hard journeys.

Born and raised in Kansas City, she’s a Hickman Mills High School and Job Corps graduate who later became, in her own words, “addicted, homeless, living from house to house and jumping from car to car.”

But she’s changed now, and her voice is haunting as she celebrates that through the gospel song: “I know I’ve been changed … I know I’ve been changed … and the angels in heaven done sign my name.”

That’s why Harden was a perfect lead-off performer Sunday at a fundraiser called “The Gathering” for the True Light Family Resource Center and Emancipation Station, a women’s shelter at 31st and Charlotte streets.

The event, held at the Blue Room in the 18th and Vine district, was organized by community activist and singer Mary Moore, who also volunteers at True Light.

Each of the homeless women who seek shelter at Emancipation Station — there are about 50 most weeks, some with kids — has a story and a voice not yet discovered, Moore says.

Moore says she helps those women discover how they got to where they are in the first place, because “when you know how you got here, you will never go back.”

None of these women ia a lost cause, Moore says. They all deserve a chance, and they all need to know that “the sun shines on them and the moon hangs over their heads, and they deserve that as much as anyone else.”

The Rev. Alice Piggee-Wallack, founder and director of True Light Ministries, helped create Emancipation Station in 2007 to deal with an increase in homeless women and children in a part of the city where homelessness sometimes reaches 30 percent.

Many of them were made homeless by job loss and family breakdowns, she said.

Backing up Harden later in the program were Moore and other Kansas City jazz divas including Ida McBeth, Kelley Hunt, Lisa Henry and Pamela Baskin-Watson.

They all left their egos at home, Moore said, to come to the Blue Room to sing for someone else’s supper.

Regardless of how much they took in Sunday from donations and an auction of CDs, jewelry and clothing, Piggee-Wallack says True Light ministries can always use toiletries, paper goods, nonperishables and volunteers.

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