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Meet Peggy Neely-Harris of Ferguson/Florissant

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peggy Neely-Harris.

Hi Peggy, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I am a Performer, Singer and Teaching Artist! As you might know most African Americans get their first public platform in church at an early age. I was no different! My family was large, so my siblings always ended up being cast at Christmas/Easter/Sunday morning choir/and small acting programs throughout the year! My Dad would always allow clients from his barbershop to contact their wives to “draft” me into community stuff! I was Raggedy Ann, sang in school choir groups with other classmates, won Speech awards from the High School Speech teacher/ and so forth. Then, it all changed when a New High School Drama Teacher relocated to my hometown in Arkansas @ Osceola High School! That’s all she wrote! I was hooked on plays when Ms. Emison took our Drama Group to see a LIVE “Inherit The Wind” production in Little Rock, Arkansas! My life has never been the same after that! After that, it slowed down when I went away to college, got married, and relocated to several cities in Missouri, but it picked back up when we relocated to STL. I got a 49-Day European Tour with the Dept. of Defense; a bit role in Momma Don’t at the Fox with the original company; and started acting & teaching for COCA, Muny 1st Stage, Springboard, Metro Theatre, etc., then later started working for myself with my husband at our LLC; I H Productions! I’ve been with talent agencies, and have 2 Gospel CD projects; have worked with The Spirit Church Drama Ministry in the area, and The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival…and recently moved on to Arts and Policy: with historical re-enactments at the History Museums and political organizations! The most prominent was the Transformative Justice Coalition with the Ahmaud Arbery case!

Would it have been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been a challenging road! Artists in the Midwest often have to be “Everything” for themselves to survive, which makes it difficult to perfect our crafts because we assume the role of manager, agent, writer, accountant, publicist, etc., and artist, all in between getting some shut-eye and keeping healthy! Sometimes you almost want to give up, but that anointing on the inside seeps right in and saves you! Faith is a big part of what we do! Although we are always helping others out here and there, many of us don’t reap benefits. It is a labor of love! We must constantly believe that God will elevate us in what he has chosen us for! Also, as an African American Woman, the playing fields are not always even. While we love what we do, we are often passed over more often than our European & other indigenous sisters based on who the scripts are written for and the creative opportunities! Thank God for people like Tyler Perry, Gina Prince-Blythwood, Shonda Rhymes, and others who are changing the narratives from when I was coming up. And, then, you get a lot of obstacles in opportunities based on looks, skin tones, accents, etc. When I understood that, I tended to go for more beneficial, healing opportunities in the arts that don’t require so much cosmetics and politics in the industry! Thank God I have many connections with people of all colors, regardless of race, that I can work with.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I do everything creative from conception and writing to production, coaching, and performing, large or small, but mainly onstage and touring activities! I specialize in and have a passion for “performing!” I bring words to life! I am most proud of my European Tour as a Motown singer for 49 days with the Department of Defense, and I am most proud of winning the Grand Prize as a Singing Artist at the Sound and Sight Theatre in Branson, MO, for Christian Action Ministries Gospel Sing-off! After that win, I was able to go to Silver Dollar City to perform several of my original songs. This was a few weeks after Michael Brown was murdered! These were my very own songs, produced and most of them written by my husband, Michael, and several dear musician friends from St. Louis! It was a special treat to have been chosen for The Best of Ferguson Column in the Ferguson Neighborhood News Paper/February 2022. My latest creative initiative has taken me Internationally! I now teach Drama classes to a wonderful group of students at Anointing Grace Redeemer Prep and JHS w/Headmaster Steven Adjei in Elmina Ghana, West Africa!

I am proud of being able to continue to broaden my skills by partnering with organizations for the struggle for African American People first and foremost, then humanity as a whole! I do thrive on helping where I can fill a need! I am genuine and work extremely hard to create the Big Picture! I am detailed in my craft, and I love working with people who understand and appreciate this craft in Artistry! What sets me apart from others is my genuine love and ability to interpret performing arts works! I am constantly learning & revising my craft. I am aware of my innate ability to make audiences a part of what I am expressing, and to me, that is the highest form of appreciation an artist can receive as I am resolved in my Spirit when I feel it coming back to me! I appreciate God for it!

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Indeed, I am a risk-taker! One has to be in this arena! There is no other way to develop your craft without it! There is NO safety in putting oneself out there as a Performing Artist! Either you fail and keep trying, or you sit still and refuse to move forward for safety’s sake! Take the risk and become comfortable with the uncomfortable! They say the greatest mistake you can make is to be afraid of making one! The Bible says God has not given us the Spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love, and self-control, and I am just fine with that!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Michael I. Harris, Headshot permission by: Cindy Lee, Tifenbruan, DOD Department of Defense Branson Tri-Lakes News

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