Eight locals to learn about on International Women’s Day

A sampling of the women that makeup Raleigh who we’ve covered within the past year.
by Kayla Guilliams

Celebrating women isn’t just distilled to one day here at WALTER. From artists to musicians to pilots to business owners, the women that make up the Raleigh community are brave, creative, smart and generous and we’ve covered many of them. But to honor International Women’s Day (March 8!) , we’ve rounded up eight females we’ve covered over the past year worth noting.

Maya Freelon | Artist

This Durham visual artist balances strength and fragility in her massive water-stained tissue paper installations that have made appearances all over the U.S. In our September issue, Liza Roberts wrote that her work, often made in collaboration with groups of people, celebrates “the communal aspect… the ancestral heritage, the connection to quilt-making in my family and the African-American tradition of making a way out of no way.” Metaphorically and literally, Freelon’s work is a manifestation of its maker: beautiful and forthright, vulnerable but unflinching; lithe, elegant, and definitely individual.

Liz Kelly | Potter & Small Business Owner

A Raleigh native, Kelly has used the arts as a space for freedom of expression, empowerment, and independence from an early age. Now as a full-time, self-employed artist, she produces thousands of ceramic cups, vases, plates, and bowls each year that showcase her edgy, vintage-inspired style. Some pieces are glazed in plain corals and creams while others adorn antique-y images of icons like Dolly Parton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Willy Nelson. No matter the piece, they always embody her love of the process and life themes of personal empowerment and approachability. “Engagement with my artwork, and helping to build those everyday memories, it is so human,” Kelly told writer Addie Ladner In our August issue. 

Wanda Jackson | Pilot, Bandit Flight Team 

Jackson is part of the on-the-ground eyes and ears for the Bandit Flight Team, a group of pilots and vintage aircraft enthusiasts that perform at events across North Carolina. A North Carolina State graduate and accountant who worked for American Airlines in Cary for years before getting a pilot’s license, Jackson now gets to work with a team that flies in ways most pilots never get to. “I had done aerobatics — taken some aerobatic training in Florida — and I thought that was exciting,” Jackson told writer Finn Cohen in our January/February issue. “But flying in formation was way more exciting: you spend all your time as a pilot trying to stay away from other airplanes. The first time you fly in formation, and you’re that close to somebody else, it’s really freaky.” She had a chance encounter that led to her joining the Bandit group: she crossed paths with several of the pilots at a picnic in Sanford in 2017. After accepting their invitation to fly along one day, she said she was hooked.

Victoria Scott-Miller | Liberation Bookstore Owner

After Victoria Scott-Miller and her son, Langston, went to a bookstore and counted just five children’s books with Black protagonists, Scott-Miller, a liberation strategist and literacy advocate, started the pop-up bookstore Liberation Station. A product of Scott-Miller’s extraordinary imagination, the store champions authors of color while operating in a mobile format that makes it accessible to children all across Raleigh. Scott-Miller is also a member of the American Bookseller Association and founder of The Getaway, a program that connects with the hotel industry to provide micro-residencies for published authors of color. “It’s one thing to know your purpose, but it’s another thing to fully arrive in it,” she said in a conversation with Courtney Napier in our May issue. “For me, that means recognizing that this is an extension of my brilliance, my giftedness, and my genius, and fully owning that.” 

Ana Shellem | Fisherman, business owner

In our March issue, writer John Wolfe describes Shellem as “owner and operator of Shell’em Seafood, commercial fisherman, and badass queen of the salt marsh.” Shellem, who moved to Coastal North Carolina nine years ago, provides high-quality mussels, oysters, clams, and stone crabs to top restaurants across North Carolina. She forages her harvest by hand and personally delivers each order to the over 30 clients she has amassed across the state over the last four years. Operating with grit and grace, she has made a name for herself in an industry often dominated by men. “I didn’t start [fishing] for the money,” Shellem says. “I started because it made me happy.”

Zena Howard | Architect 

Principal and Managing Director of Perkins&Will’s North Carolina practice, Howard is a famed architect that has worked on projects across the continent, from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington, D.C. to Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, B.C. to Destination Crenshaw in Los Angeles, California. Her reputation comes not just from working on big-name projects, but small ones too, using her trademarked Remembrance Design process, which engages historically under-served communities to redress painful issues, bridge diversity, inspire resilience and infuse culture into projects. In our January/February issue, Kofi Boone, a professor at NC State’s School of Architecture, described Howard to writer J. Michael Welton: “She gives firm but constructive feedback,” Boone said. “And she’s willing to roll up her sleeves and get to work. Conscientious is the best word to describe her.”

Rissi Palmer | Country Music Artist

When two singles from Palmer’s debut album in 2007 made the Billboard country singles chart, she was the first Black woman artist to make the chart in 20 years. Now, Palmer, inspired by artists like Whitney Houston and Patsy Cline, is making waves in the country music world, and received a shoutout from rising country star Maren Morris at the November 2020 CMA Awards. She hosts Color Me Country, an Apple Music radio show showcasing the lesser-known histories and music of Black, Indigenous and Latinx country artists. Writer David Menconi highlighted Palmer in our January/February issue, and wrote Palmer “has created her own success in a genre that hasn’t always been welcoming to Black performers.” 

Sally Salang | Glamma

Salang is one of eight Glamma’s featured in our May/June issue that inspire us to be comfortable in our own skin. Hair and makeup artist Jessica David recalls Salang’s husband coming with her to the studio for that issue, tears streaming down his face as she was photographed with her hair that had recently started growing back from chemotherapy.  “I always feel comfortable with myself, with how I look, and with my own self-expression,” Salang says. “Happiness is being at peace with who you are and what you have, and knowing that you are accepted and loved in spite of any imperfections.”