Roger Suggs was tired of all the negative talk about Kansas City, KS. He felt like his hometown was in the shadow of Kansas City, MO, and unfairly so. Especially since he would so often hear incredible stories about KCK community members whose stories were rarely shared.

“I want to let people know that the legacy is good here, too,” Suggs said.

To uplift the community and increase the sense of pride in KCK, Suggs filmed and directed a new documentary series about some of the unsung stars and heroes of the community.

The first of the 10-episode “TRUTH Mini-Mentary” series premiered Nov. 17 with a new episode scheduled for release each week until January. Each of the mini-mentaries is from 25 to 45 minutes

Toyota’s Entrepreneurial EnTOURage campaign, created to celebrate and support Black entrepreneurs through storytelling, provided funding for the project. Toyota’s Kansas City Regional Office also provided 2020 Toyota vehicles to include in the series.

Each episode can be viewed on Suggs’ website TruthTheReason.com for between $5.99 to $9.99. When all the episodes are released in January, a bundled package will be available for purchase.

All profits from the series will benefit Safe House, a community program that provides homeless students extended-stay hotel rooms. Suggs’ goal with this project is to raise $15,000 for a down payment on a permanent building that Safe House can use to provide secure housing for these students.

Suggs, who was only introduced to documentary filmmaking last year, says he was able to quickly fine-tune his skills in part due to his background with podcasting, music and journalism. His style of filming is unique. You’ll never see Suggs on camera for more than a few seconds because he wants the focus of the film to be the character, their story and the visuals of KCK.

Each episode’s story highlights the city’s resilience with each person in the spotlight just wanting to get their story out. The mini-mentaries focus on several business owners, including Gary Wilson of Wilson’s Pizza and Grill, and Keisha Kay of Keisha’s Kandi Apples. Wilson’s film shares his story of endurance as the owner of a second-generation business that is now one of two remaining businesses on KCK’s once thriving Quindaro Blvd. Kay’s story highlights how she developed her successful business from her start selling homemade sweets like funnel cakes, cake cups, cheesecake jars and, of course, her famous caramel apples.

One of the first episodes in the series, “Diamond in the Dotte,” is about Crayge Lindesay, a KCK-born-and-raised award-winning producer and musician behind the song “I Got 5 On It,” by Luniz. Not many people realize he still lives in Wyandotte County.

Suggs said convincing Lindesay to tell his story on camera was difficult at first because he’s much more of a behind-the-scenes person, but when Lindesay finally agreed and gave Suggs a 10-minute interview, that 10 minutes turned into two hours.

In the documentary, Lindesay credits Sumner High School music teacher Leon Brady for his mentorship. Brady who taught marching and jazz band had experience playing with great artist like Ray Charles, Grover Washington and Clark Terry, and some of those musicians would make their way to Brady’s classes where they passed on some knowledge and inspired Lindesay to pursue a career in music.

“This is a gritty city with hidden and historic jewels,” Suggs said. “A lot of times, people who get out are so bitter. They don’t want to come back.”

One lesson Suggs hopes viewers take away from these stories is to follow their dreams.

“The thing for me is about teaching the young and motivating them,” Suggs said. “When you teach young people to go after their passion, then it will keep them out of the streets and it may keep them from being another statistic.”

Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice.

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