Edited by Yunuen Perez Vertti; directed by Sehba Sarwar.
Sehba Sarwar: In fall 2011 when I was visiting with Linda May, she mentioned that she had saved a 1972 series of six stories that were written by Miriam Kass, who served as the now defunct Houston Post’s health reporter. May drew out a manila envelope and opened out 40-year-old newspapers. I unfolded the yellow newsprint to see interviews and investigative stories written about women who made difficult choices to terminate their pregnancies at a time when such actions were illegal. Some of the women flew to Mexico, while others who had better resources were able to find doctors in Houston. Back in 1972 the average cost for an abortion in Houston was $1,500.
I was already working on Women Under Siege when I talked to Linda and she generously offered us the newspapers to exhibit at the production; she also introduced me to Miriam Kass. After her stint at the Houston Post, Kass went on to earn a law degree and practiced law for sometime. Currently retired, she remains passionate about the issues she covered while working at the Houston Post. Yunuen and I were able to visit her in her home where we had a long conversation with her. This excerpt is taken from that afternoon. Since then, Miriam’s stories and interview have been shared with the University of Houston’s Women’s Archive and can be found through the University of Houston.
At Women Under Siege, we exhibited the newspapers on Yolanda Alvarado’s kitchen counter beneath glass sheets so as to protect the newspapers. We also photocopied segments of the stories and hung them up around the kitchen area so the stories could be read. Our interview with Miriam Kass was played from a screen in the kitchen.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Sehba Sarwar (Karachi, Pakistan / Houston, USA) is a writer and multidisciplinary artist. Born and raised in Pakistan, she is based in Houston, and her writings have been published in India, Pakistan, South Korea, and the US; her videos have been screened in India, Pakistan, Egypt and the US. She serves as VBB’s artistic/founding director and produces VBB living room art shows.
Yunuen Perez Vertti (Mexico D.F., Mexico / Houston, USA), a documentary filmmaker who is involved with multiple organizations around the Houston area, serves as VBB’s Production Manager. She is working alongside Sehba Sarwar on VBB’s living room art productions. Originally from Mexico City, Vertti is a photographer and filmmaker. Her films have been screened at Fotofest and at the Michelle Brangwen Dance Ensemble.