A Gathering of First Ladies – Inspirational And Entertaining

by Peggy Freeman


                  A Gathering of First Ladies


                                             Mildred Dumas


Mildred Dumas has been writing plays for over sixty years.

“I don’t know how many plays I’ve written, there are too many to count, she says.”

A Gathering of First Ladies is one of her most recent endeavors since Barack Obama became president. It celebrates the rich history of women who struggle to achieve and maintain their freedom while successfully forging through their respectable careers.


“I wanted to do something with Mrs. Obama at the helm and I choose women who had firsts in their lives and careers,” Ms. Dumas explained.


It is rather fitting that Ms. Dumas would choose first lady Michelle Obama. Ms. Obama is the first African American wife of the first African American President. She invites first women from the past to the White House to discuss current affairs.

Mrs. Obama, played by Sabrina Morales, invites nine prominent Black women to the White House for lunch. They entertain each other by sharing stories of their political and social accomplishments. Each of the nine ladies enters the White House with charm and eloquence.


Lastly Mrs. Roosevelt, who is President Roosevelt’s wife, enters the scene. She is the only Caucasian woman in the group but well received by the women after breaking the ice with a joke. Mrs. Roosevelt is invited because she is instrumental in helping Blacks to achieve civil rights even against her husband’s wishes. In fact, she withdrew her membership from the Daughters of the American Revolution when they refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform at the famous Metropolitan Opera house.


Marian Anderson is played by Makeisa Gaines. Ms. Anderson is the first African American to be named permanent member of the Metropolitan Opera House. Her rich wide-ranged voice impresses her audience as she sings opera, German folk, and spirituals.


Also present is Hattie McDaniel, played by Cecelia Antoinette. Ms. McDaniel is the first African American person to win an academy award and the first African American to sing on radio in America. Ms. Mc Daniel garners two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.


Then there is Ida B. Wells played by Cyntha Pope. Ms. Wells, educated at Fisk University is a noted journalist and newspaper editor who documents lynching of blacks as a way controlling and punishing them for competing against whites. Ms. Wells is infamous for suing the railroad when they remove her from the train, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.


Invited guest Ethel Waters is played by Crystal Nix. Ms. Waters is the first Black Superstar. Ms. Waters is a highly recognized trailblazer who is imitated by such greats as Joe Turner, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald. She is famous for breaking into the world of vaudeville. She is elevated to success while singing Stormy Weather at the Cotton Club in New York. After that performance, Irving Berlin casts her in, As Thousands Cheer and Ms. Waters “steals the show” with her rendition of “Heat Wave,” and “Suppertime.”


Honorable mention, Sojourner Truth, played by Angela Adams attends the luncheon also. She is an abolitionist, women’s right activist, journalist, orator and preacher who speaks both Dutch and English. Born into slavery she escapes from the plantation after her master reneges on his promise to free her. She says, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”


Darline Harris plays Shirley Chisholm. Ms. Chisholm is the first black congressman in the United States and represents New York for seven years. She fights for educational opportunities and social justice for all people. Mary Mahoney attends the luncheon and her character is played by Angela Heard. Ms. Mahoney is America’s first black professional nurse. Mary Eliza Mahoney’s displays exemplary contributions to local and national professional organizations. She inspires both nurses and patients with her calmness, efficiency, and untiring compassion.


Chiwuita Melvin plays Bessie Coleman. Ms Coleman learns French in order to attend Aviation school in France where racism is non existence. She is hailed the first Black pilot in the United States and proclaimed the “world’s greatest woman flyer.” She loves performing acrobats in the air and is praised by both black and white newspapers.


All of these facts may not have been presented in the play, A Gathering of First Ladies. However the play holds the audiences’ attention with stories and comedy. It also stimulates the audience to delve deeper into the rich history of first ladies like the ones that are cleverly portrayed.


This exciting play is produced by Rochelle Williams and directed by Naomi Stenson an accomplished director and actress. A Gathering of First Ladies is comical, entertaining and most of all highly educational.


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