: Room 9 will now perform Faith Ringgold's "Dinner At Aunt Connie's House" as retold by Brittney Talley and Jaala Johnson.
: Every year Melody and her parents would visit Aunt Connie and Uncle Bates and their son Lonnie at their home on Long Island. They'd always have a delicious dinner and afterwards Aunt Connie would show everyone her new artwork. This year, however, Melody and Lonnie went up to the attic for a sneak peak at Aunt Connie's latest artwork. As they approached the attic, they heard strange voices and grew suspicious. And weren't they surprised when they walked in and found the portraits TALKING!! Yes, you heard right- I said TALKING!! Listen carefully to what they had to say.
Hello, children! My name is Rosa Parks. I was born in Alabama in 1913. I am often called "the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement". In 1955, I was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. That incident started the Montgomery Bus Boycott and inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to devote his life to the Civil Rights Movement.
But how can you speak? Paintings don't talk?!*
Your mother created us to tell you the history of our struggle. Would you like to hear more?
Lonnie and Melody:
Well, listen carefully.
Fannie Lou Hamer:
Hello. My name is Fannie Lou Hamer. I was born in 1917 in Mississippi. I was a civil rights activist and public speaker. I worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. for voters' rights in the South. I helped thousands of people register to vote.
(pointing to the portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune): I know who you are! You're Mary McLeod Bethune!
Mary McLeod Bethune:
That's right, Melody, I am! I was born in 1875 in South Carolina. I founded Bethune-Cookman College. I was also a special adviser to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. I founded the National Council of Negro Women, an organization that has more than one million members.
Hello, children. My name is Augusta Savage. I was a sculptor. I was born in Florida in 1892. I founded The Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in Harlem. I taught many artists to paint, draw, and sculpt. Maybe you've heard of one of my students, the famous painter Jacob Lawrence?
Wow, you're beautiful!
Why, thank you, Lonnie. My name is Dorothy Dandridge and I was born in 1922 in Ohio. I was the first African-American actress to become a Hollywood star. I was nominated for an Academy Award in 1954 for Best Actress for the film "Carmen Jones". I starred in many other films with such famous actors as James Mason and Joan Fontaine.
Zora Neale Hurston:
Hi, I'm Zora Neale Hurston. I was born in Florida in 1901.
Weren't you a famous writer?
Zora Neale Hurston:
Yes, Melody, in the 1930's I was the most prolific African-American writer. My books, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Moses, Man of the Mountain, and Mules and Men, are considered among the best examples of American writing.
Maria W. Stewart:
Hello. I'm Maria W. Stewart. I was born in 1803 in Connecticut. Back then, women could not be public speakers, yet I spoke out for the human rights of oppressed blacks. I was also the first African-American to lecture in defense of women's rights.
Hey there, kids! I'm Bessie Smith. I was born in 1894. I was known as "Empress of the Blues". I was once the highest paid African-American artist in the world. The great jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong was one of my accompanists. I inspired many singers with my soul and spirit.
Hello, children. I'm Harriet Tubman. I was born in 1820 in Maryland. I brought more than three hundred slaves to freedom in the North in nineteen trips on The Underground Railroad and never lost a passenger either! Among them were my mother and father and my ten brothers and sisters.
Hi. I'm Sojourner Truth. I was born in 1797 in New York. I was an itinerant preacher and an abolitionist with Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. I spoke out for women's rights during slavery, when no American woman had the right to vote. I met and spoke with President Abraham Lincoln.
(pointing to the portrait of Marian Anderson): Hey, aren't you Marian Anderson? We studied about you in school!
Yes, that's right, Lonnie. I am Marian Anderson. I was born in 1902 in Pennsylvania. Arturo Toscanini, the great conductor, said a voice such as mine is heard only once in a hundred years. I was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. In protest, I sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 75,000. I was known as the world's greatest living contralto and was the first African-American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Company!
Madame C.J. Walker:
Hello. My name is Madame C.J. Walker. I was born in Louisiana. I was the first self-made American woman millionaire. I employed more than three thousand people in my cosmetics company. My invention, the hair straightening comb, changed the appearance of millions of people.
So, children, what do you think of us?
I think I'm proud to be an African-American woman. Who knows-maybe some day Aunt Connie will hang my portrait on the same wall with all these great women!! (extends arm out to encompass all portraits as she says last line)
We hope you enjoyed our play. Thank you for being such a good audience. Thank you to the boys who reproduced Faith Ringgold's portraits of these African-American women and thanks to the girls who portrayed them!
(figure available in print form)