Chautauqua of aviator Bessie Coleman at Dangberg Ranch
Chautauqua performer Juanita Westbrook will present Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Coleman: Pioneer Aviator 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park. The event is open to the public and free to attend.
Coleman, popularly known as “Queen Bess,” was the first black woman to become an airplane pilot, and the first American woman to hold an international pilot’s license. While many people know about early aviator Amelia Earhart, Coleman, who got her pilot’s license before Earhart, is little known. Growing up in the cruel world of Jim Crow laws and discrimination, Coleman vowed to amount to something in life. She became an avid reader and a good math student. She was determined to get ahead, and show the way to others handicapped by racism, poverty and ignorance.
Shortly after World War I, Coleman made a decision to learn to fly. She applied to flying schools across the country, but was quickly rejected because she was both black and a woman. Undaunted, Coleman persevered and finally achieved her goal. A daredevil of her generation, she soared above barriers to dazzle audiences and become a fearless aviator of the skies.
Westbrook has a degree in early childhood education and has more than forty years of experience of working with youth and families. She has been telling stories throughout the United States and internationally since 1995, and has performed as various Chautauqua characters. She created and developed a youth program, Yes, You Can! that focuses on community youth development and empowerment skills for high- and middle-school students.
Coleman is also the founder of Simuneye Productions, which promotes storytelling, motivational speaking and historical presentations. Through her stories and Chautauqua characters, Westbrook has presented to business people, youth advocates, and youth, and at venues as diverse at summit meetings, schools, judicial seminars, churches, and treatment centers.
This is a free outdoor event. The park is located at 1450 Hwy 88, ¼ mile north of the Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or use one of the park’s chairs. Dogs are not permitted in the park, with the exception of certified service animals. For more information, visit dangberghomeranch.org or call 783-9417.
Other speakers in the series will be Lisa Bommarito portraying Eilley Orrum Bowers, the famous “Queen” of the Comstock, on Aug. 5; and Chuck Bauldauskas and Doc Durden portraying Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok, on Sept. 2.
The Chautauqua Series is sponsored by Bently Ranch, SoaringNV, The Record-Courier, and the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation. Westbrooks’s performance is also made possible with the assistance of Nevada Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.