D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Washingtonian’s Trek from Poverty to the White House Comes to the Stage

Hard Work, Humility Underscore Life of Stewart Stevens, Custodial Specialist for Seven Presidents

Stewart “Calvin” Stevens Sr., 81, a longtime resident of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, born just outside of D.C., has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to overcome adversity including educational limitations and racial discrimination.

Now, after first recounting his story of how he beat the odds and emerged victorious, meeting the needs and improving the quality of life for his wife and children in his 2016 published work, “The White House Chandeliers,” audiences can experience his tale of triumph on stage at THEARC in Southeast, Saturday, July 13.

The play, written by his daughter Lynetta Stevens, who also composed the lyrics for music which accompanies the production, will be shown at 2 and 6 p.m. Like so many unsung Black men determined to make life better for their families through hard work and perseverance, the play reveals Stevens’ path from abject poverty to service in the armed forces, later being hired as a custodial specialist at the White House — a job he held for 30-plus years under seven U.S. presidents. And besides illuminating the pride he took as the man responsible for cleaning the chandeliers and windows there, the play also shares the moving love story that ensued between him and his lifelong companion, Janice Marie Stevens — his “First Lady” as he refers to his wife and to whom he dedicated his book.

A birthday celebration with the Stevens children "back in the day" (Courtesy of Lynetta Stevens)
A birthday celebration with the Stevens children “back in the day” (Courtesy of Lynetta Stevens)

The cast includes Theodore Sapp, Kinosha Soden (Miss District of Columbia, 2016), Akeem Adams and Anissa Stewart, with the support of THEARC’s Building Bridges Across the River initiative and produced by Dawn of The Cameo Promise LLC and DCAV Productions.

Lynetta says her father serves as an example of living history whose story “will foster a sense of fulfillment for him as well as enjoyment for those who come to witness it as it unfolds on the stage.”

“My father was one of 13 children born into a world of segregation — a system that resulted in the same kind of inequality on Blacks that gentrification does today,” she said. “His education was so inadequate that he dropped out after the eighth grade to join the National Guard after securing his parents’ permission where he became an MP.”

“After completing his service to his country, including time in Germany, he returned to the District, married, began to raise a family and prepared himself for a career as a police officer. He passed the test and waited for a call. But in those days, they didn’t hire Blacks. When he was hired at the White House, he often said he believed it was his destiny, ordained by God.”

“He taught us that we must always strive to be the best we can — that was his life’s motto. And he refused to make excuses because of the inferior education that he’d been provided. He told us that a person could learn a trade and do just as well in providing for themselves or their family.”

“I know some wonder why I wrote this play and question why his story would even be interesting to others. I believe just hearing the experiences he had with presidents of the U.S., ambassadors, entertainers like Pearl Bailey and so many other icons in the Black community will make people sit on the edge of their seats. Dad has always been a humble man and proud of his humble beginnings. Still, he worked long hours, overtime often, to make sure we had everything we needed — and most of the things we wanted. My mother never had to work.”

“Sure, we know the stories about Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and folks like that. But there are tales equally important about common people — every day, ordinary people like my father — who have lived extraordinary lives and whose commitment to excellence and dedication to an honest way of life can serve as an example for today’s youth.”

“He’s still my greatest inspiration and I believe he will inspire those who take the time to witness our telling of his amazing journey,” she said.

For tickets, go to www.WHChandeliers.eventbrite.com or call 571-488-3495.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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