Monday, May 11, 2009

Thank you for visiting the Go, Tell Michelle blog! All future postings regarding the book as well as updates about Peggy and Barbara can be viewed at their new blog, the GTM Sisterhood Network. Also visit the SUNY Press blog for news on the book and all other SUNY Press news and notes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The GTM Sisterhood and the First 100 Days

Barbara and Peggy posed this question to the contributors of Go, Tell Michelle:

While the first 100 days tradition is not overtly applied to the performance of the First Lady, we know that during this period Michelle has also endured on-going criticism in the American media and from right wing/conservative pundits and bloggers. From Juan Williams' prophesied characterization of her as "Stokley Carmichael in a designer dress", to the over-wrought attention paid to her bare arms, to her seeming breach of protocol by touching the Queen, Michelle has been one of the highest profiled First Ladies in the history of this country. Since your letter of November 2008, what would you say to our First Lady Michelle Obama, now?

Here are some of the responses. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Women of the world, women of all races, of all nations are supporting you; they all believe in you. They all want you to succeed and you will succeed.
What a heavy charge! What an exciting charge!
Women are mothers, sisters, wives; we make the world, we are the world.
You represent a part of this world, our world. Now the world knows what “the American dream” means.
-Kadidia V. Doumbia

1st One hundred Days – Only Stepping Stones

Quite honestly, I’ve never thought of First Lady Michelle Obama as necessarily needing advice, due to my personal and trusting belief that she’s being held by the powers that be. I do, however, firmly believe that there is a continual need for our First Lady Michelle Obama to be reminded of the empathic support readily available to her from women of color who share common, yet unique cultural histories, plus the mutual yarns of understandings of many present and past struggles. These alone bind us to her forever, allowing us to remain, if she allows, forever her sustainable bookends. Such sisterhoods can never be viewed in minimalistic ways, nor taken for granted. There is power in that which emotionally binds, and held by the divine. Also, I personally believe that the “Spirit” will shape and utilize the Obama’s for the good of this earth and all the inhabitants of this Universe, and they will be unstoppable.
-Bev Jenai

Friday, May 1, 2009

Audio Book Now Available!

Go, Tell Michelle is now available in audio book format! The audio book, read by Barbara and Peggy, is both unabridged and expanded. It includes all of the evocative letters and poems found in the original book plus ten new letters and a never before seen or heard introduction. Check here for more details and to order your copy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interview with Peggy and Barbara on WBFO 88.7 UB

Peggy and Barbara will be interviewed on WBFO 88.7 UB on Thursday, April 30th at 5:33, 7:33 & 9:33 AM. You can listen live at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Busy Day in Baltimore!

Barbara shares her thoughts on the recent events in Baltimore...

I anticipated an eventful weekend in Baltimore last week as we had two presentations and signings scheduled for the same day, Saturday, April 18th. The first signing was scheduled for the Reginald Lewis Museum. The museum invited local GTM Network members and several had responded that they would be attending. We were really pleased to hear that a contributor from Richmond, VA had indicated that she intended to make the two or three hour drive to join us. The second presentation/signing was scheduled for the Enoch Pratt Library, part of their annual City Lit Festival. Liza Mundy, Washington Post reporter and author of the unauthorized biography of Michelle Obama, Michelle: A Biography was slated to join us on a panel, aptly titled, "The Sisterhood of the First lady" creating the exciting prospect of expanding the dialogue about our work. Furthermore, the trip was a home-coming for Peggy, as she’s a Baltimore native and was re-visiting the city for the first time in quite a few years.

My excitement was somewhat tempered, however, by the fact that a week earlier I fractured a bone in my right foot. A “Frankenstein” boot on my foot and a pair of crutches were both a help and a hindrance making movement possible but cumbersome. I fretted about my ability to make the tight schedule we had and being just a little vain, whether I could find an outfit to wear that matched my medical apparatus.

With this backdrop, Peggy and I set out on Friday morning on an adventure that was all and more than we imagined it would be. The first indication that we were going to have an extraordinary experience started on the airplane, Southwest Airlines. When the flight attendants learned that we were authors, they made an announcement to the passengers that "the famous authors of Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady were aboard, headed to Baltimore for a book signing tour." What fun! Our fellow passengers were inquisitive and congratulatory on our accomplishment. A one hour flight seemed like 15 minutes!

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is a fantastic facility, dedicated to the preservation of Maryland’s African American History and founded in memory of its namesake, Reginald F. Lewis. Reginald Lewis and Peggy were classmates and I know she has much to tell you about that relationship and about her reactions and remembrances rekindled by our visit to this special museum.

We were met in a fourth floor seminar room by members of the Lines Connect Book Club and Erica Holmes, RFL Museum staffer. We were also greeted by Peggy’s sister, Audrey Spencer (a GTM contributor) and Audrey’s daughter. Hugs and kisses! More hugs and kisses took place upon greeting GTM Sisterhood Network members, Dera Fuller, Gerrie Drake-Hawkins, Janice Harris (Janice contributed to the new audio-book version of Go, Tell Michelle) and Nicole Brown, our Richmond contributor, who persevered through traffic that turned her two hour drive to Baltimore into four.

How can I describe this presentation? All I can say is that you shoulda been there! We’re so sorry that it wasn’t videotaped. Each of our previous presentations and signings that have included GTM contributors have revealed the impact that this book has had on the contributors’ lives, in their own words. We have been touched emotionally and cognitively by the stories of agency (empowerment) inspired by the contributors’ participation in this project. From Dera’s beautiful opening gospel to Janice’s riveting personal testimony of her struggles with mental illness, this was an extraordinary "reading." Go, Tell Michelle is seen as a collective work of art and has been dubbed "The people’s book." But this weekend, we also learned that GTM contributors see it as a source of healing. As Gerrie Hawkins wrote shortly after this session, "Healing was one of the feelings permeating that room; As tissues started unfolding, dabbing many sets of eyes so soon; The stories behind the stories untold by some contributors before; Seem destined to leave messages of hope and sisters linked forevermore"

We had barely an hour to pull ourselves together before we were off to the City Lit Festival. Again, there were surprises in store, as I was greeted by Beverly Pollard, a friend I haven’t seen in 30 or more years. Bev, who lives in Alexandria, heard about our presentations at the museum and library and had taken the train to Baltimore for the afternoon presentation. Kim Bryant, another friend and Soror from Buffalo, now living in Baltimore also came to the library to see us. Several of Peggy’s childhood friends also surprised her with hugs, kisses and "girl, remember when….?"

The audience for this presentation packed the room. Between seventy-five and one hundred women and men of all ages and ethnicities were in attendance. Liza Mundy was warm and we struck up a friendly conversation prior to the start of the session. Our moderator, Lionel Foster began the session by noting that it might have seemed a bit odd that a young black man was the moderator for a session discussing books on a black woman. But, it was clear that he’d done his homework and his questions were provocative and offered a platform for us to discuss salient issues about both books that made the exchanges lively and interesting. The audience was engaged and responsive throughout the all-too-short hour.

Following our presentation, we gathered with Liza for a book signing. In what seemed like the twinkling of an eye, all our books were sold and people were asking us where to get copies. In a surprising instance, we were asked to sign Liza’s book for a frustrated admirer who couldn’t get a copy of our book! Now that’s hilarious. By 3:30 pm, we were all finished and I was ready to get a cab to take me back to the airport for the flight home. As I crutched my way to the plane I thought about how this weekend started with that announcement by the flight attendant and was tempted to ask them to announce what a great day we’d had. But given the filled-to-capacity plane and the harried look on the attendants’ faces thought better of it and just basked silently in the pleasant memories throughout the one hour flight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tapestry Charter School Welcomes Peggy and Barbara

Peggy and Barbara wanted to share this update from a special event that took place in March.

One of our most exciting presentations and signings took place on March 9, 2009 at the Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo, New York. The Dean of Students at the school is Joanne Cathcart. We were most delighted to see that the 9-11 grade students actually placed some of the readings from the Go, Tell Michelle book into dialogue, music and dance. It was quite thrilling to see that young people thoroughly understood and appreciated the contributions of women to the preservation of a truly historic moment through their letters and poems to the First Lady, Michelle Obama. They also included materials from the bios and photos from the Uncrowned Queens webpage. With two large screens on either side of the stage, faces of the women whose materials they were citing appeared on the screens. The Go, Tell Michelle book took on a different meaning with this wonderful presentation by students dancing and singing throughout the evening. Through song, dance and recitation, they reminded us of the power and creativity of youth. It also reminded us that the First Lady is devoted to helping young people succeed. When we took to the stage to discuss the book, we were very warmly received by a very attentive audience of students, teachers, parents and community members. The school purchased 100 books from SUNY Press to be sold on this occasion. We were also joined on this occasion by one of our Uncrowned Queens, Erie County Legislator, Betty Jean Grant who read a poem from her recently self-published book Falling Through the Crack. The website for the Tapestry Charter School is we look forward to working with them again.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The GTM Audiobook!

Starting in May, Go, Tell Michelle will be available in audio book format. You can pre-order it now from SUNY Press! The audio book is in CD format and features Barbara and Peggy reading all the letters from the book aloud. It also features ten new letters and a never before seen or heard introduction by the editors. Check here for more details!