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!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Applause Continues for Go, Tell Michelle

About…time magazine – a journal devoted to the African American experience and covers people, politics, and arts – added another warm review to Go, Tell Michelle’s burgeoning file. Calling it, “passionate, shattering, tender,” the reviewer praises the title as a, “breath-taking anthology” that embodies the “new found hope” for African American women in response to our new First Lady. The review offers detailed information about the life of the book from its conception to production, much of which is driven by interesting quotations from the authors themselves and touching excerpts from the book.

You can read the full review in Vol. XXXVII (2009) No. 1 of
about…time. For information about subscribing or ordering an issue, please visit the about…time website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Signing in Maryland

For anyone in the Baltimore area: The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will be hosting Barbara and Peggy for a discussion of Go, Tell Michelle and book signing on Saturday, April 18, as a part of "The Lines Connect Book Club" series. The event will run from 11am to 1pm. For more information, visit the museum's events list.

After the Museum signing, Barbara and Peggy will be taking part in the sixth annual CityLit Festival, Baltimore's day-long celebration of literature. Their event, "Sisterhood and the First Lady," will run from 2-3pm at Pratt Library and will feature
Go, Tell Michelle and Liza Mundy's Michelle: A Biography.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Visit to People’s Congregational United Church of Christ

Pastor Michael Murphy and group

Barbara shared this story about her visit with Peggy to the People’s Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.

Throughout its history the Black church has maintained a long-standing tradition as an institution that plays a multi-faceted role in the life of our community. The Black church has led the way: in supporting racial uplift activities; providing comfort and aid to members and communities in need; providing networking opportunities and resources; in providing the learning environment where members could obtain leadership, management and overall “people skills”, especially when we could not obtain these skills elsewhere; fighting for social justice and combating social and political (big P/small p) injustice.

The Church has also served as an alternative educational institution to ensure that members of its community have opportunities to enhance knowledge and learning. Given this background, it was no surprise that the Pastor, Rev. Dr. Michael Murphy and members of the Evangelistic Outreach Committee agreed to host a presentation and book signing of “Go, Tell Michelle” at People’s Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. on March 28th. True to their motto from their website:

“We are an open church. We are a Christian community where everybody is somebody because Jesus Christ is Lord. We invite you to explore these pages to learn more about Peoples Church. But even more, we invite you to be our guest at any of our worship services, special programs and events, as well as to participate in our ongoing activities. We will be pleased to meet and greet you and, we believe you will be pleased to meet and greet us.”

We were greeted warmly and had an extraordinary dialogue with the group that assembled for this morning presentation. We have an open invitation from Pastor Murphy to return to People’s and hope that we can do so in the near future. Thank you, Pastor Murphy, for your hospitality and your invitation.

We have to also acknowledge two women, a mother-daughter team, who were instrumental in the planning and implementation of this event. Hugs and kisses to Karen May and Marissa Jennings. Marissa was the first to suggest a lecture and book signing at her church and Karen quickly jumped into action and secured a co-sponsor for the event, The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. For those who don’t know about this venerable organization, the brief history is that it was founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, the “father” of Black History and Black History Month. Of course, there is much more to the history of ASALH and I urge readers to go to their website to learn more, become a supporter/member. Look for more information about ASALH as Peggy and I, along with several members of the GTM Sisterhood Network, Adah Randolph, Mary Weems and Shirley Hanshaw have a panel scheduled at the ASALH annual conference in September 2009.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Go, Tell Michelle inspires the Twin Cities

Sheletta Brundidge, host of Crossroads on Minneapolis-St. Paul's KSTP, was inspired by the letters in Go, Tell Michelle. After reading the book, she decided to do a show in which she invited discussants to write their own letters to Michelle Obama then talk about their experiences so far in a world with an African American First Family. You can watch the video on Sheletta's blog, or below:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Peggy and Barbara on NPR!

Today Peggy and Barbara will be interviewed by NPR's Warren Olney, host of To the Point, a fast-paced, news based one-hour daily national program that focuses on the hot-button issues of the day. The show will focus on First Lady Michelle Obama. Peggy and Barbara will share their thoughts on her activities so far and discuss the responses they have been garnering throughout their book tour.

The interview will take place around 2:00 pm EST.

You can listen to the interview here.

Update from Barbara

Betty Falato, Miriam Guichard, Lori Polin Jones, Aza Donna Smith, Regan Botts-Ruiz
with Peggy and Barbara at Busboys & Poets

Barbara sent us this latest update. Looks like she and Peggy have been keeping busy!

March was an incredibly busy month, with lectures and book signings in Harlem, Albany, Buffalo, Capitol Heights, Maryland, Galloway, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. And somehow, in between these events, we managed a second trip to Albany to be honored by Governor David and Mrs. Michelle Paige Patterson as New York State’s 2009 Women of Excellence in Education awardees.

In all of our travels and at every venue, we were excited, pleased and honored to meet so many people who love our book so much that they got copies for themselves, their mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins and sister friends! And I’m not just talking about women. Men also recognize the symbolism in the messages and see the women in their lives, who could easily have joined us on this journey. In fact, many have joined us – the number is growing daily.

A number of contributors joined us at several of our signings. What a treat to meet and greet our wonderful sisters of the GTM Sisterhood Network. This is the first time meeting these women but our connections were instantaneous as over these last few months, we have bonded as a result of our shared purpose.

We have previously posted photos of our meetings with contributors from the Buffalo, Maryland and New York City area and last week we had the pleasure of meeting four more contributors from the Washington, D.C. region. We rendezvoused at Busboys and Poets Book Store. This book store, restaurant and performance theatre, in itself deserves a special write-up as it is one of the most charming and unique, INDEPENDENT, book stores in the nation. We were pleased to have its owner, Andy Shallal attend our lecture and to have CSPAN’s Book TV there to film us. (Check their website, and this blog, for the scheduled airing of this program)

But, I digress! Peggy and I are very enthused and grateful for the support of the GTM Sisterhood Network. These sisters continue to lend their voices and use their connections to extend the word about “Go, Tell Michelle” to individuals and groups all across this nation. Together, they continue to confirm our belief that Michelle Obama has ignited a spark that will help to raise the volume of all women’s voices as we speak about the issues that are vital and important in our lives. Many of these are issues were articulated by the contributors who joined us in Washington on March 28th at Busboys. Many thanks to Regan Botts-Ruiz, Betty Falato, Miriam Guichard, Lori Polin Jones and Aza Donna Smith.

A very, very special thanks to two women, who really made our day! Karen May and daughter, Marissa Jennings. They set up a book signing and presentation at the People’s Congregational United Church of Christ, also in D.C. co-sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). More is forthcoming about these ladies and their church and pastor, Rev. Dr. Michael Murphy in our next entry.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pictures from the Governor's Award Ceremony

Peggy and her husband Dennis with First Lady Michelle Paterson

Peggy and Barbara passed along these photos from the Governor's Women of Excellence Award in Education ceremony which took place on March 24th.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Peggy and Barbara said, "We are thrilled to be part of this important historic moment in the history of this country where African and African American women from around the world recognized the significance of their words and sentiments and saw Go, Tell Michelle as the vehicle to document this historic event. Through their letters and poems they carved a memorable and lasting space in the history of First Ladies in this country."

Congratulations Peggy and Barbara!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Serengeti Signing

Barbara and Peggy with Serengeti owner Wisson West

Barbara gives us an account of her evening at the Serengeti Gallery...

The Serengeti Gallery is located in a rather unimposing strip mall in Capitol Heights, MD. But, once you open the door and enter the Gallery you are transported to another world. The walls of this stunning gallery are festooned with beautifully framed works of art by African and African-American artists. Its ceilings are draped with mud cloth and throughout there is statuary that reminds us of the greatness of Africa and the creativity of humankind. Further, owner Wisson West and his staff extend welcoming and warm greetings to visitors that compliment the physical setting and create an atmosphere of serenity, intimacy, harmony and community. What a wonderful venue to talk about Go, Tell Michelle and for a book signing.

The audience, no doubt, felt as we did about the Serengeti as many of them are long-time supporters. We continue to be encouraged as we have been finding, on this book tour, that the women and men who attend these lectures are interested in what we have to say, appreciative of the work and eager to join us in promoting this book. They tell us of being inspired by the words of the contributors and being able to relate, emotionally and intellectually, to the various themes expressed in their letters. They want to share our book with family members and friends and express an interest in having us address other groups they belong to.

A special thanks to contributor, Miriam Guichard, for introducing us to Wisson West and the Serengeti Gallery and for her involvement in setting up this lecture/signing. Miriam also shared the story of her motivation to write to Michelle and how she had encouraged a number of African women to send their letters for inclusion in the book. The entire presentation, including Miriam’s remarks have been videotaped (again, thanks to the Serengeti staff) and will be available on our blog and Facebook in the next few weeks.


Friday, March 27, 2009

GTM Featured in School Library Journal

Amy Bowllan has an interesting post on GTM and Michelle Obama over at the School Library Journal site. Bowllan asks her readers whether the color of Michelle Obama’s skin is something that should be talked about and taught in schools. Bowllan writes, “now that we have a first lady, who just so happens to be black, that aged-old topic of color - that has plagued the black communities for years - is at the surface again. This time though, it appears to be in a more positive light...a good thing indeed.” Bowllan draws on comments Barbara and Peggy made during their recent NPR interview and ultimately encourages teachers to talk about the subject with their students.

Check out the full post here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

WAMC radio interview

Joe Donahue of WAMC Northeast Public Radio talks with Peggy and Barbara about GTM. Listen to the interview here.

Translated review

For our spanish-speaking followers, here's a translation of an early review of GTM. The translation was done by Peggy's daughter Lillian Yvonne Bertram, a graduate student in creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana. The original review was written by Rudy Lewis. Enjoy!

A veces, en el medio de las complejidades del mundo diario, las acciones simples se pueden desarmar. Por ejemplo en la obra Lysistrata por Aristophanes, las mujeres Atenienses retractaban finanzas y sexo para establecer paz y salud para sus hijos y maridos belicosos. Es una gran comedia y crítica de la mente Greciana. El proyecto literario de Aristophanes fue inmenso. Se puede decir que un proyecto literario contemporáneo—Go, Tell Michelle—por Barbara A. Seals Nevergold y Peggy Brooks-Bertram de Buffalo, sin exageración, puede alcanzar más allá que la obra imaginaria del dramaturgo Greco en su impacto social inmediato y influencia perdurable en una nación.

En el libro Go, Tell Michelle, hay 100 autoras Africana-Americanas—incluyendo Barbara A. Seals Nevergold y Peggy Brooks-Bertram—que reflejan en la relevancia de la entrada (20 January 2009) de la señora Michelle Obama y su familia en La Casa Blanca, que un poeta ya ha renombrado “La Casa Arcoiris.” Sí, desde largo tiempo el mundo ha conocido el poder de las mujeres Atenienses. Pero todavía no hemos sentido o reconocido el impacto completo que mujeres Africana-Americanas han tenido en la vida política y cultural de los Estados Unidos. Aquellas generaciones pasadas y vivientes (aquellas reinas no coronadas) reunirán místicamente en este momento: por la agencia de este libro, Go, Tell Michelle, yo creo que nosotros—mujeres Africana-Americanas y sus maridos—salirán del túnel obscuro y encenderán los cielos.

Esta obra muy anticipada, fue construida en 34 días por Barbara y Peggy y 98 otras obreras culturales Africana-Americanas, con la ayuda de SUNY Press. Es de esperar que esta semana se pueda conseguir Go, Tell Michelle, y estará en los estantes de las librerías por este fin de semana. Este libro dará nueva forma de la consciencia femenina de mujeres Africana-

Americanas (tanto como Go, Tell it on the Mountain) para muchos más años. Invocada aquí es la influencia de diez generaciones (y mas) de mujeres Africana-Americanas y sus descendientes en la creación de lo que es el mejor en la cultura y política Americana.

Americanos y ciudadanos del mundo verán, en la persona de Michelle Obama y en el trabajo de estas 100 mujeres Africana-Americanas, una obra literaria que será clásica tanto como Lysistrata por Aristophanes.

Insisto que todos consigan su copia de Go, Tell Michelle. Está destinado a ser un Bestseller de New York Times.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Women of Excellence Award in Education

Congratulations are in order: Barbara and Peggy were notified by the Governor's office that they'll be receiving the Governor's Women of Excellence Award in Education. The ceremony is next Tuesday, March 24, with a reception to follow in the Red Room of the Governor's Mansion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meet another contributor to GTM

Southwest Daily News recently ran a profile of GTM contributor A. Katrise (Lee) Perera. Originally from Louisiana, Perera is now the principal of Elko Middle School in Virginia. The article explains how Peggy and Barbara's call for letters found its way to Perera:

"She got involved with the book strictly by chance. The call for letters email was circulating, and a friend in Houston forwarded it to her. As a supporter of Barack Obama, she was excited by the opportunity to get involved in the compilation."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another glowing review

Be sure to read Ted Balk's extremely positive review of GTM over at Here's an excerpt:

"The overwhelming spirit of all the letters is one of joy, celebration and shared pride in the achievement of one of their own, in having an African American woman as First Lady of The United States of America. Many of the messages are poems. All are clearly written from the heart. They speak of the institutional memory of the time when their ancestors were brought to America, captured, in chains and forced to work to feed and care for the people who enslaved them. They howl at the torment their ancestors felt as their children were sold away from them. And yet the idea emerges that all of that was in preparation for this day, when one who shares these memories, who has faced the daily indignities imposed on their people, could be elected to lead us all."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Radio interview

Peggy and Barbara were interviewed today on FM 107.1 out of St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN. Listen to the interview.

More on the Harlem book signing...

Peggy shares her thoughts on last Friday's exciting evening in Harlem...

First, it is always exciting to be in Harlem, New York and if you are in Harlem, you must visit the Hue-Man book store. The owner of the bookstore, Marva Allen is truly an extraordinary person with attitude and personality. We felt it. As the crowd filed into the audience space you could feel the excitement and electricity in the air because we were close to the audience and their excitement was palpable. Women and men had come to listen and to talk about Go, Tell Michelle. At least two weeks prior to the event, contributors to the Go, Tell Michelle book who lived in and around New York were writing back and forth expressing their excitement about attending. Inevitably at least one person who has been following the work of the Uncrowned Queens Institute will show up and introduce themselves. This occasion was no exception as a gentleman named Stephen from Buffalo now working in Yonkers came to greet us and have his books signed. It was great. Like all of our book signing events, we invite the contributors to sign books with us by signing on their page. This act alone has bonded the group such that we can all experience the limelight of this historic work.

One by one contributors read their letters with passion mixed with tears. Contributors brought their mothers, daughters, lovers, husbands and friends. It was a wonderful feeling as we learned ever more about the stories behind the stories. We added to our photo gallery as the editors and contributors posed for photos. It was great to see more of the faces behind the letters and poems. We know we have formed bonds for life in the GTM Sisterhood. For those who missed the signing, contributors set up blogs or added to existing blogs photos from the night before. Thus, the world got a chance to see what happened in Harlem at the Hue-Man Book Store on March 12, 2009. It was truly an historic occasion aided and abetted by the enthralling Miss Mellie Rainbow, aka Melony McGant. We hope to have online snippets of the video that was made at the event.

Our next signing is the Serengeti Gallery in Washington, DC. Miriam Guichard, a contributor in DC, suggested and worked with us to secure a signing at this gallery: Contributors from the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas are attending and it promises to be equally exciting. We will keep you posted. As the old Ethiopian proverd goes, "when spider webs unite, they can tie up the lion."

A Night in Harlem

No, not the movie, but there was a little drama, a few tears, lots of laughter, hugs and kisses when we went to Hue-Man Book Store on Frederick Douglass Boulevard for a book signing on Thursday evening (March 12th). In addition to a warm and welcoming audience, we were greeted by five of the Go, Tell Michelle contributors: Karen Bernod, LaShawnda Jones, Melony McGant, Cynthia Robinson-Bioh and Charity Thomas. This was our first time meeting these ladies in person yet we felt an instant bond with these members of the GTM Sisterhood Network. They delighted the audience with readings of their letters and comments about what motivated them to write and how this experience has touched their lives. In fact, their stories, such as Cynthia’s statement that writing her letter helped her to find her “voice” and motivation to write once again brought applause and supportive comments. And Charity brought tears to our eyes and to her own as she read her letter and commented on the meaning it had for her. Karen revealed that her experience turned out to be a family affair. Her aunt, Miriam Guichard, independently submitted a letter which was also accepted for the publication. LaShawnda declared that she’s ready to go on this journey with us! Finally, last but not least, Melony, aka “Miss Mellie Rainbow”, who was instrumental in setting up the Hue-Man event closed out the readings with her poem, “The Obama Lesson: A Family Prayer”.

Following the presentations, the contributors joined us in the book signing by signing their contribution page, as a special treat for those buying our book. The frenzy of signing that went on in various corners of the room reminded me of the time when getting your year book signed by fellow students was a requisite rite of passage. It was a wonderful experience that adds to the unique way in which this book is impacting its contributors as well as its readers.

Our sincere gratitude to Miss Mellie and also to Ms Marva Allen, Hue-Man owner for making our first national book-signing possible. Thanks also to the contributors for their participation and willingness to share their stories about Go, Tell Michelle and to our audience for taking the time to attend and make this event such a success.

Thanks, Barbara, for sharing your story of the Harlem book signing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Harlem book signing a success

Last night's event at the Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe in Harlem produced a strong turn out, and Peggy and Barbara had a wonderful time. Thank you to all who attended. Now, enjoy these photos...

Peggy, with Barbara's son, Kyle Nevergold

Barbara and Peggy

Barbara and Peggy at Hue-Man Book Store

GTM contributor Cynthia Robinson-Bioh

The crowd at Hue-Man

The signing

The signing, part deux

BAN, Leslie A. Thompson (VP, Vornado Realty Trust), PBB

GTM Contributors; Charity Thomas, BAN, PBB, LaShawnda Jones (in the back), Karen Bernod, Cynthia Robinson-Bioh, Melony McGant

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book signing tonight in NYC

For all our NYC area followers: tonight from 6–8pm at the Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe, Barbara and Peggy discuss Go, Tell Michelle and sign copies. We're expecting a great turn out. Stop by and share your thoughts on how their book has impacted your life.

Friday book signing

Remember, tomorrow from 7–9pm Barbara and Peggy will be signing copies of the book at The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. We're looking forward to having Peggy and Barbara in Albany and we hope you'll join us at The Book House if you are in the area tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jacqueline Baptiste's review, en francais

For those who would prefer to read Jacqueline Baptiste's lovely review of GTM as it was written, in French, we've posted it below.

Vas-y, Parle à Michelle
Par: Jacqueline Jean-Baptiste

Des femmes américaines, de descendance africaine; quelques-unes des Caraïbes et directement du continent africain ont exprimé, à Michelle Obama, à travers des lettres, poèmes et contes, leur profonde et joyeuse émotion à l’occasion de l’arrivée à la Maison Blanche, de la Première Famille de descendance africaine.

C’est une belle collection littéraire où la passion se mêle à l’histoire. Ces femmes ont invoqué le long continuum d’évolution des Noirs-américains, des ancêtres à aujourd’hui : De l’esclavage à la ségrégation, aux luttes acharnées pour les droits civils et les souffrances afférentes, à l’acquisition légale des droits, aux luttes pour la mise en oeuvre et le maintien de ces droits, à l’équité et à l’intégration jusqu’au 4 novembre 2008, journée de l’élection de Barack Obama à la présidence des États-Unis d’Amérique.

Très bien écrit; les auteurs sont : ingénieures, médecins, avocates, professeures d’université et d’autres institutions post secondaires, travailleuses sociales, ethnomusicologues, poètes et conteuses, artistes, actrices, mères de famille, organisatrices communautaires, présidente d’université, membres d’assemblées
législatives et j’en passe…

De la Californie à New York, de la Floride à l’État de Washington en passant par la Géorgie, l’Utah et audelà; des Caraïbes, du Kenya, du Niger; toutes ces femmes ont parlé à Michelle Obama et, elles l’ont fait à l’unisson.

Elles ont remercié Michelle, parce que maintenant, elles sont complètement représentées à la Maison Blanche. Non pas parce qu’elles n’étaient pas représentées avant, mais parce que, cette nouvelle représentation n’est pas une simple représentation de nombre ou de genre. La représentation par Michelle est aussi une représentation ontologique. Toutes les dimensions de leur être sont représentées chez
Michelle d’où une compréhension totale de part et d’autre.

À travers leurs lettres, les femmes ont honoré leur pays, Les États-Unis d’Amérique, de cette capacité de changement qui est la leur. C’est le seul pays au monde, selon les femmes, capable d’effectuer un changement si majeur. C’est le plus beau pays au monde selon ces femmes, parce que porteur de si grandes promesses. Ce sont après tout, les Blancs-américains qui ont rendu possible l’élection de Barack Obama à la présidence des États-Unis.

Michelle s’est fait appeler : Excellence, Première Dame, Soeur, Tante, Mère. Elle est comparée à une chanson, un proverbe, un symbole même de dignité humaine. Remercier Michelle est une façon, pour les femmes, de reconnaître l’histoire de toutes ces grandes « reines » (les ancêtres) qui sont passées avant.

Les phrases sont puissantes par ce qu’elles expriment et laissent sous-entendre en même temps par ex : « Thank you for the beautiful face of Black America you have presented to the world… What a wonderful picture you have drawn for the world ». On le sait trop bien, l’image des Noirs dans les média a été pour la plupart, dégradante et horrifiante.

De vocabulaire soigné, élégant et parfois poétique; c’est un de ces livres qu’on prend plaisir à lire seul /e ou en compagnie, dans la cuisine, à haute voix, à notre mère pendant qu’elle prépare le repas. On peut commencer n’importe où. On peut lire une lettre ou un poème à la fois et refermer jusqu’à la prochaine lecture. Ne pas aimer lire ne peut-être invoqué comme excuse pour ne pas se le procurer.

La faiblesse de ce livre est qu’il s’adresse plutôt à des lecteurs avisés, c’est-à-dire, la génération des personnes d’un certain âge qui sont conscients de l’histoire et de la littérature des Noirs ou des Noirs-américains. Pour une personne de culture autre, pour qui jusque-là, l’intérêt pour les Noirs était absent; pour les très jeunes personnes même aux États-Unis, non instruits de l’histoire des Noirs-américains ou des Noirs, une bonne lecture de ce document, sans guide, reste inaccessible.

À travers le livre, on peut constater comment Michelle Obama est scrutée à la loupe. Elle est citée mot à mot. Elle est déjà remerciée pour des promesses qu’elle a faites avant de devenir la Première Dame. Cette très grande effusion d’amour inquiète. Michelle est d’abord et avant tout un être humain, elle commettra des erreurs; elle ne tiendra peut-être pas toutes ses promesses. Michelle est aussi la Première Dame des États-Unis, une population de plus de 300 millions d’habitants, dont les Noirs sont moins de quinze pour cent. Pourra-t-elle répondre aux attentes, et espoirs de cette minorité. Cette passion, survivra-t-elle aux attentes non comblées, aux espoirs déchus. Est-ce une lune de miel? Qu’arrivera-t-il après? C’est l’inquiétude provoquée par la lecture de cette oeuvre littéraire pourtant si agréable. Fortement recommandé. A+

Another day, another stellar review

Over at the APOOO Book Club, Jennifer Coissiere wrote a wonderful review of Go, Tell Michelle. Jennifer was moved to tears by Peggy's letter:

There were two letters that brought tears to my eyes. The first one was the letter written by Peggy Bertram. I was reading it aloud to my daughter and almost did not make it to the end.

Another example of the impact the book has had on readers. Thank you for sharing your experience with the book, Jennifer.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jacqueline Baptiste's review

Today we have a translation of a wonderful French review of Go, Tell Michelle from Jacqueline Baptiste, one of the Canadian Uncrowned Queens.

African American women as well as others from the Caribbean and the African continent express their deep and joyful emotions to Michelle Obama through letters and poems and stories. They are all elated with the arrival of the first African American First family to the White House. This compilation of letters and poems is a fantastic literary collection where passion mingles with history and represents a long continuum of evolution of African Americans from the ancestors until today. These letters capture events from slavery to segregation. They describe hard struggles for civil rights and the suffering that accompanied the struggle up to the winning of rights and the struggle for implementation and maintenance of those rights. They carry the reader to the struggles for equity, to integration and to November 4, 2008 and the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America.

The letters are very well written. The authors are lawyers, physicians, university professors, social workers, ethno-musicologists, community activists, university presidents, artists, mothers politicians and many more. They represent every region of the United States from California to New York, from Buffalo, New York to Florida and beyond. Letters came from the Caribbean, and the African Continent. On the African continent, they wrote from Kenya, Cameroon, Liberia and Niger and all these women talked to Michelle Obama with one voice.

They thanked Michelle because they feel they are completely represented in the White House. Unlike before, they are now ontologically represented. All dimensions of their being are represented in Michelle. Consequently, it is a total understanding that stretches from her to them. Through their letters the women honored the United States for this ability to effect such a momentous change. It is the only country in the world, according to these writers that is capable of such a major change. It’s the most wonderful country in the world because it has so many promises to fulfill and Michelle Obama as First Lady is one of those promises. These writers saw this change as an achievement brought about by all of the people because a broad and diverse group of Americans worked together to make such a change possible.

The writers addressed the First Lady with numerous titles. They called her Michelle, Your Excellency, First Lady, Sister, Auntie and Mother. The made numerous comparisons describing the First Lady as a song or a proverb and saw her as symbolizing human dignity. Thanks Michelle was a way for these women to recognize all those great “queens” who came before. Their sentences are powerful not only by what they express but by what they did not expressly say. For example, “thank you for the beautiful face of Black America you have presented to the world…What a wonderful picture you have drawn for the world.” We know too well how images of Blacks in the media are for the most part degrading and horrifying.

They wrote in many voices with a refined vocabulary which was elegant and sometimes poetic. It is the kind of book one has the pleasure to read alone or in company in the kitchen, out loud to a mother while she prepared dinner. One can start anywhere, read one letter and close it until the next reading. Even if one does not like to read this would not be an excuse for not having this book.

If I had any concerns for this lovely book, it would be that the book might benefit from a reading guide so that those not quite aware of African and African American history might be better informed to savor the full depth of the writings. Further, these writers wish for so much from Michelle and they seem to observe the First Lady through many lens. They already thank her for things she promised to do before becoming First Lady. This large expression of love is not without its dangers. Like each of us, Michelle Obama is a human being subject to making mistakes. She may not be able to hold all her promises. Because she is the First Lady for all the people one hopes that the passion expressed in these letters will survive expectation if those expectations are not met. One wonders. These are my concerns for this extraordinary book and I highly recommend it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

GTM Events

To make it easier for you to follow the events (readings, signings, receptions, award presentations, etc.) for Peggy, Barbara, and GTM, we've added a link (over on this blog's right hand side with all of the other links) to the SUNY Press Calendar of Events. You'll find all of the upcoming SUNY Press events on the calendar, including, of course, those related to GTM.

And for those in the Albany area next Friday the 13th, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza will host a reception for the book at 7pm. We're looking forward to having Peggy and Barbara in town and we hope you'll join us at The Book House if you can.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ms. Henley Goes to Washington

Peggy sent us this latest update—and it's a big one!

At the request of the First Lady of the nation, Ms. Mary Henley of Richmond, Virginia was one of a group invited by the First Lady to attend the President’s first address before Congress. This is not the first time Ms. Henley has met and talked with the First Lady. The first time was on September 17, 2008 at the Richmond Convention Center where she attended an Economic Conference featuring Michelle Obama on the campaign trail for her husband. During the question and answer period, Ms. Henley stood next to the First Lady to tell her story of economic hardship for seniors nearing their eighties. A photo was taken of Ms. Henley and the now First Lady talking. That photo is the bottom photo on the cover of our book Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady. The coeditors and the contributors have been waiting with bated breath to receive word that the book dedicated to Ms. Obama had reached her hands. Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief because Ms. Henley took her copy of the book to Washington, and had it signed by First Lady Michelle Obama with President Obama by her side. Yes she DID! As a matter of fact, according to Ms. Henley, President Obama looked at the book and leafed through it and then passed it to Michelle Obama to sign. We are waiting for a photo from Ms. Henley with the book standing beside Michelle Obama! Now we know that the First Lady has seen the book and held it! For now, one of our books has been seen and signed by the First Lady of the Nation. We are ecstatic! We are still working to have a meeting with the First Lady and the contributors to discuss the book and the GTM Sisterhood. We will keep you posted.

Thank you, Peggy, for sharing that wonderful story of Ms. Henley's second meeting with Michelle Obama. We look forward to posting a photo of Ms. Henley with the First Lady and a copy of the book!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Audio Update

Barbara in studio

Here's an update from Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram on the recording of the GTM audio book:

Peggy in studio

For more than a week, we were in the sound studio recording the audio version of GTM. Our sound engineer David Lee Chandler was such an excellent director. He never let us get away with a single missed word or slurred phrase! We also have to thank Dr. Carole Smith Petro, Associate Vice President and General Manager of WBFO Radio at the University at Buffalo for providing the studio for our recording. We are excited about this new audio version of Go, Tell Michelle and think that readers who have already picked up a hard copy will enjoy listening to the book as well.

Sound engineer David Lee Chandler

Stay tuned for more news on the forthcoming audio book...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Uncrowned Queens win a Gracie Award

We just got some great news from Barbara and Peggy: they've been informed that their radio program, Uncrowned Queens: Voices from the Community, won the Gracie Award for Radio Programming from the Association for Women in Radio and Television. They'll receive the award on June 4 in New York at Tavern on the Green.

Check out the full list of winners here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

10th Anniversary of the Uncrowned Queens Institute

On Sunday, February 22nd at 2 pm, the coeditors of Go, Tell Michelle were joined at the Buffalo and Erie County Library by contributors to the book: Arlette Miller Smith of Rochester and Debra Johnson, Sharon Jordan Holley, Karima Amin, Shirley Sarmiento, Lillian Davis-Wilson, Deborah Seals, and Sharon Amos of Buffalo. The response to these readings was tremendous.

The event was cosponsored by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Uncrowned Queens Institute. The program was conducted in the library's community space, the Ring of Knowledge. The program was titled "Uncovering the Past to Preserve the Future: A Decade of Progress." It featured the history of the Institute's development from its inception as a focus group of the women's Pavilion PanAm 2001 to the current expansion of the organization into the corporate structure, Uncrowned Community Builders, which encompasses Uncrowned Queens, Uncrowned Kings, and Uncrowned Queens and Kings in the Wings, a version for young community builders. The celebration not only part of the Library's African History Month celebration, but it celebrated the Institute's new partnership with the Buffalo and Erie County Library, which became the first Uncrowned Community Builders Affiliate in the nation. The Institute's development of a digital kiosk to further its digital literacy efforts as an example of the Institute's innovative strategies to collect and preserve local African American history was discussed. Many of the contributors to the GTM book are writers, poets, and musicians, and the Rochester/Buffalo group was no exception. The audience was treated to drumming, songs, and chants by the Daughters of Creative Sound—two of who's members contributed to the book. Contributors were also asked to read excerpts from their letters/poems. Poet, storyteller, and songstress Arlette Miller Smith concluded the readings and surprisingly opened her reading with the Negro spiritual, "Go, Tell It On the Mountain." She provided an absolutely stunning reading of her poem, "We In Anticipation of You," and closed with verses from the Negro National Anthem. A very lively book signing ended the program as the coeditors and contributors signed books and greeted the audience.

At every opportunity across this country, we will make every effort to include the contributors to continue the message of the Go, Tell Michelle Sisterhood.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Barbara and Peggy: "Change Makers" in Buffalo

Last Friday, Barbara and Peggy were among the honorees at a special celebration in Buffalo to honor the many African American men and women who have positively impacted the city. Mayor Byron Brown, along with University at Buffalo Law School Dean Makau Mutua, presented awards in a number of categories. Barbara and Peggy were recognized as “Change Makers” and presented with the Education Award. Congratulations to you both!

Read more about the celebration and the awards here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

HSBC Black History Month reception

Mark your calendars! On Thursday, February 26th, Peggy and Barbara will be the keynote speakers at the reception for the HSBC African Heritage Diversity Committee, Buffalo/Niagara Chapter. The event will celebrate diversity and recognize the accomplishments of African Americans, and feature the Uncrowned Queens as the distinguished keynote speakers.

Event particulars:

Shanghai Red’s
2 Templeton Terrace, Buffalo, New York

Thursday, February 26th
Networking 5:30 pm
Presentation 6:00 pm

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Webinar Reminder

Today's League of Black Women Webinar with Peggy and Barbara will start at 1:00 EST. The dial-in particulars are noted below:

Log in:
Call in: 517-417-5600
Password: 600752

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Donna Brazile and other news

Peggy Bertram reports on last week's events and the ever-growing buzz surrounding Go, Tell Michelle.

At the University at Buffalo, Distinguished Speakers Series African History Month Celebration last Thursday, Donna Brazile, Democratic Political Strategist and commentator for CNN News, was the keynote speaker. At the close of her lecture, the Minority Faculty Association at University at Buffalo presented her with two gifts. One was a glass Buffalo and the other was a copy of Go, Tell Michelle. Ms. Brazile was thrilled with the book and we took photos with her at a later reception. Ms. Brazile said she would read the book and would also mention it to Michelle Obama.

Also, on Friday, the coeditors of GTM had a presentation and book signing for the Canisius College, Academic Talent Search, African History Month Program at Shanghai Reds. The event was attended by 200 students in the program, parents, and other dignitaries. What was extraordinary about this event was that other contributors to the book were also invited and the coeditors asked them to sign books as well. Other book contributors in attendance were Shirley Sarmiento, Patricia Clark, Georgia Burnette, Debra Johnson and Barbra Fletcher-Stephens.

Friday, February 13, 2009

League of Black Women Webinar

Join Peggy and Barbara as they discuss GTM as part of the 2009 League of Black Women (LBW) Webinar Series. The Risk and Reward LBW Webinar on Vision, Mission, and Leadership Values will take place on Wednesday, February 18 from 12:00–12:55 PM (CST) 1:00–1:55 PM (EST).

LBW webinars are free to its members and LBW Corporate Partners. You'll need to register if you are not already registered. Join now at the LBW website or call 1-708-754-1676. To register, email your "Count Me In" to:

Include the following information in your registration email:
Preferred email address
Phones: Day, Evening, Mobile

Also be sure to tell them why you want to attend this remarkable webinar.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Will Michelle Obama Write Her Book?

TIME asks this question, and answers:

Interest has only intensified ... but the First Lady's office is in lockdown when it comes to that subject. 'There are no book deals in the works' is all that her spokesperson would tell TIME.

The article goes on to mention recent books on the First Lady, including our own little book of letters to Michelle.

Friday's Book Signing in Buffalo

Tomorrow, Friday the 13th, Barbara and Peggy will be signing copies of GTM at Canisius College, starting at 9:00 am.

Barbara tells us that 200 high school students are expected to be there, and each one will receive a copy of the book. Also, a number of GTM contributors are expected to attend and be involved in the dialogue.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Peggy and Barbara read their letters to Michelle

In our latest videos, Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Seals Nevergold read their own letters to Michelle Obama. The videos weave together family photos with Peggy's and Barbara's poignant vignettes from their family histories. We'd love to hear your feelings on these personal letters; please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Peggy reads her letter to Michelle.

Barbara reads her letter to Michelle.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Into the Light: Erie's African American experience

Peggy and Barbara spent this past Saturday making their way through the Curtze-Watson Mansion in Erie, PA, taking in a new exhibit called "Into the Light". The exhibit is dedicated to Erie's African American experience and all of the artifacts are on loan from Ada Lawrence—a local woman who is a descendant of slaves.

Read about "Into the Light" here; Peggy and Barbara were both interviewed by WICU 12 News for the story.

To learn more about the Curtze-Watson Mansion, visit the Erie County Historical Society's website.

From left to right, Dr. Ellie Walsh (African American Experience Committee), Barbara Seals Nevergold, Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Melinda Meyer (Assistant Director), Rosemari Graham (Executive Director of EC Historical Society of Erie, PA)

Announcing: The Go, Tell Michelle audio book!

Soon you will be able to listen to the powerful and passionate letters from Go, Tell Michelle, as read by Barbara and Peggy.

In another record-breaking demonstration of speed and the latest technology, we are delighted to reveal the imminent publication of the audio book version of Go, Tell Michelle! Barbara and Peggy are currently spending many hours recording the entire book at WBFO in Buffalo. Enjoy the book while in the car, hearing those unforgettable stories and songs as told by two unforgettable voices.

But there’s a bonus, here. The audio version of the book is expanded and richer than even the book! It will include a new, never before seen or heard introduction by Peggy and Barbara as well as even more unpublished letters and poems to Michelle!

Once the recording is completed in Buffalo, it will be remastered, manufactured, and ready for purchase in a few weeks. More details soon!