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!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Event reminders for today and tomorrow

Today at 2:00 EST, Barbara and Peggy will be interviewed by Diane Williams, Arts Industry Program Director, on The Mississippi Arts Hour Radio Show . The interview will be archived as a podcast on their site.

Tomorrow, Barbara and Peggy will sign copies of the book at the Erie County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society. Contact the Historical Society at 814-454-1813, ext. 0, for time and location information.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The inspiration behind the book

From Ida Jones of the Association of Black Women Historians.

One definition for the word inspiration, is “a sudden clever or timely idea.” Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write the New First Lady, edited by Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, is an expression of the word. “This extraordinary collection of letters to Michelle Obama says a great deal about the lives, the hopes, prayers, fears and aspirations of African American women today. Letters sent to any famous person from total strangers ultimately say more about the writers than about the recipient. Evoking tales of our ancestors is an ancient tradition in many African cultures, and a tradition very familiar to African Americans, ” pens Muriel A. Howard, President of Buffalo State College.

Peggy Brooks-Bertram stated that “After the election, we resolved to ask Black women around the world to write letters of support, love and encouragement. We wanted their heartfelt stories to send to the First African American First Lady of the nation.” On Thanksgiving day, the editors, through their website, solicited letters. Brooks-Bertram stated,“The response was tremendous, hundreds of letters. We chose 100 and the rest will be available online.” The editors were stunned that women were sending letters in between turkey and desserts on Thanksgiving day. “We wanted to make sure that women from all walks of life would be represented and so we have poets, professors, retirees, the elderly and the young. Each tells a different story,” stated Brooks-Bertram.

For weeks, the editors wrestled with the title of the book, initially dubbed Dear Michelle...which morphed into Go, Tell Michelle... “It’s more dynamic and has more action...The comma established a historic and appropriate voice and took us back to the title of an old Negro spiritual sung by America’s enslaved, 'Go, Tell It on the Mountain.'” Ultimately, what makes any book endearing is the sentiment expressed. In Rainbow House Sequoia Mercier wrote “I feel welcome now that I know little girls with double-dutch braids and missing teeth grow, play and dream there.” Contributor Donna Smith writes “At the end of the day, when the world outside is gone, please always know, that so much of the woman you are, I am. And I am here sending you love.” The last letter by Janeen Wilkins implores Michelle to “hold your head up high...women who have sustained this country are going to White House with you. So, Michelle...HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH. WE ARE GOING WITH YOU.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Download the book today!

Now you can enjoy the book without the attendant weight. Okay, it's a fairly light book, but now you can buy the book and download the electronic edition at our website. Get one for the house, the office, and now an electronic version for the laptop.

The electronic edition gives you all-time e-access, plus you can download and print the file. PDF Acrobat Reader is required.

Another contributor is interviewed

Read an interview here with Cornelia McCowan about her letter and Go, Tell Michelle. Ms. McCowan is project supervisor for the University of Texas at Dallas Academic Bridge Program.

The story behind the cover

A note on the cover, from Peggy & Barbara

Unlike other recent books on the First Lady which feature a single photo—glamour shot—of the First Lady on the cover, we chose to represent the First Lady as a person who can be up close and personal and in contact with the people. We are especially pleased with the second photo of the First Lady with an older woman because it also depicts the First Lady as willing to listen to the ordinary person. Through a bit of research, we found that this photo was taken on September 17, 2008 at an Economic Empowerment Session held at the Richmond Convention Center in Virginia. "The First Lady talked for about an hour with three Richmond-area women about their struggles—a woman with a college-age son and a mother with Alzheimer's disease; a 78 year old woman trying to pay the bills since her husband suddenly died; and a mother of three who works and attends school full time." Michelle was dressed casually and we understand that she requested that other women come dressed casually as well.

We were determined to find the names and stories of the women on the book cover, especially the older woman. The older woman in the bottom photo is 78 year old Ms. Mary Henley of Richmond, Virginia. We found Ms. Henley and contacted her. We were able to contact her because Ms. Henley's hairdresser was shown the book by one of the contributors to the book. The hairdresser was stunned and said, "that is my customer Ms. Henley." I got Ms. Henley's phone number from that contributor and gave her a call. Ms. Henley was both shocked and happy to learn that she was on the front cover of this book with the First Lady. She was thrilled. My first question was "What did the First Lady say to you?" Her response was, "I was so excited and my knees were knocking together so much that I do not remember a single word she said to me." I asked, "What did you tell Michelle?" She responded: "I told her about how my husband and I were in our late seventies and that we had to work part time to make ends meet. We both worked jobs cleaning offices. I told her that while me and my husband were driving to our part-time jobs he told me that he had a tingling in his legs, then he said he felt numb in his arms, then he just pulled off the side of the road, slumped over and died. I called 911 but I could not help him." She said that when she began to cry, the First Lady reached for tissues, put her arms around her and offered her words of comfort." I told Ms. Henley that we would send her a copy of the book. Her greatest wish is that she could get it signed by the First Lady. She also spoke lovingly of the First Lady who had sent her a nice letter after the Economic Summit and added her signature.

I am sharing this story because the women who contributed letters to the Go, Tell Michelle book also believe that this First Lady will hear their stories and read their words as they try to imbue comfort, love and support for her in her incredible task as First Lady of the nation.

— Peggy & Barbara

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In their own words

Watch and listen to coeditors Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram talk about the book from its conception to its completion and beyond. Enjoy!

Interview with a GTM contributor

A letter written by a General Board of Higher Education and Ministry staffer, Cynthia Bond Hopson, was selected for Go, Tell Michelle. Read an interview with Cynthia about her letter and the book here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mark your calendars

The buzz is building and the events are lining up. Here's a partial list (it's growing all the time; we'll keep you posted) of the upcoming events* for Go, Tell Michelle.

*Those events that are confirmed have (confirmed) listed after the dates. As you'll see we don't have times for most of these events, so we encourage you to follow up with the organizations listed below, but we'll do our best to list them when we know them.

The Mississippi Arts Hour Radio Show
Diane Williams, Arts Industry ProgramDirector, 2:00 EST. Archived as a podcast.

February 7 (confirmed)
Book signing and the launch of a special project of the Uncrowned Queens Institute.
February 13/14, in the evening
Albany, New York Black and Puerto Rican Caucus

February 13, a.m start time (confirmed)
Book signing and presentation.
February 22
Book signing and presentation.
February 24
Radio show with Batala McFarland, out of Minnesota.
February 28
Gladys Diji, one of the book's contributors, is having a large book signing at her home.
March 6
Book signing at the Barnes and Noble Books in Clarence, New York

More from the Uncrowned Queens

Looking to add to your Uncrowned Queens library? We've got more from the prolific team of Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram at our website. The four volumes of the Uncrowned Queens series contain biographies of African American women community leaders, while Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire is the classic history of Ancient Ethiopia, as researched and written by the heralded African American woman activist Drusilla Dunjee Houston.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

30% off when you order in February

In honor of Black History Month, Go, Tell Michelle is available from the SUNY Press Website at 30% off! At the low price of $12.57 you can buy one for yourself and some for your friends and family.

NPR features GTM's wisdom for the new First Lady

Listen to Barbara and Peggy discuss the book with Michele Norris on NPR's All Things Considered.