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.”

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