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...