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!