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.


  1. You ladies are doing it, representing on the East Coast. Keep doing your thing.

  2. This blog is so helpful. I just reading this blog nice very nice. I really love how your blog looks. You ladies are doing it. Keep up the awesome work. thank you for shearing your post.