Monday, May 18, 2009

Bed Time Stories with the League of Black Women

It’s 8:30 p.m. May 15, 2009 and the women attendees of the League of Black Women Sixth Annual Conference, led by Sandra Finley, President and CEO, are gathering in the Grand Ballroom for the League’s Bedtime Stories Presentation. The keynote presenters are co-editors of Go, Tell Michelle, Drs. Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Seals Nevergold. The Grand Ballroom is on the 16th Floor of the Trump International Hotel in Chicago. One full side of the room is glass and overlooks canal systems running through the city against the backdrop of the beautiful Chicago skyline. The view was at our back and was breathtaking. Nearly one hundred women arrived in fluffy white robes provided by the Trump International Hotel. Many were in lovely pajamas and fluffy slippers to match. Some women sat at tables and others lined the floor propped up against fluffy silk pillows. With a late evening snack of caramel popcorn, chocolate covered popcorn, special cookies, decadent brownies shaped like miniature sandwiches and distilled water, the stage was set for a wonderful evening. Everyone was relaxing and getting ready to receive their guests. All of the women came with their Go, Tell Michelle books purchased by the League and presented to them for this special presentation. And what an occasion it was! Barbara and I were thrilled to speak before this wonderful group of managers, corporate execs, CEO’s, organization builders, educators and others. The beautiful setting was definitely an added bonus. With the lights dimmed and everyone comfortable, we talked about the origins of the Uncrowned Queens Institute and our efforts to continue building this one of a kind national model. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the Institute and we discussed our major source of support and our partnership with the University at Buffalo.

We turned our attention to the Go, Tell Michelle book of letters to the First Lady Obama published by SUNY Press. These women read along with us as we read passages from the book. They recalled stories of their own mothers and grandmothers and father and grandfathers. Some huddled together and wept while comforting one another. All shared their exhilaration at Michelle Obama becoming the First Lady of the United States of America. They thanked us profusely for taking the time to gather letters for this book. The major question of the night was: “Has Michelle Obama received this book? Has Michelle Obama agreed to meet with the contributors of the book? What can we do to get the book to the attention of the White House? And, “when is the second book being published” as many wanted to write their own letters. Overall, everyone wanted to make sure that we were doing everything possible to get this book to the attention of the First Lady. Many offered suggestions. At the conclusion of the presentation, Sandra Finley, who has a letter in the audio book of Go, Tell Michelle, asked each of the women for a brief statement that they would share with the First Lady. Their responses were electric and we hope we captured their essence in the accompanying video.

In the end, these women gave us incredible emotional buoyancy. They not only came with their books for signing, but also insisted that we embrace them and take photos with them. There was so much love and passion in that room and we felt it. We continue to feel it as we document the experience because it was truly extraordinary to see another group of African American women use the occasion of discussing the Go, Tell Michelle book to send their own special message to First Lady Michelle Obama.

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