Monday, May 11, 2009

GTM Sisterhood Network: Closing a letter with Style, Lovely Valedictions

Like the rest of the world, I too, have been pondering over Michelle Obama’s first one hundred days as First Lady of the United States of America. I have also been combing through my mind and examining my thoughts for the one hundredth time about the themes in the letters and poems in Go, Tell Michelle. I thought about the individual poems and letters and I even memorized excerpts from some of them because I was so struck with their beauty and wisdom, like Lillian Bertram’s use of Cornelius Eady’s poem Gratitude to describe the journey of African American male writers where he writes, “for those who expected you to drown out there…well, you didn’t. ” I thought about Lillian Davis Wilson’s poem called A New Garden. I thought repeatedly about a letter by Janice Harris, not in the original book but in the audio book and still weep at her words. I reminisced on the lines in the letter from the African sister, Teta Banks from Liberia saying that “Liberia opens up its arms to Michelle Obama.” I thought a lot about what I might have missed in these women’s words and so I went back over them. When I got stuck on a particular meaning, I called some of the authors to find out what they meant by certain phrases, like Tracey Swinton Bailey. I asked her about the North Santee where she and Michelle Obama, transported from another time , another day, stood shoulder to shoulder watching dark men with strong backs and quick wit and mothers with clouds of wooly hair…” Arlette Miller Smith described Michelle Obama’s choice as First Lady as lifting historic burdens from the shoulders of great Black foremothers and she called the names of women I had not known like Jarena Lee and her spiritual awakening. I wanted to know of Jarena at least. I combed over the letters to see what they said about Barak Obama and his love of his wife Michelle. I was enthused all over again.

More than just the content of these writings, I became interested in both their greetings but especially the valedictions or closing of each letter to see if I could extract from them some additional meaning that would be relevant for the first one hundred days. As it turned out, while some writers thought they had no more to say, the valedictions themselves remain a testament to each contributor’s timeless dialogue. I have included only a few of these gems. Together they conjure the images of a garden of beautiful closings yet beautiful openings. And though they are their last words they are really first in the beginning of hope, love, well wishes and continued optimism for a hundred one hundred days for Michelle Obama.

Lillian Bertram: In Peace and Strength,
Karima Amin: Peace and love, hope and strength,
Arabella Grayson: Blessings of peace and prayers of serenity,
Doris Green: God Bless and Keep the Obama Family,
Faith Childs Davis: Living the Dream,
Amira Davis: Remember, Our Mothers Prayed,
Nicole Day: With Love,
Priscilla Hill: Peace and Love,
Donna Aza Smith: Sending You Love,
Dera R. Williams : God Bless You and Your Family,
Anita Arnold : Bustin’ with Pride in Oklahoma,
LaRhonda Crosby-Johnson: Thank you. Thank you. Dear Michelle,
Ellen Grant: God’s Peace,

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