Monday, March 15, 2010

Go, Tell Michelle and “Writing Women Back into History”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project. In recognition of this milestone and to underscore the necessity of continuing the work to document the contributions of women to this nation’s history, the Project’s 2010 Women’s History Month Theme is “Writing Women Back into History”. In elaborating on the theme, the Project states that: “It often seems that the history of women is written in invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are frequently left out of the history books.” And when we apply this statement to the identification, documentation and preservation of the history of women of color its implication is even more significant.

Over the last three decades it’s not surprising that the body of research and the publications on women have increased substantially as women have assumed the responsibility for writing our own history in indelible ink. For women of color, while strides have been made in documenting our achievements and contributions in every aspect of human endeavor, we still find that our history is often over-looked, trivialized, ignored, distorted or marginalized. Since the publication of “Go, Tell Michelle”, Peggy and I have addressed numerous audiences across this country. We’ve made a point of explaining the significant contribution that “Go, Tell Michelle” makes to the history of Black women. this book documents, in their own words, the responses of black women to the historic election of the first African American President of the United States and the First African American First Lady of the United States- Michelle Obama.

Far from “neatsy, cutesy” social letters sending best wishes to Michelle Obama, the one hundred women who wrote to Mrs. Obama addressed numerous subjects that are of concern to them. The themes expressed in these letters are indicative of individual and as well as universal issues. Within the letters, the women used mechanisms such as poems, family stories and anecdotes, and references to historic events and individuals. Several major themes emerge from the letters; they talk about the negative stereotypic image of Black women and how Michelle has begun to dispel these myths; they admire and applaud her stance as Mom-in-Chief and her decision to have her mother move to the White House with the family; they encourage her to adopt certain causes – health care, military families, mental health and education; they offer prayers for her and President Obama and remind her that “our mothers prayed for you”. The themes of these letters reflect the genuine and thoughtful messages these women wanted to share with Mrs. Obama. I only offer a few here as we look for feedback from readers.

“Go, Tell Michelle” offers a unique opportunity for educators, in secondary and post-secondary schools to use the only book of its kind – a contemporary compilation of the responses of a diverse group of black women to an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history. In fact we have received information from a number of schools that have used the book in Black Women’s Studies; Psychology of Black Women, Black Women’s Leadership Forum. These include: Bennett College, Geneseo College, Los Angeles Southwest Community College, and Diablo Valley College, CA. Also, one doctoral student cited “Go, Tell Michelle” extensively in the Epilogue of her dissertation.

So, if you know of any educator who is using GTM as a text in a course or for a special assignment, we ask that you let us know how the book is being used and the response of the students.

Photo: Peggy and Barbara with Gwen Ifill and Michele Norris at NABJ Conference - August 2009

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