Thursday, March 4, 2010

Go, Tell Michelle Inspires Students to Write Letters of Personal Reflection

Yesterday, we went to Geneseo State College about 60 miles from Buffalo. The College is noted as one of the State University of New York schools which is consistently ranked high for academic excellence. We were invited to participate in the College's Women's Expo, a day-long series of workshops and presentations on various issues important to women. The event is sponsored by the Women in Leadership Program; a collaboration of several campus organizations. Special thanks to Fatima Johnson, Director of the Multicultural Programs & Services for the invitation.

Our presentation which we entitled "Having Their Say: Documenting Black women's responses to the historic advent of America's First African American First Lady" was attended by a diverse audience of students, faculty and staff. We talked about the deep reservoir of issues reflected in our contributor’s letters to the First Lady; the importance of this book in documenting the responses of African American and African women to this historic event in our Nation's history; and the impact that our experiences in writing this book, meeting other contributors, meeting and receiving communications from our readers have had on us personally.

Throughout 2009 and now into 2010, our experiences with this "little" book of letters continue to surprise us, uplift us, dramatically demonstrate the power of letter writing as a tool of self-expression, and provide examples of the creativity and innovation of individuals in response to this work. Which brings me back to yesterday’s visit to Geneseo and some amazing young women, who we met -- starting with their counselor, Patricia Gonzalez, who mentors a women’s leadership group for the women of color on campus.

As it turns out, Patricia or Trish attended a presentation that we did last March at the Tri-State Consortium of Opportunity Program’s annual conference in New Jersey. I recall that we had a very large audience at our session. We had a book signing after the presentation and that a number of the participants asked about getting us to come to their campuses to talk about the book. After getting her copy of the book, however, Trish took it back to her students and after sharing the letters with them suggested that they write letters to themselves. The letters could be to their “old” self or to their “future” self. The exercise required honest and sometimes painful reflection and trust as the students were asked to read their letters aloud to members of their group.

Several of the students who came to our presentation yesterday participated in Trish’s group. They brought their letters and read them to us and the other members of the audience. What a special treat! As I said the letters were very personal and demonstrated the considerable thought, candid personal assessment and guide posts for future accomplishment that these young women saw for themselves. What an awesome experience! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Trish and your students for sharing with us. That was the highlight of our trip! We hope to hear from you. Hope you’ll respond to this blog and wish you continued success. In you we see our future and we are in good hands!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Drs. Nevergold and Brooks-Bertram:

    First, on behalf of the SUNY Geneseo campus and the Women's Leadership Institute, I would like to thank you both for taking the time to come and speak with our students during our 2010 Women's Expo. It was truly a wonderful experience for our students! The message that you gave our students, "Believe in your capacity to write", was a catalyst for many of them as they left the program Wednesday evening. Some of them decided that, as friends and supporters of each other, they would get together and write letters to themselves. A personal goal that I set for myself- to commit to writing every day -was confirmed by that one statement, "Believe in your capacity to write."

    Barbara, I want to thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my own blog post. That was such a gift and a blessing for me! Thanks again to you and Peggy for sharing your time with us, and thank you for Go, Tell Michelle. The impact of your creation will be felt for a very, very long time.

    Patricia Gonzalez