November 10, 2010
“Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women’s Response to the 2010 Mid-Term Elections” (working title)
Much has happened in the last 24 months! Two years ago this month, we celebrated the historic vote for Barack Obama as this country’s First African American President. We were excited, enthusiastic and hopeful that this election represented a sea change in race relations in this country. Our high expectations were tempered, however, by the tenor and tone of the campaign during which both President and Mrs. Obama were attacked through the use of stereotypic and racist imagery. So on November 18, 2008, we wrote an open letter to African American women requesting their submission of letters and poems that expressed their esteem, regard and support of Michelle Obama, as she embarked on an uncertain journey as this country’s first African American First Lady.
The response was over-whelming. In the short span of three weeks we received hundreds of letters. The messages expressed a wide-range of issues that African American women wanted to share with the First Lady as well as their well-wishes and support. For example, many of you used your personal histories and experiences as the backdrop to underscore the important impact you believed that Mrs. Obama would have on the image of Black women – as mothers, career women, accomplished leaders. You told her that you thought she would help to dispel the myths and misconceptions about Black women. You juxtaposed this election against the history of Black people in this country to emphasize its ground-breaking significance. You implored the First Lady to adopt your causes, e.g. health care, education, military families, as her causes. You paid homage to our ancestors, who would have rejoiced “to see this day!”
From the many letters we received, one hundred were accepted for the volume we entitled: “Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady”. Since its publication, “Go, Tell Michelle” has received rave reviews and a major book award. It has been used as a classroom text, a model for college women’s self-awareness discussion groups and adapted into a play. It is the only book that provided a platform for the voices of a diverse group of African and African American women to have their say about this historic event in American political/social history. In short, the messages sent to Mrs. Obama spoke not only for the writer but for our sisters around the world.
In the wake of the mid-term elections, we look back over the previous two years of the Obama presidency. During this period, the President and Mrs. Obama have faced unprecedented attacks that have included the “birther” debate, questioning President Obama’s citizenship and thus his legitimacy as the 44th US President. The question of his religion has become another “straw argument” in the on-going campaign to discredit the President’s authenticity and recent polls show that a sizable segment of the American population believe that he is a Muslim not a Christian. While still a topic that the President personally eschews, the issue of racism is increasingly identified as being the crux of the personal animosity toward him and his family.
While the First Lady appears to enjoy a higher approval rating than the President, she has not escaped criticism, which has been biased, mean-spirited and not befitting the office of First Lady. Many of the projects she’s advanced to combat child hood obesity, aid military families, promote education, for example, have been met with derision and ridicule. Even her personal appearance has been fodder for political opponents and right wing pundits. Most recently, reminiscent of the questions about who paid for Mrs. Robinson’s move to the White House, disparaging comments were leveled at the First Lady for a trip to Spain that combined official business with a mini-vacation for her and her daughter. Mrs. Obama and her children have also been the subjects of stereotypic and racist comments. When the perpetrators were called on these, they tried to cloak their offensive remarks in the thin vale of humor.
Given the foregoing and the recent mid-term election results, we think that this is the time to revisit, “Go, Tell Michelle” and for African American women once more to go on record. We are actively working on a sequel to volume one because the outcome of the Mid-Term Election is equally historic, not just because of the resurgence of the Republican Party and the rise of the Tea Party and the so-called “Grizzly Mommas” but for the implications it has for the 2011 Election. While the first two years of Mrs. Obama’s tenure as First Lady have presented successes, the challenges also remain, some of which we anticipated and some we did not. We are returning to you and others asking that you submit another letter to Michelle expressing your sentiments around these issues and your concerns for this young family.
We also have a Survey that we are asking you to respond to. We will send this questionnaire under separate cover. Whether you decide to write a letter or not, please take some time to respond to the Survey and return it to us. Once again, we are asking African and African American women around the world to raise their voices and send their messages to Mrs. Obama. We cannot afford to be silent in these tumultuous times. We are asking for your response by December 20th.
Please feel free to share this “Call” with others.
Attachment: Consent Form