Letters to Michelle Obama

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When they asked for messages for Michelle Obama, women of all ages and backgrounds responded. Many of them echoed the words of Paine College President Shirley A.R. Lewis who wrote, "Thank you for being such a vital part of this dream that I never thought I'd see in my lifetime."

Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Books-Bertram, co-founders of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women at the University at Buffalo, had the idea right after the election of Barack Obama. Why not go online and invite women everywhere to write to Michelle Obama and share their feelings about the election of her husband to the US presidency?

They received more than 200 responses from the US, Africa, and the Caribbean. These letters (and poems) are now being published in a book titled, "Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady."

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Nevergold and Books-Bertram told the Buffalo News that “Go, Tell Michelle” took 34 days to complete. They put the invitation to write online on Nov. 11 and then had until Dec. 26 to get book to the publisher (the State University of New York Press) – just in time to have it in print for Inauguration Day.

Most of the letters begin, "Dear Michelle." Many express, in one way or another, the feeling that Lori Jones of Bowie, Md., shared in a poem, "When I look at you, I see me."

Nevergold and Books-Bertram have been in contact with Obama’s transition office and hope that Michelle Obama will have received a copy of the book by today, Inauguration Day.

But it some of the messages in it may be even more meaningful in her husband's term. Some women expressed the hope that, when times get hard, the Obamas will not feel alone. "Michelle, when your shoulders are weary . . . lean on me. I am here. The power of God is within us and the universe awaits ,” wrote Vonetta T. Rhodes of Buffalo.

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