Becoming by Michelle Obama
3rd December 2018
The feeling of admiration and joy at hearing Michelle Obama talk candidly of her time as the first black first lady filled the royal festival hall with so much positive vibration that all the musical genres predating reggae, with reggae as chair, simultaneously got together and popped in accordance to what was being shared. The adulation in the room was moving. The security outside that could only hear her, said they felt it too. Two days later I’m still buzzing. It left me feeling as though we can do great things if we put our minds to it. The talk was filled with anecdotes that shone a light on how the media, no matter how far we come, will want to demonise the black body. To reaffirm that narrative just yesterday, on Facebook, I witnessed some eejyat bwoy liking her to a man. What a maggot. The media tell us that she emasculates her husband. She’s criticised for being too tall, too dark, doing too much. Tabloid dross. Far more apparent is the approval and applause that surrounds the work she is doing. Michelle Obama enters the stage, stage right and the audience here at the royal festival explodes. Everyone loves her.
Sat opposite her, asking the questions was another extraordinary woman, Nigerian feminist and author, Chimamanda Adichie. Michelle’s words are relatable, she speaks on a personal level about the complication of maintaining a relationship under such intense pressure. Like all marriages, there’s work to be done. It’s not all love and roses and from time to time she feels like giving her husband Barack Obama “just a tiny little push out of the window”. She went on to say how one of her major fears was that she might fall over during a public event. And on a more serious note how to unpack and deal with racism that she bears witness to on a personal level and through the media. Yes, it did sometimes get to her, and yes it did hurt, but she knew that throughout each stage she had to pick up more knowledge, step up and push on through. She also shared that at a certain point in her own growth that she did not want to live in the air stream of Barack, so she had to be an independent woman of her own making. Michelle Obama is that and more! With a law degree, she started her career as an attorney at a Chicago law school, where she met Barack, and she founded the Chicago chapter of Public Allies; a company that prepares young people for careers in the public service. With the run-up to Barack Obama presidency and that air stream getting ever more prominent she tells us that she just kept on telling herself to relax because after this campaign they could just get back to normal. After all, “ain’t nobody gonna vote for a man with a name like Barack Hussein Obama!” Reminding us that there are people out there that share the same goals and aspirations as we do. The conversation still needs to happen, and the work still needs to be done. That is why Barack managed to get through. Most people do want the best for humanity. Her goal is to inspire young people to feel positive about themselves and to structure in strategies towards fostering well-being. All of us are always working to becoming, she tells the crowd. It never stops. And on reflection I say to myself, there’s nothing like Trump, Brexit and the tories to remind us that if we sleep things goes low. And in Michelle Obama words. When they go low, we go high. And in my opinion, if we forget to keep on talking about what that low is and who seeks to benefits the most, then people like Trump will pull through. The wisdom she shared made ‘a change for the better’ seem tangible. In my opinion, this extreme-right era that we are now in is automatically bringing a mirror to reflect back the futility in wishing to cling on tight to tired, worn out, old beliefs. Beliefs that insists on dragging its heels like a hungover walk of shame on a cold, wet, frosty morning. Where sobriety waits in the wings and recovery is possible. Speaking of a hangover, I’m looking forward to burying myself in Becoming as my Christmas read. That is if I’ve not drunk too much port.
All in all the event brought probably the largest gathering of black women under one roof at one time. Every single one of us looked a million dollars and felt less invisible then we had up until that point. I got to be in the same room as two remarkable women and meet some beautiful people in a space that was popping. A momentous occasion that I’m thrilled to be able to share and be a part of.
AND A MASSIVE shout out to my dear friend Dr Fiona Peters. Another amazing woman in her own right. It’s thanks to her determined 4.30am queuing mission that I got to be there. So big shout out to you too Fiona for making it happen.