You is kind, you is smart, you is really playing a damn Mammy in 2012?

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Sorry Y’all, I just can’t get over black women of my generation willing to lower themselves to play mammies that whitewash the Jim Crow subjugation of our people while Barack and Michelle Obama are living in the White House.  There is something profoundly deceitful about that which completely ignores the struggle to go from the slave quarters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Secondly, I can’t give a pass to these admittedly gifted actresses who collude with an unscrupulous author like Kathryn Stockett in her deliberate theft of a real black woman’s name, image and likeness just to make a buck.

While I applaud the Academy for selecting the incomparable Meryl Streep for Best Actress, any organization that could nominate The Help for a Best Picture nod is irredeemably evil. It is almost criminal that Black actors can only be recognized for roles that debase & defame black people as pathological and dysfunctional stereotypes.

I realize that it is hard out here for black actors, but on some level don’t Whoopi, Halle, Taraji, Gabourey, Monique,Viola, Octavia and their Black brothers, have a responsibility for the characters they’re willing to portray given the blatant racism in Hollywood? Is the validation of Whitefolks really that valuable?

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Obama

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Today is the birthday of Barack Obama’s “rock,” Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.  Mrs. O is 45 today. If you could wish the beautiful, vibrant, dynamic, sophisticated and accomplished First Lady Happy Birthday in person, what would you say to the sistah whose sacrifices gave us the first Black President?

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Michelle and Laura tour the White House

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After arguing passionately over proposition 8, I feel that you all could use some humor.  This is my first attempt at humor in a long while.   It stops when I am depressed and I am trying to recover.

I understand Michelle Obama got a grand tour of their new digs the other day and a little birdie told me that this is how it went down.

Mrs. Bush: (with clenched teeth and squeezed butt cheeks)   Welcome to the White House, Mrs. Obama.  It is a (makes air quotes) “fabulous honor” for me to introduce you to the loyal household staff and give you the grand tour of the entire residence and state rooms.

Mrs. Obama: Mrs. Bush, the cameras are gone.  You can cut the act.

Mrs. Bush: Whew.  Thank You.  I didn’t know how long I could’ve kept up the act.  The truth of the matter is that you people frighten me.  I just don’t know what this world is coming to.  Your husband’s election over a perfectly good white man is just not right if you ask me.

Mrs. Obama: No damnbody asked you.

Mrs. Bush: Anyhoo, I’ve had two Xanax and two Bloody Mary’s so we need to make this quick before they kick in.

Mrs. Obama: I can handle it from here. Don’t you have some embarrassingly servile House Negro who can show me around while you sleep it off?

Mrs. Bush: Condi is either shopping for shoes or in the Middle East and George fired that turncoat Colin Powell four years ago.

Mrs. Obama: No, Ma’am.  I didn’t mean those embarrassingly servile House Negroes, I meant the Black servants that wait on you hand and foot like they’re still on a plantation.

Mrs. Bush: Ron Christie, Armstrong Williams, and Alphonso Jackson are no longer with the Administration, dear.

Mrs. Obama: Nevermind. I see your (makes air quotes) “medication” is beginning to kick in.  Let’s just move on.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, this is the White House Red Room, one of the White House’s many color themed historic parlors.   In keeping with this theme, your husband could entertain his many socialist and communist sympathizers and collaborators as they plot to redistribute the hard earned wealth of the the richest 1%.

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Mrs. Obama: Since were on the red theme, is this the room where your husband concocted the twin red herrings of weapons of mass destruction and yellow cake uranium from Africa as a pretext for war in Iraq? Cat got your tongue?  That’s what I thought. Why dontcha just keep it moving.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, this is the famous Lincoln Bedroom that the previous president kept as busy as a brothel on a Saturday night by wheeling his wealthy campaign donors in and out at lightning speed. Needless to say, we’ve restored the room to its intended purpose.  How do you people plan to honor President Lincoln?

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Mrs. Obama: The best way to honor President Lincoln, Mrs Bush, is to unify the nation and preserve the union he so vigorously defended, unlike your draft-dodging, chickenhawk husband, and to work across the aisle with mutual respect and bipartisanship.

Mrs. Bush: Michelle, dear, here we have the historic Treaty Room as renamed by Jacqueline Kennedy, your role-model.   Speaking of Mrs. Kennedy, I do hope that you can keep better track of your husband than Jackie could. Democrat wives seem to have a problem in that department.  Anyhoo, The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in this room by President Kennedy in 1963. Your husband can use the room to surrender our nation’s sovereignty to the U.N. and leave us defenseless in the War on Terror.

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Mrs. Obama: Treaties, now that’s a concept I wasn’t aware the Administration knew anything about.   Have you ever heard about the Geneva Conventions?  No?  Neither has GeeShrubya.   As for keeping track of my man, nobody whose ever worked for Barack ever slipped up and referred to him as “my husband,” like your girl, Condi.  I know my man, but it must be sheer torture wondering whether your husband has a taste for brown sugar, honey.  Barack certainly does, and as you can see, (with both hands on her hips) that’s one mission he accomplished when he married me.

Mrs. Bush: (Flustered) Well I never…

Mrs. Obama: That probably explains alot.  Can we wrap this up?

Mrs. Bush: Last on our tour is the Diplomatic Reception Room, which serves as an entrance to the White House from the South Grounds for the members of the first family and for visiting dignitaries and ambassadors arriving to officially present their credentials to the President.  Y’all can use this room to pray to Mecca five times a day and receive all your terrorist supporters like Ahmadinejad and Hamas.

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Mrs. Obama: Diplomacy.  Now that’s another concept I am certain y’all aren’t familiar with.  How could you be…what with your preoccupation with preemptive war and indiscriminate bombing of defenseless civilians and all.  It’s hard to find time to grapple with the complexities of international law and the rules of war when your wars are just shameless grabs for oil and economic supremacy.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, that concludes the official tour. Is there anything else you’d like to see?

Mrs. Obama: You mean other than seeing you, Lynn Cheney, and Mrs. Rumsfeld visiting your husbands in federal prison?

Mrs. Bush: Yes.

Mrs. Obama: I’d really love to see you carry your flat ass upstairs and pack.  Your time’s up.

Barack Obama, a proxy for racial equality

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Barack Obama is a proxy for some people for the conversation about race that they have no courage or inclination to have.  At best, he is a denatured Negro and political centrist acceptably black and mainstream to the white power structure chiefly because of his moderate Senate record and because he refused to discuss the incendiary, racial polarization games of Bill Clinton. After sweeping 13 states from coast to coast and running up 7,369,798 votes, 41% of white voters, and 48% of white males, some pundits, like Juan Williams, are still calling Obama, “the black candidate,” a charge I find both ludicrous and offensive.  

What’s the matter Juan, Fox News looking to replace you with a more rabid right wing Uncle Tom?  Wasn’t your recent softball interview with Dubya enough to prove your fealty to the dark side? Somebody else got their eyes on your prized perch of televised Negro servitude?   

All last year, I mined the depths of my ambivalence for Barack Obama, and exposed and explored his politically expedient positioning for this White House bid.  I was brutally honest and as fair as I knew how to be.  The crux of my criticisms, in a nutshell, was his departures from the consensus of black opinion regarding slave reparations, voting to confirm Condoleezza Rice, and voting for tort reform and free trade-which seems like slavery to those ensnared by it.   He is most certainly not “the Black Candidate” and Black voters, not known for reading the fine print, know little about that record.

Instead, Black voters support Barack Obama because of the extraordinary marketing campaign being run by his team and the compelling power of surrogates like his wife Michelle and Oprah Winfrey.   It also didn’t hurt that Clinton surrogates tried to smear Obama with a criminal label and the epithet of “Black Candidate” like Bill Clinton and so many others have tried to do. The brotha makes us proud and lets us hold our heads up high for a change.  

Truthfully, this is as good as it gets.  We won’t have a chance like this again for some time-if ever, we know that, and we’ve fallen in line.  The power structure has allowed this brotha to compete as long as he is clear on a few ground rules:  no material changes will be made to the racist global economic order, Africa will not be liberated from its economic dependence on the World Bank and the IMF, and incremental changes in domestic economic institutions like the health care system will be permitted within certain limits.  

Race and the deleterious effects of institutionalized racism are not on the white power structure’s agenda of sanctioned items for the next President because his very election will be misinterpreted to mean that this nation has moved past race.  It will be up to us to put it on the agenda where it belongs until it is properly dealt with.  We’ve got to be realistic as a community.  A candidate who risks political suicide by having a truthful discussion about race will never be the progressive champion we envision without pressure.

While not hostile to black interests per se, Obama will probably be less than helpful in implementing a “black agenda,” as defined by the esteemed Black Agenda Report.  A President Obama will need to be treated like any other president and held to a high standard by the black community.  

Most of us are hopeful that the example of a black man as President will change things and change people in positive ways.    I am sure that it will but I am less sure that the positive change will be lasting or that he will be able to implement a transformative agenda.   Tom Bradley was Mayor of Los Angeles for twenty years, a mentor to good brothas like Tavis Smiley, and still gangs and drugs are prevalent in our community.  

Ten years ago, Gary Orfield, a professor of Education at UCLA, speaking on a panel with Michael Eric Dyson in Dyson’s Book “Debating Race,” said, “There are tremendous inequities in our society today, [measured] by race and by poverty.  They’re growing. We have the most unequal distribution of income and opportunity of any major democracy.  In the mid 1960’s and 70’s we developed a set of policies to try to make that work better.  We’re now dismantling them on a very large scale under the leadership of a Supreme Court that was constructed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”   

“We do not have an alternate plan.  We think it will just work out automatically, and it won’t.  And we have to face up to that.   We have not cured the problems of our history.  We have not achieved equality for even one day, in terms of outcomes in this society.  We can’t deny that, and we have to try to resolve it.  And we have to resolve it, those of us who are white, before we become the minority, and minority rights become not just a theory but something we have to worry about also.”   

Nothing has changed under this President Bush.  His malevolent agenda has made things even worse than those that came before. This week, speaking to my Grandma, I reminded her to caucus this weekend for Barack Obama.  During the course of the conversation, Mama told me that she went to a mall in my Midwestern hometown to have her blood pressure checked.  An older white man from the Carolinas checked her pressure and then broke down crying asking Mama for her forgiveness for all whites had done to our people.  

I was speechless.   

While confession is good for the soul, I don’t know how good that confession really was for Mama.  She had the conversation about race that I wish we all could have but it lacked any discussion of remuneration. I would have preferred that she’d been paid what she was worth as a nurse for 37 years at a Veterans Administration hospital.  

Mama never did make the top pay grade after all that time, a fact I found out when I worked as a nursing assistant at her hospital during college. She would be getting more in retirement now if she had and could rest a little easier. Rhetoric about hope aside, which we desperately need, we still need to get down to brass tacks about the inequity in this society.    

Progressives are being drowned out by opportunistic handkerchief heads like Juan Williams who know damn better. They undermine the consensus of opinion in the black community and make it difficult for savvy and pragmatic politicians like Barack Obama to advance by pushing a progressive agenda.  I have been clear that I don’t like the accommodations Obama made to get to this point, but I realize that his candidacy would be impossible without them.   

The tragedy of our system is that corporate accommodation is mandatory for political advancement and I remain hopeful that the inspiration Obama provides to young brothas and sistahs will mitigate the damage our plutocracy inflicts on their dreams and aspirations for the future.

Women for Obama tour a roaring success

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Caroline started off, Oprah broke it down, Michelle kept it real, and Maria Shriver surprised everybody and spoke from the heart. The Kennedyesque themes of hope and opportunity are reaching people all over the nation and Obama is rapidly closing the gap. Nayayers like Juan Williams believe that Hillary still has a huge advantage, others see that this race is far from over and will not be decided on Super Tuesday.

Senator Obama himself spoke to a crowd of over 20,000 in Delaware while Bill Clinton was banished to the chitlin circuit of Los Angeles black churches to hawk his snake oil for Hillary. CNN described his foray as a “mea culpa tour.” I think its too little and too late for most blackfolk. Clinton is reduced to having Negro surrogates vouch for him and introduce him to African American audiences now. Before he sought to racially polarize people, that would have been unnecessary. He could have gone anywhere to talk to blackfolks and been received warmly. Now, folks have to remember that they are in the House of the Lord and remain polite. Sad.

The one thing that mystifies me is the stasis field a lot of African Americans seem to be stuck in torn between Hillary and Obama. I never thought it would be a tough choice for somebody like Snoop Dog. The Clintons would like nothing better than to diss somebody like him for a 21st century Sistah Souljah moment. I thought the brotha could see that.

The Clintons are so desperate for Negro support now that they will go anywhere and do anything for it. Hopefully folk won’t fall for the okeydoke.

As for the polls, they’re all headed in one direction-toward Obama. The only question is whether there is enough time between now and Tuesday to overcome Hillary completely.

South Carolina panic attack

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For the past five days, Hillary has left the Natural free to roam the upstate fields and low country swamps of South Carolina. Bill has been gleefully going door-to-door in the black community in a quest for whom he may deceive and devour. Never one to go anywhere unaccompanied or empty handed, I envision Bill smartly tailored with a bucket of chicken in one hand and bucket of chitlins in the other. I shudder to think of the dumbstruck reactions of unsuspecting blackfolk upon discovering their pastor and the 42nd President of the United States on the front porch.

Investing myself emotionally in this campaign is truly a nightmare and the aforementioned image has kept me up for many a night. Ron Lester, a black political consultant who has handled the campaigns of several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, has produced a poll for Ebony/Jet Magazine, which shows Obama leading Hillary by a 37% to 27% margin. His margin of error is 2.9%. Worst case we’re looking at 34% to 30% with 22% undecided. I trust him because he told me to call him out of the blue one day and he encouraged me to keep writing.

In addition, his poll shows 26% of African Americans undecided. That’s a big number given the fact that the last day of respondents was polled the day after Hillary ripped Barack’s head off and shat down his throat. HOW IN THE HELL CAN ONE BE UNDECIDED AFTER SEEING THAT.

Damn. I don’t want to sound negative, but I just don’t feel good about South Carolina. The election is tomorrow, other polls show Obama firmly ahead by larger margins, but none was taken by a brotha well versed in deciphering blackfolks opinions.

After being introduced to phenomenal Michelle Obama, a homegirl with Georgetown, SC roots, they’d better not turn back around because Bill Clinton fell up in their crib brandishing some damn fried chicken and chitlins to make up for the Clintons stealthy triangulations and groundless attacks which made this campaign about race.

Michelle Obama reunites with her SC kith and kin

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Michelle Obama (center), her brother Craig (left), and the extended Robinson family in Georgetown, SC this afternoon.  

While she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, Michelle Obama’s trip this afternoon to Georgetown, SC was really a homecoming. Michelle’s grandfather, Fraser Robinson Sr., was originally from Georgetown and, while she was growing up, Michelle and her family regularly spent part of their summers visiting their extended relatives in the Low Country town.

Joined by her brother Craig, Michelle’s afternoon in Georgetown started with a reunion and some sweet tea with her cousins Connie Jones, Dorthy Robinson, and Harolyn Siau at the Robinson family home near downtown Georgetown.

The meeting also provided Michelle and Craig with an opportunity to take a look at fmaily photos Cousin Dorthy keeps on top of her piano.

After meeting with her cousins, Michelle went down the street to her grandfather’s old church, Bethel A.M.E., in historic Georgetown, where she spoke to a packed house of South Carolina Obama supporters that included over thirty-one of her own family members from the area.

 

During her speech, Michelle touched on the concerns that some have about whether or note Barack has enough experience to be President.

While he may not have the long Washington resume of other candidates, Michelle noted, with Barack’s background as a community organizer in Chicago — working right along side the people he sought to help — and eight years as a State Senator (more years in the kind government that’s closest to each of us than anyone else in the race) in the rough and tumble world of Illinois politics, he clearly has the kind of experience that the country needs right now.

It’s not that Barack isn’t ready, Michelle said,

The challenge for us is to ask, “What are we ready for?” This one is on us — see, we like to talk about change, but we don’t really like change. We want easy change, we want change that will make us feel comfortable, but that’s not how change happens, it’s not something that’s just going to come to you passively.

Things aren’t gong to get better when you wish for it or you hope for it: Things get better when regular folks take action to make change happen from the bottom up. Every major, historical moment in our time it has been made by folks who said “Enough,” and they banded together to move this country forward — and now is one of those times.

 Hat Tip: Obama for America

OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

The Oprah and Obama show in South Carolina

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The last leg of the Oprah and Obama show will be held today in South Carolina and I am going to gauge the reaction of black folk to this huge celebrity spectacle.  Pray for me, my car is need of service but I just can’t stay away.   I watched animatedly the reaction in Iowa and was amazed by the response.  18,000+ thousand in Des Moines alone.  The horrible weather today in Iowa ain’t nothin to sneeze at.  The event in South Carolina will surely rival that as the biggest crowd of the campaign.    Oprah is a tremendous draw and sistahs hold her in higher esteem than they do Hillary.    We shall see if it does the trick.

Addendum:  I am still writing a post about this experience and trying to fully account for everything that happened.  Stay tuned.

Obama 08: a black bourgeois fantasy

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“Despite their solid achievements and the satisfactions which they derived from their way of life, there was always an atmosphere of unreality surrounding the isolated life of the small black middle class.  …urbanization and the increasing occupational differentiation of the Negro population undermined the privileged position of the old middle class.  But more important still, the compensations which ancestry, puritanical morals, and especially education, provided in a hostile white world were inadequate in the life of the new black bourgeoisie.”   

“Having become less isolated and thus more exposed to the contempt and hostility of the white world, but at the same time cherishing the values of the white world, the new black bourgeoisie with more money at their disposal, have sought compensation in the things that money can buy.   Moreover, their larger incomes have enabled them to propagate false notions about their place in American life and to create a world of make-believe.” 

- E. Franklin Frazier, in “Black Bourgeoisie”   

Because of the illusory affluence of conspicuous consumption and the presence of the largest black middle class in history, some of us have bought into the lie of American democracy and have become captivated with the idea that we can somehow elect a black president.  We have bought into the rhetoric of hope and the audacity of bourgeois hubris.  

Sistah Obama was right when she said  “If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, it’s just a dream.”   It is a dream because Political Scientist Michael Parenti describes the Presidency as nothing more than a bait and switch game intended to pull the wool over the eyes of the public while slavishly serving the powerful.  We have studiously avoided seeing that Barack Obama has signaled his intention to serve the powerful in everyway he can.   

He rejects reparations, played footsie with Chicago’s corrupt Daley Machine and ignored its police brutality, caved to the Israel Lobby, voted for Condi Rice, equivocated on war funding (voting for it before he was against it), and his health care plan isn’t universal. The only thing he hasn’t done is walk up and down the streets of America peddling his ass like a prostitute.  

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is a black middle class fantasy, an idealistic delusion of epic proportions that those outside of the black community have hijacked to achieve their own malevolent ends. Most Americans will never grasp the significance of our nation’s role as an imperial power that enforces a bloody and repressive economic and political hegemony upon the world’s colored peoples.  They have been uniformly brainwashed by patriotic propaganda advanced by a greedy and self-interested corporate media and indoctrinated by historical revisionists that omit America’s history of genocide, slavery and discrimination.  

The President is the guardian of our undemocratic system and the character of the presidency perverts any good intention.  Parenti writes, “If presidents tend to speak one way and act another, it is due less to some inborn flaw shared by the varied personalities who occupy the office than to the nature of the office itself.  Like any officeholder, the president plays a dual role in that he must satisfy the major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people. He differs from other politicians in that the demands and expectations of his office are greater and therefore the contradictions deeper.  …Like other politicians, perhaps more so, the president is caught between the demands of democracy and the powers of plutocracy.” 

No matter what set of progressive policies our president claims fealty to, his responsibility to the capitalist power structure will always be greater and his response to the entreaties of its emissaries shall forever be swifter.  Placing Barack’s narrow behind in the oval office won’t change this dynamic of power.  

The futility of this delusional presidential exercise is borne out by poll numbers, which reveal that the majority of African Americans are still with Hillary.  During the period of sky-high poll numbers and uncritical acclaim, Obama’s poll numbers with the black community were in the toilet.  Now that the newness has worn off the Safe Negro and whitefolks adoration and worship has cooled, blackfolks have started to take a second look.  He ain’t never gonna get off that racial seesaw and it will eventually become his undoing as a candidate.  

We have the means through which to control a great deal that happens to and within our communities but haven’t because of a lack of vision. That will not change because Barack Obama stepped onto the scene.  The relative weakness of our political leadership and the precariousness of our economic strength keep the enormous power of the world’s wealthiest black middle class in check.  

In this respect, little has changed since Dr. Frasier wrote, “Since the black bourgeoisie is composed chiefly of white collar workers and since its small business enterprises are insignificant in the American economy, the black bourgeoisie wields no political power as a class in American society.  Nor does the black bourgeoisie exercise any significant power within the Negro community as an employer of labor.  Its power within the Negro community stems from the fact that middle-class Negroes hold strategic positions in segregated institutions and create and propagate the ideologies current in the Negro community.” 

“In the political life of the American society the Negro political leaders, who have always had a middle-class outlook, follow an opportunistic policy.  They attempt to accommodate the demands of Negroes for better economic and social conditions to their personal interests which are tied up with the political machines, which in turn are geared to the interests of the white propertied classes.” 

Ultimately, it is the white power structure, not us, that will benefit from the next presidency, whichever candidate is selected.  In the unlikely event that I am wrong and an Obama presidency materializes, those whose mission it is to turn back the clock on social progress will have all the ammunition they need to destroy forever the possibility of progressive change.  His election will be hailed from coast to coast as a triumph over racism and our legacy of discrimination when it will be anything but.  

It’s time to wake up from our middle class fantasies and realize the ideological cul-de sac American politics is and do something about the unequal power relationships that disadvantage us socially, economically, and politically.

Oprah Obama Fundraiser update

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Hat Tip: Lynn Sweet Blog, Chicago Sun Times 

MONTECITO, CALIF. — Oprah Winfrey opened the high iron gates of her highly guarded estate here Saturday to raise more than $3 million for White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), his biggest single-day haul ever, in a fund-raising spectacle rarely seen in U.S. politics.

“I haven’t been actively engaged before because there hasn’t been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” a source said Winfrey told the crowd just before the concert, starring Stevie Wonder.

Introducing Obama, Winfrey said that “nobody can stand in the way of destiny.”

“It’s unbelievable,” said Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias as the Great Gatsby party scene unfolded before him on Winfrey’s meadow under a gorgeous sky.

Real celebrities mingled with Obama’s best donors and bundlers rewarded for their fund-raising efforts with a star-studded afternoon. Among those present at the event featuring the two most famous Chicagoans in the world: actors Lou Gossett Jr.; Cicely Tyson; Forest Whitaker; Ellen Pompeo; Sidney Poitier; Linda Evans; Tyler Perry; Chris Rock; Hill Harper (who attended Harvard Law with Obama); music producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds; Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, football quarterback Rodney Peete; Winfrey beau Stedman Graham; radio personality Tom Joyner; sports legends Ernie Banks, Bill Russell and Dave Winfield; tennis great Jimmy Connors, and model Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber.

There was a contingent from Obama’s Chicago-based kitchen cabinet, including Habitat honcho Valerie Jarrett and John Rogers, the Illinois finance co-chair.

The most important VIPs got to drive right up to the mansion, with most of the estimated 1,500 attendees who either gave or raised $2,300 shuttled by bus to Winfrey’s from the Earl Warren Showgrounds eight miles away in Santa Barbara.

At 3 p.m., there was Oprah/Obama gridlock on the Highway 101 Las Positas off-ramp leading to the staging area. Two women wearing leis waiting in the traffic jam said they flew in from Hawaii for the event. Judge Greg Mathis, who presides over the “Judge Mathis” show taped in Chicago, was in line, idling in his convertible Mercedes SL500.

Security was tight. The event was closed to the press. At the showgrounds, people dressed out of the pages of Vogue and GQ, despite the admonition to wear “garden attire,” were delivered in limos and sharp cars. Everyone had to give up cameras as they went through security. A reporter trying to interview people on the showgrounds was threatened with arrest.

Inside the fund-raiser, there were separate levels of access, depending on how much money people were raising for Obama, with the most prolific bundlers staying for a dinner.

Food stations offered mini-burgers, corn-on-the-cob on sticks, guacamole and chips; lemonade and vodka; red or white wine, and a full bar.

The Obama campaign’s regional professional fund-raisers brought their best contributors, with the high-rollers bunking at the spectacular Fess Parker resort in Santa Barbara.

Making the entire experience pleasurable for Obama’s best donors; Oprah, Obama and wife Michelle were posing for individual pictures, according to a person at the party.

As the evening wore down a stream of tired-looking but exceedingly well-dressed people, some carrying green souvenir blankets, poured past the wooden doors of Winfrey’s yard, leaving the home she calls “the Promised Land” to board buses to take them back to reality.

Michelle’s mystique

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Michelle Obama 

Hat Tip: By Carly Zakin, NBC News 

WASHINGTON – Since he stepped onto the national political stage, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has been compared to a rock star, a superstar, and even an NBA all-star.

“I’m LeBron, baby,” he told Chicago Tribune reporter and biographer David Mendell, referring to LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

But if the Cavaliers’ loss in this year’s NBA finals proves anything, it’s that even NBA all-stars aren’t always perfect.

And if Michelle Obama has shown voters one thing this campaign season, it’s that neither is her husband. He has big ears, she has said. A funny name, too. He doesn’t put the butter away. He has trouble making beds. He’s not the “next Messiah who’s going to fix it all. In the end, he’s just a man.”

Michelle Obama — a Princeton graduate, Harvard-educated lawyer and, until recently, vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center — is the least famous spouse of the Democratic front-runners. Former President Bill Clinton is his wife’s biographer of her qualifications to be president and would be a roaming ambassador in a Hillary Clinton administration. Elizabeth Edwards, meanwhile, essentially serves as a second campaign manager to her husband and has made headlines by delivering punches to rivals and opponents.

But so far in this presidential race, it’s clear that Michelle Obama is playing a different kind of role in her husband’s campaign. She makes no qualms about checking Obama’s ego, appearing politically hesitant, and acting as an enforcer of sorts. But one facet remains a mystery: What kind of first lady would she be?

This question is something rarely asked of the better known and understood Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards.

Despite their checkered marital history, the Clintons have publicly emerged as a true partnership on the campaign trail. At the Iowa State Fairgrounds earlier this month, he kept his arm around his wife’s shoulders, as she wrapped one arm around him.

“Who do you think will be the best president?” he asked the crowd — before answering his own question that even if she weren’t his wife he would still be campaigning for her.

“In 2008, I will celebrate my 40th year as a voter,” he said, “and in those 40 years… she is by a long stretch the best qualified non-incumbent I have ever had a chance to vote for in my entire life.” After his introduction, Hillary embraced her husband, only to then remind voters of their prevailing partnership. “We’ve traveled a lot of miles together over the last 35 years,” she told the crowd.

Elizabeth Edwards also has done the campaign drill before, and this time around has taken on a more active — and more outspoken — role as his fiercest protector and adviser. According a recent New York Times Magazine piece by Matt Bai, it was Elizabeth who told her husband not to listen to his advisers and to choose poverty as his primary focus. She also set off a national media frenzy by calling into MSNBC’s “Hardball” to ask that guest Ann Coulter stop attacking her husband. And most recently, in a not-so subtle shot at Hillary Clinton, she said in an interview that her husband would be a better advocate for women than Clinton would.

While Elizabeth Edwards takes on the role of a mother bear protecting her cub, the source of Barack Obama’s most frequent affronts — when they don’t come from his rivals — is his wife. First lady author and commentator Carl Sferrazza Anthony says that “she has been trying to kind of take [her husband] down a peg or two in public, not to so much emasculate him, but to say, ‘Hey, he’s a regular guy.’ She obviously loves him. Barbara Bush used to do that too.”

But her efforts to make Obama real also have attracted criticism. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wondered back in April why she didn’t like this realness with Michelle and Barack.

“I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal — comic routine that rests on the presumption that we see him as a god,” she wrote. “But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him from the glam J.F.K. into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own English muffins. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot mystique, why debunk this mystique?”

Also, unlike Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Obama has made it clear that she’s not a strategist for her husband’s campaign.

“My job is not a senior adviser,” she has said. ”I am here as a wife.”

Her spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, adds that Mrs. Obama serves as her husband’s “surrogate ear. Her expertise is who he is as a person,” and she relays that to voters and brings back their concerns to the senator. 

Michelle Obama has avoided offering details on what she will focus on as first lady. Her spokeswoman said that her first priority would be as a mother, wife, then “really assessing what the country needs” and “rising to the occasion.” For someone who does not hesitate to offer her opinion, Michelle will not interfere with her husband’s policies, McCormick Lelyveld said.

Sferrazza Anthony finds it interesting, however, that seeing as “they both met through the legal profession… there are going to be issues that they discuss. She has sort of said she doesn’t influence his policy. I have found it interesting the press hasn’t looked deeper into what she means by that? Perhaps that means there is legislation they disagree on.”

McCormick Lelyveld maintains that the Obamas keep politics out their home.

But inside her home, Michelle Obama has also become something of an enforcer. As her smoking husband has tried to quit the habit, per his wife’s demand, Michelle’s brother Craig Robinson joked to The New York Times in May that Obama didn’t need a nicotine patch. “Michelle Obama! That’s one hell of a patch right there!”

At a May ice cream social in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama stood on what seemed to be a figurative and literal pedestal to introduce her husband. “I’m the better looking one. I’m smarter, too,” she said.

As the crowd laughed, her husband nodded, offered a half-smile, and looked down, rocking his body as if waiting for his wife’s latest ego-knockdown to end. When she finished, there was an awkward half-hug and kiss embrace, with neither spouse seeming to know how to interact with the other.

Spokeswoman McCormick Lelyveld said that when “she teases him, there is a method to her madness.” She shows that “ he is a real person, he is reachable, he is human and he is just one man.”

In other words, he’s not LeBron James after all.

Campaign Mailbag: Michelle Obama’s humorous campaign solicitation

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Michelle Obama

May 4, 2007

 

Dear White Liberal,

It wasn’t exactly a typical date with an up-and-coming, Harvard-educated brotha who worked at a pretentious white-shoe firm. He didn’t take a sistah to a fancy restaurant. There were no tickets to the opera or ballet, nor did we rub elbows with bougie Negroes.

Instead, he took me to a neighborhood church in the hood on the south side of Chicago. And that was the day when I said to myself: “Girl, betta lock this brotha down quick.” I realized that Barack Obama, the man I was going to marry, was a very different, truly extraordinary, Negro.

I was a young lawyer, a token sistah, working for the Man at the firm where Barack was hired as a summer token; but he was unlike most of the professional uncle tom’s I knew. He seemed unconcerned with frontin’ as if he’d arrived. Barack always insisted altruistically that he didn’t go to law school to cash out. He went to try to make a change. I thought to myself, “Negro, please, I just ain’t figured out your hustle yet.”

And hustle is exactly what he was doing on the South Side that night: he was leading a training session for some naïve-honest-to-Gawd- community activists. And the moment he walked into that church, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie and began to speak, I knew the Negro had Game.

He broke them off something proper—a speech about the world as it is and the world as it should and ain’t never gonna be-as long as Y’all are still running the world. A chorus of “amen’s” filled the church as he spoke. By the time he was finished, he had snowed every single one up in that piece. It was somethin’, Baby. For real though, Chile.

I hurried up and married him, Baby. Today, we are some prosperous buppie’s with two of the prettiest little girls you ever did see. I’m pulling down 300k at the University of Chicago Hospital and I’ve got the Audacity to Hope that those damn royalty checks start rollin’ in quickly to support my spending. Honey, I almost forgot, Barack is running for President of the United States.

Barack is running this hustle-I mean campaign-the same way he organized neighborhoods-with a slick and sophisticated snow job that inspires empty-headed, pie in the sky white liberals like you to get involved and to take a stand.

That’s where your dumb ass comes in. I’m writing to you today not just as the wife of a candidate, but as a sistah, a mama, a professional and above all, a diva desperate for y’all to send in your change so I can make a change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and tell Laura Bush, “Bitch, guess who’s coming to dinner.” Can you help a sistah out and break us off a $ 1,000 or even $ 1,500 to Obama for America today?

I suppose you could say we’ve come a long way, Baby. But the Barack Obama who’s a United States Senator seeking our nation’s highest office is still the brotha that snowed those Negroes in the hood the same way he’s snowed all y’all’s dumb assess.

He’s a beaming father who always delights in leaving my ass at home with the kids as he saves the world. He’s confident in the knowledge that I only tolerate this bullshit because the chance to become the most pampered and socially prominent diva in the world is too hard to pass up.

After several years in grimy, corrupt Chicago ward politics, it hasn’t dimmed his love of the quest for power one bit.

Barack’s experience working in the drug-infested ghettos of Chicago’s south side taught him something profound-Negroes will believe any damn thing as long as you quote scripture and play on their desperation for something better.

Barack’s innate predator instinct convinced him that no matter how bleak things look, desperate Negroes, stupid Negroes, silly Negroes could be used to set him up for a run at the big time-and they sho’ nuff did.

I see the genius of this hustle for what it is and am convinced that with fools like you falling for the magic of my man’s hustle, we can go all the way.

Everywhere I’ve traveled with Barack, I’m freakin’ amazed not just by the size of the crowds but by the fact that there are always so many smiling white faces wanting to touch the hem of my man’s garment because they think he’s the second coming.

Hallelujah! Thank You, Jesus for fools like you snowed by the Audacity of Hope.

Barack’s counting on the people for whom he’s fighting—the corporations and the moderate republicans—to stand with him. That’s why I’m asking you to rush a generous contribution to Obama for America today.

Take it from a former skeptic—he’s got this hustle down, honey and we can win this shit.

And take it from a Sistah who first ventured into that ghetto church with Barack those many moons ago; this is a special Negro, a truly extraordinary Negro, a Safe Negro, and one who will not ever—no matter how much you wish or hope—upset the apple cart of the white capitalist power structure.

Thank You for your naïveté, and support

Sincerely,

Michelle Obama

P.S. When it comes to his corporate backed vision, Barack’s eyes are focused squarely on the ball-I’ve seen to that as his wife. Let me assure you that his family is keepin’ it real.

There was the time he called me after a Senate vote and told me how proud he was to have passed some bullshit I don’t remember and how very inspired he felt—to which I replied, “That’s nice, Baby, but Aunt Juicy is here in the kitchen and she done drunk all the Alize. Stop by the co’ner store and pick up a couple of bottles.

Well, we laugh about times like those, but in many ways, they remind me of what makes Barack so special-He got game and he just keep coming back stronger and harder serving up that special somethin, somethin’ that y’all can’t get enough of-like Sinefeld and bullshit like that.

Michelle Obama Rocks for Barack

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photo by Tim Llewellyn

Hat Tip: Politico.com By Roger Simon

CONCORD, N.H. — Michelle Obama is standing on a low stage under a hot and hazy sun, wearing a black top, lacy black skirt and pearls.

About 150 people are sprawled on the grass in front of her. They are wearing shorts and T-shirts. Toddlers are toddling around, dogs are rolling in the grass, the atmosphere is relaxed and the expectations are low.

That is because Michelle Obama is a surrogate and, by definition, surrogates are not the real deal. They are stand-ins, substitutes, second-stringers. They represent the candidate, but nobody expects them to be nearly as good as the candidate.

Which is why the crowd gathered in White Park this day is about to get a surprise.

It is not an especially tough crowd. It has been assembled by New Hampshire Women for Obama, and even though Michelle’s husband, Barack, has a message of “One America,” Democrats like to break that one America into constituent groups.

Thus, in the park, there are tables with brightly colored signs that say: “Educators for Obama,” “LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders) for Obama,” “Women of Faith for Obama,” “Enviros for Obama,” “Peace Activists for Obama,” “Lawyers for Obama,” “Women in Business for Obama” and “Women of Color for Obama.”

In her speech, however, Michelle is not going to talk about what separates people but what unites them, especially if they are women. She speaks easily, introducing her daughters, Malia, 8, and Sasha, 5, and her mother Marian Robinson, whom Michelle unabashedly calls “my mommy.”

Michelle starts with a point that does not, at first glance, seem all that believable.“My life isn’t terribly different from the life of women here, many of you guys here,” she says. “I am not trying to be cute and coy by saying that. I am doing a lot of juggling, a lot of balancing. I wake up each morning wondering what minor miracle I’m gonna have to pull off to get through my day.”

People laugh.

“Women are usually the ones who are scheduling baby-sitters, planning play dates, making sure that dentist appointments are kept. This is what I was doing last week,” she says. “Getting people to potlucks and puppet shows. It’s the end of the school year. My God, I’ll be so glad when school is over!”

The crowd laughs again and applauds.

“I know there are some good guys out there that are doing their part,” Michelle says with a smile, “but for the most part, if a toilet overflows, we’re the one scrambling to change the meeting time to be there to meet the plumber. Can I get an ‘Amen,’ ladies?”

She gets an “Amen” from the crowd, and then she expands the point and people begin to get it: This is not the usual domestic anecdote that pops up from time to time in political speeches. She is going someplace with this.

And to top it off, women have the added social pressure of needing to look good, be well-groomed and in good spirits, and supportive to our wonderful significant others,” she continues. “I’m tired just thinking about it.”

More laughter.

“And don’t get me wrong, we have made great strides as women in this society,” Michelle, 43, says, talking about how daughters can now dream of being “just about anything: surgeons, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, basketball stars, race car drivers. They can dream big in ways that even I didn’t dream.”

And then she hits the point. “But sometimes I wonder, what is the cost of having it all? Sometimes we, as women, we’ve convinced ourselves that doing it all is somehow a badge of honor, but for many — for the vast majority of women in this country — it’s an absolute necessity, it is not a choice. So we sometimes sacrifice as women and mothers our own personal health, mental health, physical health and well-being. And this is a challenge that we are facing as women.

Which is pretty serious stuff for a speech in the park, but Michelle Obama brings it home: “We have a man, Barack Obama, my husband, who is stepping up to the plate. And he is a man, I tell you, who understands the issues that we face as women.”

She gets big applause, and after she finishes, she stops and chats with people in the park.  

It is now a couple of hours later, and she is walking into the steamy gymnasium of Rundlett Middle School in Concord and it is no longer her crowd.

It is the New Hampshire State Democratic Convention, and scores of people are waving fans that say “I’m a Hillary Fan” and wearing stickers for the other Democratic contenders.These are the party faithful, the activists, the organizers, and there is a lot of competition for them. Preceding Michelle in the speaking order are Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is supporting Hillary Clinton, and David Bonior, who was a 13-term congressman from Michigan and is now John Edwards’ campaign manager.

Both have given thousands of campaign speeches, but in watching them you see the perils of being a surrogate: They are representing something bigger than themselves — a presidential contender — and both are clearly nervous. They read through their speeches quickly and depart.

Michelle Obama takes the stage and speaks for the next 14 minutes without notes. She begins with what appears to be just another anecdote: how she met her husband.

She was “an associate at a big corporate law firm” in Chicago and “the firm was abuzz about this hotshot law student named Barack Obama,” she says.

And I immediately made a set of assumptions about who this guy was based on, you know, superficial things like the fact that he had a funny name and the fact that he was raised in Hawaii and he was biracial,” Michelle says. “And I have to tell you, I kind of thought any black guy who was raised in Hawaii had to be a little off!”

The gym rocks with laughter.

“So I lowered my expectations,” Michelle goes on. “But I have to tell you that, you know, I based my first assumptions on our differences.”

Which, as the audience will realize later, is the money quote, the point of the speech.

Because then Michelle went to lunch with the guy with the funny name from Hawaii, and he told her about his working-class family and how his mother, a single parent, struggled to raise two kids. “And I realized that while we may have grown up a bit differently, we were raised with the same core values,” Michelle says.

And so she went with Barack to a meeting in a church basement on the South Side of Chicago where he was doing community organizing. “Barack was there to help them find their power to effect change,” Michelle says. “To bridge the gap, as he called it so eloquently, between the world as it is and the world as it should be.”

“He connected with me,” she continues. “And he is connecting with people around the country in the same way. Because what I fell in love with that day was that he was real, he was authentic and he had an ability to create and deliver a vision for what was possible for this country.”

The words still hang in the air after she speaks them: “what I fell in love with that day.”The crowd is quiet. She goes on.“This guy was living his values, and that was impressive to me,” she says. “He wasn’t just talking a good game. And trust me ladies, I met a lot of men that can talk a good game.”

And now everybody laughs and they applaud and the crowd is hers. She goes on, but the point has been made: Sure, you can look at Barack Obama and see the differences between him and you, but listen to him as I listened to him, and you will see how he is just like us and understands us and wants to help us.

Michelle Obama is not the only good surrogate out there. Elizabeth Edwards is also good on the stump and Bill Clinton is no slouch. But Michelle is the perfect surrogate for her husband: While his speeches soar, her speeches stay at ground level, where people can grab onto and embrace them.

She admits her instincts tell her to “run away” from this whole presidential campaign thing, but she is not running away. She is in it to win it — for her husband.And while it is often said that Barack, at age 45, can easily run again if he does not win the nomination this time, there may be a problem with that.

Next time could be Michelle’s turn. 

Shout out to Sistah rikyrah

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Our beloved Sistah rikyrah has branched out and hooked up with the brothas and sistahs of Mirror on America blog.  She has written an excellent post on Michelle Obama.  Y’all show a sistah some luv.

It seems that Sistah rikyrah isn’t the only one who’s been noticing Barack’s biggest and most effective booster.  The Associated Press has noticed in two prominent stories here and here in which the other Harvard Law grad effortlessly fields questions and sells her candidate in New Hampshire. 

When asked by a voter why she should vote for Michelle’s hubby, sistah Michelle stepped up and said, “He’s a man who has put his values before his profit,” she said. “He’s not running for president because he wants to be president. That’s sort of the irony in it. He’s running for president because he believes we can do better as a country.”  According to the AP, they gave a sistah a standing O.   

As aluded to by Sistah rikyrah, the 21st century Huxtables present a very compelling presence to cerebral and flinty New Hampshire. Style over substance works every time; now let’s see if it will work on us.  As of this writing, he’s behind.

Michelle Obama’s balancing act goes national

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It was a triumphant moment for Barack Obama: He was walking through the Capitol for the very first time as a United States senator in January 2005, trailed by photographers, hangers-on, and finally, his amused wife. Rolling her eyes as she pulled a reporter aside, Michelle Obama said, “Maybe one day, he will do something to warrant all this attention.”

Two years and one presidential announcement later, the sarcasm is gone, and a woman who has said she dislikes politics is assuming a starring role in her husband’s campaign for the White House.

Last week, in Windham, N.H., Mrs. Obama charmed a houseful of Democratic voters, speaking of her romance with the candidate and kneeling next to two little boys and their sister to inquire, “Which one of you is the troublemaker?”

She was still a bit irreverent: “I’m sure this guy is weird,” she said, describing her initial reaction to her husband’s name. But she turned earnest when talking of the presidency. “I know Barack is something special,” she said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Mrs. Obama’s is the trickiest of political performances. She is a black woman in a campaign in which no one knows quite what role race or gender will play. She has a propensity for bluntness and a fierce competitive drive. (“She’s a little meaner than I am,” her husband jokes.)

Her counterparts include Bill Clinton, the former president and consummate campaigner hoping to become the First Gent; and Elizabeth Edwards, who has been praised across the political spectrum for her tenacity in dealing with incurable cancer.

Even successful first lady auditions can be remembered as political don’ts: take Nancy Reagan (regarded as too adoring of her husband) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (too eager to share his job), to say nothing of spouses of losing candidates, like Judith Steinberg Dean (too absent) and Teresa Heinz Kerry (too outspoken).

Faced with those discouraging precedents, Mrs. Obama, 43, is trying a fresh approach: running as everywoman, a wife, professional, mother, volunteer.

While her husband’s story is singular — how many other Hawaiian-Indonesian-African-Midwestern sensations are there? — Mrs. Obama is his more down-to-earth counterpart, drawing parallels between the voters’ daily balancing acts and her own. The role suits her natural frankness — she has gone so far as to talk about how she had to cope with an overflowing toilet — and yet confines it safely to the domestic sphere.

In an interview, Mrs. Obama said that she is still unprepared to take on the role for which she is trying out.

“My God, who can sit here and say, ‘I’m ready to be president and first lady?’ ” she asked. But like her husband, she is running on biography, suggesting that her most important qualifications are her life experiences. Daughter of a Chicago city pump operator who had multiple sclerosis, she graduated from Princeton and Harvard and juggles her job as a hospital executive with motherhood and civic work.

Mrs. Obama dislikes politics, friends and family confirmed, but not as much as she dislikes losing. Craig Robinson, her brother and the Brown University men’s basketball coach, said his sister did not enjoy organized sports when she was younger because she so hated defeat and even now pouts when a board game does not go her way. His sister is brainy and warm, he said, but also a force to be reckoned with.

“Everyone in the family is afraid of her,” he said with a smile. Asked if Mr. Obama used a nicotine patch to quit smoking, Mr. Robinson cracked up. “Michelle Obama!” he said. “That’s one hell of a patch right there!”

Accordingly, she threw herself into her husband’s campaign from the start, asking to meet with aides running every aspect of it. Friends says she is decisive and pragmatic, perhaps more so than the candidate.

At a meeting last October, when some advisers were impressing upon Mr. Obama the importance of discipline and telling him he could not rely on oratorical talents alone in a national campaign, he began offering explanations. One participant recalled that Mrs. Obama cut him off, saying, “We’re talking about you right now.” He did not say another word.

Now she is traveling as much as three days a week, headlining events and becoming an attraction in her own right. Aides say that she will not make policy speeches or attack other candidates, and Mrs. Obama says that she makes a sharp distinction between her role and that of the campaign staff.

For instance, after the first Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina in April, she walked on stage and gave her husband a big hug. But she did not offer a critique of his performance because, she said, she wants to keep her marriage “sort of stress-free, free of the discussion, free of the analysis, free of the assessment.”

Instead, she serves as roaming ambassador. For African-American audiences, Mrs. Obama is one of their own, with a more familiar background than that of her husband. At a black church in Cincinnati last week, the audience mmm-hmmm-ed approval throughout her speech.

To female audiences, Mrs. Obama emphasizes her struggle to balance travel, work meetings and homework detail. Last Monday, for instance, Mrs. Obama zoomed out of bed, to the airport, onto a flight to New Hampshire, through two campaign events and a McDonald’s drive-through, then back to the Midwest and into her two daughters’ waiting arms.

“I wake up every morning wondering how on the earth I am going to pull off that next minor miracle of getting through the day,” she said at a “Women for Obama” event last month in Chicago.

Most politicians draw a curtain of privacy around their families. Mrs. Obama takes voters into daily life in her Chicago kitchen (where Mr. Obama sometimes fails to put the butter away, she says), and even, with an anecdote about an overflowing toilet, her bathroom.

Such patter draws a contrast with the lives of other presidential contenders, including those of John Edwards, who lives in a 28,000-square-foot mansion; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor whose remarriage has strained his relations with his children; and Mrs. Clinton, with her past marital trials.

“I think that that sort of statement is all about the Clintons, and it’s also designed to resonate with middle-income Americans who have quote unquote normal marriages in which the spouse at home calls the other and asks to bring home a bag of salad,” said Nancy Beck Young, a history professor who has made a study of first ladies and will teach at the University of Houston this fall.

Mrs. Obama is learning political wife speak: She claims, for example, she has not thought very much about what kind of first lady Mrs. Clinton was. She still shows flashes of frankness, especially about the cost of Mr. Obama’s political career.

The couple once pledged to give their daughters — Malia, now 8, and Sasha, 5 — the kind of dinner-together-every-night childhood that Mrs. Obama had growing up in Chicago. Now, the senator is mostly on the road or in Washington.

Although Mrs. Obama describes her husband as a loving father, she worries about the actual amount of fathering he is doing. Mr. Obama has acknowledged in his book that his absences caused tensions when the girls were younger. And his wife initially resisted his presidential ambitions, fearing the impact on their family life.

“Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about this decision before they made it,” said Valerie Jarrett, a family friend.

Even before the presidential race, life was a whirl of how-does-she-do-it multitasking for Mrs. Obama, with 4:30 a.m. treadmill sessions and meals prepared at lightning speed. “She’s kind of low on the Martha Stewart scale,” said Verna Williams, a longtime friend, “more like Rachael Ray, get it done in 30 minutes.” To help out, Mrs. Obama’s mother will retire this summer from her job as a bank secretary and care for the girls more frequently.

The Obamas began their careers as equals, and Mr. Obama is fond of saying that his wife has the skills, if not the experience or patience, to run for office. But now she is ceding her career to his, reducing her time at the hospital to a 20 percent commitment (and her paycheck to $42,436 from $212,180), though she remains on the board of TreeHouse Foods, a supplier of Wal-Mart.

She expresses no regret about scaling down her job at the hospital, where colleagues say she excels at tackling thorny problems. But this winter, after spotting a book on the Obamas’ coffee table celebrating Mr. Obama’s Senate victory, her staff created a matching volume of her accomplishments. Mrs. Obama wept when she saw it.

At campaign appearances, Mrs. Obama gets approving reviews. “People do judge a candidate by his wife — or her husband,” said Lynne Snierson, a marketing executive who has watched countless candidates trudge through New Hampshire.

When Mrs. Obama mentioned her daughters at an event in New Hampshire, one woman cooed about “bringing laughter back to the White House,” while two retirees whispered that she was the picture of “everyday elegance” in her red sweater set and smooth flip of a hairstyle.

It was the same perfectly calibrated look reflected in a recent cover of Ebony magazine. Seeking to make the couple look as presidential as possible, Harriette Cole, the magazine’s creative director, said stylists at the photo shoot offered Mrs. Obama a strand of West Wing-appropriate pearls.

She had already brought her own.