On August 25, 2008, Mrs. Michelle Obama took the stage at the Democratic National Convention. In front of an exuberant crowd, she stepped up to the microphone as a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister.
It was overwhelmingly apparent that at the forefront of her agenda that evening was the desire to advocate for her husband, communicate their collective passion for the work, and to show her unequivocal support as Senator Barack Obama pursued the highest office in the United States of America.
That evening in August, with charm, charisma, and grace, Michelle Obama delivered a heartfelt and compelling message.
However, the magic of that moment was not wrapped in the provocative thoughts and ideas she shared.
The real magic emerged through the things that were unspoken. Michelle Obama’s presence alone on the stage that evening spoke volumes.
The Black Woman Listened
Less than three months later, on November 4, 2008, Mrs. Michelle Obama took the stage again. But, this time, as the First Lady elect of this country. She did not have a microphone and she did not give a speech that evening. And yet once again, her presence spoke.
Her mere presence invited us, Black women, to live in the moment with her.
Without uttering a sound, her presence spoke on behalf of the Black woman who, for centuries, had been silenced by systems strategically designed to ensure subjugation.
Speaking to the broken heart of the Black woman who succumbed to societal realities designed to sabotage her success.
Speaking to the fatigue of the Black woman who had been devalued by institutional “isms” that suppressed the very essence of her womanhood and to the soul of the Black woman who learned to mask her authenticity because it frightened those who refused to accept her as she was created.
Her presence spoke to the spirit of the Black woman, with the liberating message that hope was no longer deferred.
While Mrs. Michelle Obama spoke no words, her presence set in motion a new voice.
The Black Woman Heard
Over the course of eight years, as a skilled communicator, Michelle Obama appeared before audiences, both large and small; moving crowds to cheers and tears.
Her aptitude for getting to the heart of a matter, passion in addressing issues she held dear, and her tenacious courage in speaking what was often hard for others to hear, enthralled us. Her oratorical prowess commanded our attention.
But there was something that spoke louder than any of Michelle Obama’s riveting speeches.
What truly impacted us was the recognition that Michelle Obama’s voice was also our own. We could hear ourselves.
Embodied in what Mrs. Michelle Obama represented, we could now begin to hear the inner whispers emerging from the silence of the perceived limitations we had come to believe was our plight. We could hear the echoing voices of generations of women who had come before us and whose desire to speak was only a notion that resided in the recesses of their battered souls.
We could hear and comprehend that, in reality, we were not “angry” Black women, we simply had centuries of “unspokeness” bottled-up on the inside.
Michelle Obama represented permission for Black women to no longer feel compelled to ask, “Can you hear me now?”
The Black Woman Will Speak
On January 20, 2017, First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama will relinquish her role as First Lady of the United States of America and will leave the White House.
We will no longer watch her take the stage to deliver emboldened speeches as First Lady or witness the beauty of her presence as she walks hand-in-hand with her husband and children as the First Family.
So what will happen to the Black woman’s voice now?
It will get louder. It will explode with confidence and authenticity.
Resound with deep assurance of its value.
Resonate with confident certainty of its worth and extend itself to others because it is aware of its power.
Our voices will reverberate with audacious courage and be resolute in challenges, because we have learned that “when they go low, we go high.”
In her farewell speech on January 6, 2017, Michelle Obama stated, “Being the First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life. And I hope I made you proud.”
As a trailblazer, history maker, and legacy creator, Michelle Obama did not drop the mic as she left the stage. In actuality, she spent the last eight years making sure the mic was finally placed in the Black woman’s hand.
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