11-10-2008-11-04-36-am1 We’ve never had a First Lady quite like Michelle Obama. How she’ll change the world’s image of African-American women—and the way we see ourselves.

NEWSWEEK: Allison Samuels

At a recent Sunday brunch after church, my “sista friends” and I sat on the patio of a Los Angeles restaurant gabbing about the election of Barack Obama. Sure, we were caught up in the history of the moment. Most of us never thought we’d see an African-American president. But as a group of six black women in our 30s and 40s, we were equally excited by who is coming along with Obama to the White House—his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters. We all praised—OK, maybe even envied—Michelle’s double Ivy League pedigree, her style, her cool but friendly demeanor. And yet we’re all aware of how much we have riding on her. At 44, Michelle Obama will be the youngest First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. And many are expecting her to usher in a similarly glamorous era in Washington. (“Bamelot,” as some are already calling it.) But Michelle’s influence could go far beyond the superficial. When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world’s most visible African-American woman. The new First Lady will have the chance to knock down ugly stereotypes about black women and educate the world about American black culture more generally. But perhaps more important—even apart from what her husband can do—Michelle has the power to change the way African-Americans see ourselves, our lives and our possibilities.

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