The connection was instantaneous. It was all up in Michelle Obama’s hair, thick and authentic, just like ours, and her skin, radiant and chocolate, just like ours, and her shoulders, strong and always perfectly squared. Definitely in those eyes – piercing, confident, knowing. ‘I am you,’ her giant ebony browns said. ‘You are us,’ we answered right back.
And we knew right then, right there we’d be girls.
Ours is an easy friendship, rooted in camaraderie, sure. The kind of friendship we reserve for fellow sisters, that warm, “Hey girl. How you?” that falls easily from our lips, whether we know each other personally or not. There is comfort in those moments, a sigh of relief, an unspoken ‘Thank you sweet baby Jesus you’re here and I don’t have to do this alone.” Michelle gave us solace. We already knew each other, see? Where we come from. How we think. How we love. Where we need to be and who and what is going to get us to The Promised Land of Happy, Healthy, and Standing. These are the things that are important to us when the company is gone and we can fluff our hair, kick off our shoes, lean back in the comfy chair, let out the hearty laugh, and talk the real talk.
Michelle put a public face on who we’ve always known ourselves to be: Not sexless martyrs, not the background to everyone else’s foreground, but smart, proud, supportive, creative, passionate, fashionable, clever, sexy, bighearted, fearless women. Dedicated to our men. Loving to our babies. Michelle delivered this to us in spades.
And even as she walks the course of icons — the Sojourners and Harrietts, the Rosas and the Dorothys, the Bettys and the Corettas — Michelle forges a new path specifically for us and our daughters and the legions of African-America women to come. It’s a path where you can be married to the leader of the free world, but rock a $35 H&M dress on national TV as you promote your campaign to tackle childhood obesity; one where you can live in the White House with all it’s pomp and circumstance and army of folk ready to care for you, but bring your mama to keep watch over your babies; one where you can have a Harvard degree, but spend your time in the trenches, a public servant advocating for military families and others who are struggling. And in the meantime you are raising girl children in the spotlight that alternates between blind adoration and sheer, pretty hatefulness and you take the high road, always the high road, as you publicly admit to your imperfections and your absolutes and worry about whether you’re getting it all right — the parenting, the being a good wife, the selfless service to others.
That’s because First Lady Michelle Obama is still regular ol’ Shelley from the South Side of Chi-Town, daughter of Fraser and Marian, wife of Barack, mommy of Malia and Sasha, sister of Craig, and a pretty big deal of a Black woman who motivates us, rides hard for us, and reps us like no other has before her. She is at once extraordinary and ordinary.
And we are proud to call her our girl.