The Obamas haven’t been the typical presidential family. From moving Michelle’s mama into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to hosting rappers and poetry sessions, this couple has done away with tradition and brought some much-needed life (and color) to the White House.
Now, with only a few months until they leave the Oval Office, there are 10 more things that we, the black people, need the Obamas to do before they peace out. If they do all of these items, the residence will no doubt be renamed the Black House.
Dear President Obama and first lady Michelle,
First of all, thank you. Politics is a thankless job, but we thank you for your service, your sacrifice and the many ways you turned the White House into “the people’s house.” Thank you for inviting Kendrick Lamar (who unashamedly rocked cornrows) to the White House, and thank you for hosting a poetry jam with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
But can I get real for a moment? We need you to go even further. We need you to douse the White House in black culture to the point where, if it were to catch on fire, it would smell of burned fried-chicken grease. Here are 10 things that we’re pleading for you to do before you go.
1. Summon the ancestors.
Michelle, please invite the Alvin Ailey Dancers to help you lead a procession of African dancers onto the White House lawn. Let this be a grand tribute to the ancestors, with the African drumming circle surrounding y’all. And please, move your beautiful black derriere in celebration for all the world to see. Too often, our women are told that it’s too much; show the world that it’s never too much.
If you’re worried about sweating out your hair, don’t worry. I’m sure Kendrick’s hairstylist would be more than happy to put some cornrows in for you. Michelle, this November, you must rock the rows.
2. Throw a praise party.
Despite the unprecedented number of death threats and hate mail, you both made it eight years without harm or incident. “Hallelujer!” (In my Madea voice.) Sadly, some of us didn’t think you’d survive the inauguration. Images of John F. Kennedy’s assassination filled our minds. The fact that you’re still here—that alone is cause to celebrate. So let the praise begin!
Bring out the teen girls wearing the all-white polyester praise dresses, the grand tambourinist ready to make a joyful noise and the organist—yes, roll the organ directly onto the White House lawn—and have Fred Hammond and Tasha Cobbs raise the imaginary roof. Make the music so loud that your neighbors report you to the police and threaten to have you evicted. Maybe they’ll even do you the courtesy of writing you a letter first. It won’t matter, though—you have your own private security (aka the Secret Service)—and besides, you’ve already got your bags packed ’cause you can’t wait to be out.
3. Remember the homies.
Give the White House chefs the night off and invite Marcus Samuelsson and Ms. Patti LaBelle to throw down instead. Break out the barbecue grills, the spades and the chess boards. Then, when everybody’s full after that second helping of Patti’s peach cobbler, grab some 40s and pour some out for the fallen homies: Martin, Malcolm, and Harry and Harriette Moore, and the enslaved people who built your residence. Then pour out some more for the slain black men and women unjustly killed at the hands of police and by the chains of the ghetto.
4. Get that paper.
I know that you plan to, but please, please take steps to help build the endowment for the National Museum of African American History and Culture before you leave. Please do whatever it takes. Invite all of Hollywood to a themed Halloween Party at the White House and charge $1,000 per ticket, or auction off Bo on eBay, or sell one of your nonvital organs. (OK, maybe I went too far.) Perhaps one of you could just auction yourself off for a date with the highest bidder? Our history (and our future) depends on it.
5. Offer “WWB” White House tours.
These “Walking While Black” tours will give black Americans special priority to tour the White House, ’cause after you leave, it’s not likely that so many of us will see the inside of it. (Sorry, I’m just sayin’ … ) So it’s your personal responsibility to Get. Us. In. Thanks in advance!
6. Host a “State of the Black Union.”
Now, I’m not trying to take away any shine from Tavis Smiley, but we need y’all to host one, at the White House. You’ve got juice that Tavis doesn’t have. Discuss health care, education and additional steps to prison reform. If you’re brave enough, invite Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson, but be sure to bring camera crews to film the pilot episode of The Real Essays of Black Intellectuals, ’cause ish might get real. … Then you can take the money that you’ll make from this show and give it to the museum’s endowment fund. Boom.
7. Leak to TMZ.
President Obama, you said that you are gonna keep it real after you leave the White House, but can you just pretend that it’s Christmas Eve and let us open up one present a little early? We wanna know: What do you and Michelle really think about Trump? Publicly, you’ve respectfully denounced his character, but I know that privately, you’ve said much worse.
I know that you’ve cursed. The ghosts of presidents past, if summoned, would surely confirm this. Do we need to have a séance as proof? Should we summon Ms. Cleo to conduct it? Inquiring minds wanna know, and TMZ is ready to break the story and make it go viral. (Let me reiterate that you could give the profits to the endowment … ) If you’re not comfortable sharing your thoughts publicly, well, then—just put it on a private email server and hire some hackers to find it and put it on WikiLeaks. I won’t tell anyone you were the source—Scout’s honor.
8. Change the Constitution.
Can you please, please, pretty please write a book and a curriculum about race and systemic injustice in the United States? And then can you make it—plus The New Jim Crow and Between the World and Me—required reading for every high school student in the country? If needed, can you just make it an amendment to the Constitution—the 28th Amendment? It would be known as the Mental-Reparations Amendment.
9. Host a founding-financiers meeting.
Gather all of the black billionaires and millionaires, along with our allies, to discuss jobs, education, mentorship and how to infuse sustainable capital into urban centers, as well as how to create and preserve black media. You can host it during Kwanzaa, and make sure that all of the attendees wear a kente cloth.
In the spirit of Ujamaa, you can end the gathering by having everyone make it rain by throwing Tubmans in the air as a sign of our collective power. (I’m pretty sure that you could arrange an advanced printing from the Department of the Treasury.) You can have a representative from the United Negro College Fund gather the strewn bills to get a running start for its annual telethon.
10. Get your freak on.
Michelle, girl … you sang about it, but now’s the time to really do it. On your last night at the White House, you need to have a dance party. This is what needs to happen: First, your husband needs to walk into the ballroom with a boom box on his shoulders playing, “This Is How We Do It.” Then Debbie Allen needs to lead your guests (who should include all of black Hollywood and academia) in the Wobble, the Cuban shuffle, the Electric Slide and the Soul Train Line. Then y’all need to post the video on YouTube and make that money! Michelle, please don’t hold back, like you did with that cutesy Let’s Move! choreography. Drop it like it’s hot.
You owe it to black America—and to all of America—to dancerate the fact that as far as we have to go as a country, we’ve come a long way. Your presidency and your presence in the White House changed the model of what a first family looks like and acts like. So dance like nobody’s watching, even though everyone will be. We can’t help it; we love to watch you dance. We always have, from the beginning.