Becoming (2018) tells the story of Michelle Obama, née Robinson, who was born to loving parents in a working-class Chicago neighborhood and went on to become a great student and a strong, independent woman, who just happened to meet and fall in love with Barack Obama. This is the life story of a woman who didn’t expect to become the first African American woman to reside in the White House, yet found a way to continue exercising her own unique voice under the most unusual and trying of circumstances.
In 1968, Chicago was home to the Democratic National Convention, which broke out in a violent clash between police and Vietnam War protesters. Michelle Robinson’s family lived just 9 miles from the Convention Center, in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. But since she was just four years old at the time, she was oblivious to the turbulent politics of the day and much more interested in playing with her dolls.
Michelle was part of a loving family, with a brother who was two years older, a father who worked at the water filtration plant, and a mom who was a wiz with a sewing needle and very active in community fundraising and organizations like her local parent-teacher association. Her father also loved jazz and art, and many of Michelle’s earliest memories revolve around the music that was always in the air around her.
The four of them lived on the second floor of a two-story house, with her maternal great aunt and uncle on the first floor. Her great aunt, Robbie, was a piano teacher, so the sound of scales and songs being played by her students was another musical aspect of her childhood. It also led to Michelle starting lessons with Robbie when she was just four years old.
Robbie could be a tough and scary taskmaster, and the two clashed frequently during their lessons, with Michelle already quite strong-minded as a youngster. But Robbie saved the day when Michelle was set to start her song at her first big piano recital at the concert hall in Roosevelt University.
The problem was, Robbie’s piano had a conveniently chipped middle C key. The middle C is used to help a player position their hands on the piano, so having this little-chipped corner on Robbie’s piano made it easy for Michelle to spot it. On the stage at Roosevelt University, young Michelle knew her song backward and forward, but she was suddenly frozen, unable to spot the middle C.
Fortunately, Robbie was sitting in the front row and knew what to do. She calmly walked up to the stage, reached over her shoulder like a guardian angel and pointed to the middle C. Michelle was now able to start her recital.