New film shines light on first lady's trip to Africa

african kings

In June, first lady Michelle Obama ventured to Africa on a mission to inspire young women to become the continent’s future generation of leaders. Obama brought her mother, Marian Robinson, her two daughters Malia and Sasha, and her brother Craig’s two children along for the trip.

BET News correspondent and Today Show contributor Lola Ogunnaike accompanied the first lady on her trip and was granted and all access pass throughout her journey.

Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET, BET will air the 30 minute-special Michelle Obama: Impact Africa, documenting Obama’s experience in South Africa and Botswana .

Click here to view a Grio slideshow of the first family in South Africa

Lola Ogunnaike spoke with theGrio about her travels with the first lady and what viewers can expect to see in the upcoming documentary.

theGrio: How did you get involved with this documentary?

Lola Ogunnaike: BET reached out to me with the potential opportunity to interview a celebrity that was going on a trip to Africa. I was assuming it would be a musician, actor, or actress in the arts. They asked me if I had my shots to go to Africa etc, which I did. A few weeks later they got back to me and told me the person was Michelle Obama. It was overwhelmed with excitement, but most of all wanted to be knowledgeable and prepared.

When did this trip to South Africa take place?

It was late June. We were there for six days. We traveled to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa and also to Botswana.

Why do you think first lady Michele Obama was so eager to go on this journey to Africa?

I think that world travel is very important to Mrs. Obama. It is important for her to expose her children to other parts of the world. She wants Malia and Sasha to be global citizens. She also wants her mother to make up for lost time. Mrs. Obama told me, “traveling is a luxury that my family couldn’t afford while growing up on the South Side of Chicago.” Now that she is in this position as first lady she wants to make sure that not only her daughters see the world but that her mother does as well. So on this trip she brought along her mother, her two girls, and a niece and nephew. So you get to see Michelle Obama juggle a lot of hats; as a mother, diplomat and a daughter.

What was the first lady’s mission while on this trip?

She went to inspire and empower young people and inspire and empower young women in general. She believes that they are the key to turning the continent of Africa around. If she was able to empower those young women, years from now the continent might be dramatically changed.

What was one of your most memorable moments during your travels with Mrs. Obama?

One of the most powerful moments was seeing her speak to a crowd of nearly two thousand young women at a little church in South Africa. At the end of her speech you could hear a pin drop. She was moved to tears. When she walked to the podium there was this rousing standing applause and people wouldn’t stop clapping. I interviewed her after the speech and asked her what was going through her mind as she walked to the podium to deliver the speech and she said, “I just kept telling myself to not cry. I really just wanted my message to come across as clearly as possible.”

People in the past criticized Oprah Winfrey for opening her girls school in South Africa, rather than focusing on the domestic needs of young women here in the United States. Why do you think focusing our attention and resources on Africa is important?

I think the first lady believes, as do I, that we as Americans have to be global citizens. America can’t afford to be an isolationist country. People need to know that the world is bigger than their neighborhood, their blocks, or their town. The world is increasingly getting smaller and smaller, especially with the advent of technology. So it behooves all of us to understand what is happening outside of our borders.

How do you hope this documentary will impact viewers?

I hope that they are inspired by Mrs. Obama’s words. I hope viewers reach out to BET and ask for more programming like this. Documentaries like this are so rare. I want viewers to realize the world is much larger than they know, and also be inspired to get a passport, hop on a plane and travel.