Alice Walker, we honor you.

excerpted from PRAYER TO THE GREAT AWARENESS

Copyright 2017 by Alice Walker

January 21, 2017

(For the awakening.)

I adore
and the single leaves
of trees in which I can
lose my temporary
this moment self in.
The sheer wonder
of it all.
And women marching
everywhere!
And being the most
wondrous of the human lot
with their amazing capacity
to recreate the human universe.
Oh, Great and Everlasting Awareness
I have been with you
while looking for you
all my long life!
And here you turn up
today
as you do everyday
as myself,
all the awakened women,
children,
and men,
in the world,
and Everything else.

Hello CREAD Family! To our NY-Metro area tribe, you know that the snow storm has blessed us with a reason to pause for a moment and perhaps get some rest or catch up with some good reading.  Nonetheless, this day is also reason to celebrate a living treasure, Alice Walker, who today is celebrating her 73rd year of being phenomenal. Even as we celebrate her she offers us a gift of her genius with her written word (see her latest poem showing solidarity for the recent Women’s March).

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Most of us know Ms.Walker for her seminal work, The Color Purple, for which she won the National Book Award and the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  We may have read the novel in high school or college or watched the 1985 film adaptation or even saw the musical as I did last year. No matter when or how you experienced some aspect of Ms. Walker’s genius and powerful prose, you know hers is a voice that must be heard, felt, and experienced.

In a 2014 interview, with Democracy Now, when asked about the inspiration behind her novel, she explains that she wrote it because she missed her late grandparents.  Not only was that an unexpected response, but it also offers insight into the kind of writer that Walker is and what concerns her as she crafts a narrative is indeed very personal.

In this same interview Walker discusses two other points that I found noteworthy: the overlooked detail about Celie’s biological father in The Color Purple and Celie’s realization that the divinity she seeks in God is within herself and all of nature.  These are important points to our understanding of the meaning and importance of Walker’s work.  With both of these ideas she emphasizes her intention to upend the narrative of white male supremacy and center the experience and perspective of a black woman.

First, Walker explains a key point that is overlooked in adaptations and virtually all analysis of the novel, is that Celie’s father was lynched because he was a successful business man. This is an important from a social and historical standpoint because it highlights the reality for many blacks in that time period, particularly in the South who attempted to establish their own economic independence.  This is well-documented in the story of Black Wall Street.

Her second point is around the idea of religion and spiritual awareness. Celie’s revelation comes when she understands that her many letters to God will not be answered and that the divine she seeks is within her and all of nature.  The concept of one’s own divinity and that it also resides in the natural world is a very African one. Again, Walker turns away from the male-dominated story of religious oppression and allows her characters agency in their spiritual emancipation.

From a pedagogical perspective we can see how a novel like The Color Purple is rich with possibilities for exploration and many of her shorter texts also are worth including in future units and lessons.   Walker’s works open up countless opportunities to discuss the tools of white oppression in the age of Jim Crow, the role of Christianity in structural racism and patriarchy. More importantly, her works affirm the strength and beauty to be discovered in the telling of our own stories. The musical based on this extraordinary book recently closed, but Ms. Walker and her wealth of literary brilliance are still available to us and our children. Alice Malsenior Walker, we honor you for your fierce and awesome voice.

Peace and love good people!

Posted in Arts in Education, Black Brilliance, Black Literature, PRIDE, Teacher as Activist, We Honor You.

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