Warm. Gracious. Humble.

These are the first words I thought of to describe Alice Walker when I met her on Friday. We were at the Georgia Writers Museum, where several events would be taking place on Saturday as part of an all-day celebration in honor of her 75th birthday. As she walked in, she smiled, extended her hand, and said, “Hi. I’m Alice.” I was able to restrain myself to keep from blurting out, “Yes! Yes you are!” Instead I simply smiled back, shook her outstretched hand, and told her what a pleasure it was to meet her.

Unpretentious. Appreciative. Admiring.

Alice Walker is the author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple, as well as numerous other novels, short stories, children’s books, poems, and essays. She was at the museum on Friday to view the space where a private breakfast with 22 local students would take place the next morning, and also to see the museum’s Alice Walker exhibit. She seemed as excited by the other local authors featured at the museum as she was about her own exhibit, and was generous in her praise for everyone associated with the museum.

Thoughtful. Compassionate. Comforting.

The students were front and center at the breakfast with Alice on Saturday, while the adult teachers, chaperones and volunteers stayed in the background. We were close enough to hear the conversations, though, and to see how attentive Alice was to all the students. When one of them got a bit choked up talking about a painful and emotional subject, Alice immediately stood up, went over to her, and gave her a hug that I believe everyone in the room could feel.

 Graceful. Gentle. Powerful.

At every event throughout the day, whether she was at center stage speaking and answering questions, or off to the side, watching others perform or pay tribute, there was a calm and quiet aura about her. Yet whenever she spoke, the power of her words rang out strong and sure. She is an activist as well as an author, and did not hesitate to call attention to the crimes and injustices against our planet, its people, and all living things. Alice was born in 1944 and grew up poor in segregated, rural Georgia. In her early 20s, she married a white, Jewish man. So she knows firsthand the many forms prejudice and violence can take. Still, her voice is always soft-spoken, though her call to action is loud and clear.

Inspiring. Encouraging. Hopeful.

What touched me most were the words Alice shared as the event was winding down at the end of the day. She talked about the dream she had for her home town of Eatonton when she left it many years ago – a dream that someday she could look out and see people young and old, of every race, creed, color and religion, living and working together, and all getting along. As she stood on the stage Saturday night, looking out at a theater filled with all the people she had just described, she told us, “I see my dream fulfilled tonight.”

And so did we.

Welcome. Home. Alice.

July 15, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019

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