A week after the all-day event celebrating her 75th birthday, I still have Alice Walker Fever. I’m sure one of the reasons is that our local newspaper this week was filled with stories and photos from the day, giving me a chance to relive it and to read about some of the activities I missed. Also, after writing about Alice and the celebration in my last blog post, a number of people have been emailing me to say they were at the event and that they had a wonderful time, too. Or to tell me they weren’t there, but wish they had been. Or simply to say they enjoyed reading about it.
Another reason I’m still thinking about Alice Walker is that I just finished reading The Color Purple, which is the novel she is most famous for. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I had never read it before, although I saw the movie years ago. Reading the book now, while celebrating Alice Walker’s birthday and her life, made for a surreal and paradoxical experience.
The birthday celebration was exactly that – a celebration. Of her life, her work, and her return to the town where she was born and raised. Yet The Color Purple shines a glaring light on the prejudice, violence, and injustice that was inflicted on African-Americans, especially women – something Alice Walker knew all too well. Even though the book is a work of fiction, it’s historically accurate, and the author has acknowledged that the characters grew out of the stories of her ancestors.
It seems, in our country today, that we’re going backwards in many ways with regard to the treatment of and by people of different races, religions, and socio-economic classes. I find this alarming, and yet it was reassuring and encouraging last week to spend the day – right here in the small town where Alice Walker grew up and where I now live – with so many people of different races, religions, ages, and socio-economic classes. All celebrating the birthday of this talented and beloved woman.
The glow I still feel from that experience gives me hope for the future of our country and the world. It gives me hope that we’ll all learn from – rather than repeat – the mistakes and misjudgments we’ve made in the past, both as individuals and as a society. And, since time seems to fly by so quickly these days, it gives me hope that 25 years from now I’ll still be here, at the ripe old age of 90, to welcome and celebrate Alice Walker as she returns home for her 100th birthday.
July 20, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019
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