Creative Writing, feminism, feminist, History

Wisdom on Women #1: Alice Walker

Today, I am officially kicking off Wisdom on Women Wednesdays which is also a part of my Weekly Wisdom Series. In today’s portion of WOWW,  we will focus on the contributions and accomplishments of Alice Walker. We spoke a little bit about her on Monday but today we will use her story from a different standpoint.

Initially I wanted to feature Alice Walker for the Mama Day posts but quickly realized after doing some research that her stance on motherhood was not necessarily aligned with the theme. Also, I learned that her relationship with her only child has not been the best shape for a while. So for with respect for her ideologies and family, I decided to use her story in a way that appears to be more fitting. Regardless, I appreciate her work and think it’s important to educate those who might be unaware about her great contributions to the literary world.

Five Facts about Alice Walker

1)Tragedy propelled her love for books.

Often times whenever we hear the stories of amazing public figures, there are certain pieces to their success puzzle that is left out. Thankfully in the case of Alice Walker this is not the case. In several interviews Walker has expressed that at the age of about 8 or 9 years old she was accidentally injured with a BB gun while playing with her brothers. The injury resulted in blindness in one eye which led to emotional issues due to the physical impact following the accident. As a coping mechanism, Alice found herself enamored with a new found love for reading and writing. She later insisted that this moment of “isolation,” was a contributing factor that led her on the path to her passion for literature.

2) Alice Walker is a renown novelist, essayist, poet and short story writer.

While Alice Walker is most known for one of her most famous novels, The Color Purple, she has several others works within her collection that deserve praise and recognition. One of the factors that I find rather admirable about her work is its central focus on the lives of Black women. While there were Black women who were authors before her time, she took our experience and painted some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork about us through delicate strokes of pen to paper. Walker has contributed seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, seven volumes of poetry, and several essay publications. She even took time to edit, interpret, and promote the work of several Black women writers.

3) Walker is also an activist for both civil rights and women’s rights.

While Alice Walker’s writing in itself can be viewed as a form of activism, and it is, she is solely responsible for coining the term “Womanism.” Walker introduced this term in 1983 through her piece titled In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose. Overall, the term “womanist” was a direct response to the Feminist Movement due to the lack of concern for the issues that black women and other women of color experienced that white women did not experience. In essence a Womanist is a Black Feminist, but this is not to separate women from the movement. Instead Womanism is about including everyone into the movement which is something we as Black have been known to do for centuries (being inclusive that is). Furthermore, the term “womanist” was officially added to The American Heritage Dictionary along with the meanings from Alice Walker.

the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e. like a woman … usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one … [A womanist is also] a woman who loves other women sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture … and women’s strength … committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist … Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. (pp. xi–xii)

Read more: Womanism – Bibliography – Black, Women, Feminism, and Womanist – JRank Articles http://science.jrank.org/pages/8159/Womanism.html#ixzz4eXzRgY3z

Walker has taken a stance in many humanitarian centered movements for much of her adult life and specifically she was directly involved in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Throughout her career as a writer, Walker has also dubbed as a lecturer and teacher going around the world to further inform others about the issues of poverty, economical oppression and the experience women. One of her most recent pieces, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, and Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, highlighted her interaction with the group Women for Women International.

4)  She is the first African-American woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

In 1983 Alice Walker became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her best seller novel, The Color Purple. As many of us are aware of, her novel eventually developed into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg starring major African-American actors such as Danny Glover, Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg. The Color Purple even developed into a Broadway musical back in 2005.

In addition, Walker has won many more awards for her literary works including several best sellers, the National Book Award, and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Fiction. Along with these awards, she was also inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2006. Her work is so off the charts that she even has an archive section dedicated to her work that opened to the public at Emory University in 2007.

5) Alice Walker is the mother of author Rebecca Walker.

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Last but certainly not least, clearly, the ink did not fall too far from the pen in terms of her daughter, Rebecca Walker, who is also a writer and lecturer who also explores various societal issues within her literary pieces. As mentioned earlier, I did notice during my research that there were many sources indicating an interesting perspective that Alice Walker has on motherhood. I will not get too deep into that topic in itself because it deserves a post of its own. In fact I do find that the mother-daughter relationships in the Black community tend to have a rather fragile dynamic (I know that this does NOT apply to everyone) but it is one that I would love to further explore in a future post.

 

Aside from Alice and Rebecca Walker’s personal issues or hardship with one another, it is amazing to still have Women of Color continue to share their truth through the art form that is writing. I am happy to have created this post because I ended up learning more about Alice Walker than I had ever known before and I got to discover Rebecca Walker.

Today we celebrate Alice Walker for her contributions to American literature through the lens of the Black experience and her efforts of standing with oppressed people throughout the world. We thank you, Alice Walker for also shedding a light on racial relations, the issues with white feminism, economic hardships, and even spiritual defeat that exists within the lives of the marginalized people of the world.

 

Without holding back she has released an enormous part of herself on every page of literary work she has released into the world. Alice Walker most certainly exerted her strength, stood in her power and in her greatness. So we are glad to have her today as the first woman featured in our Wisdom on Women Wednesday series. She is most certainly a Woman of Color that you should be informed about and read up on! Check out her website for more information about her life and collection of literature.

 

 

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Why Women’s History Month??? 

How come there’s no (insert society’s dominant group here) month?

If I had a loan for every time someone asked this question I’d be in debt for eternity. So listen up you non-marginalized peeps and yes I know some of you are also marginalized in different ways BUT that is not the point at hand.

Why is there a month for nearly every “minority” group in America? Also, when I say minority I mean those of us who are submerged under the pressures of the dominant or majority forces of this country. Minority should not be a replacement word for Latino, Black, Native American or in this case women. It simply helps to describe the system in which we live.

Back to the topic at hand. Women’s History Month exists in order to highlight the great impact and importance of  individuals who identify as women have contributed to society. Yes I said “identify.” (That is a major key to keep in mind.) It is also in existence to laminate the fact that while women have often gone left out of historical rhetoric, it does not mean that our work is not important. The contributions that women have made throughout the world should not be left out of the major narrative that exists within history. Therefore, the month of March is our time to expose to the world just how much we have done for so little credit.

While I am glad there is a Women’s History Month, please be mindful that throughout the rhetoric of history there are some women who have been left out of it as well. Women who are of African, Latina, Asian, and Middle Eastern descent have rarely been given the credit that is due their name. With that said, when others ask why we deserve to be highlighted during a certain month or time it pains me so because it is as if no matter what we do our voices are told to be muted. Yet when we cry out in pain, we are told that we are nagging  (typical sexist response) or we are pulling some sort of card (i.e. race card).

Coming from a woman like myself who is of African descent, Haitian ethnic background, and at first glance a Black person point, blank period, I know for a fact I am judged off of my outer appearance. Therefore, if I don’t work triple times as hard in this country then the triple strikes already against me will hold me down even further than I am already held. On top of that if I don’t make my light shine, then another individual can come up and snatch that from me at any minute (i.e. cultural appropriation).

So when we say Happy Women’s History Month, and throw our weekly celebrations in honor of it do not suck your teeth in disdain. Do not ask us why we think we are so special. Do not attempt to block our light, the one we have struggled in the dark to even create this glow.

If you are still asking Why Women’s History Month? Then I must ask you “Why is there no full inclusion of women throughout historical texts unless they were serving others in some sort of way? And why are you not as angry about the lack of inclusion as opposed to the fact that there is a month dedicated to that inclusion?”

Why Women’s History Month? Because as WOMEN regardless of what societal conditioning may have us all believe, our stories and contribution to history is just important as the next human being. Also, WHM exists to show younger women, and little girls all around the world that they are full capable of living a life without any limits no matter how our gender is portrayed in books, movies, schools, and such. Young women deserve to know the truth about where they come from and where they are able to go in the future. So Women’s History Month exists not just to laminate what has already been done but what is to come.

Before I leave this post, I’d like to leave you with this message “Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.” ~ Myra Pollack Sadker

Cover Photo Credit

Photo 1, 2, and 3

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