A Woman Named Alice (On the 30th Anniversary of “The Color Purple”)

The beloved author and me. ©Ivy DeShield, 2012

Last afternoon, I communed with Alice Walker. Of course, there were about 450 other people present as well in the Concert Hall on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University; but this particular entry is not focused on semantics, so I continue. On taking the stage, Sister Alice waited momentarily as the roaring applause died and slowly unfolding her arms (as it is her habit to gracefully cross her arms and silently pat her shoulders in a show of appreciation), she began to speak with such a naturally soft melody that I had to adjust my hearing to sweep alongside her beautifully channeled flow of energy. Despite Alice Walker’s extraordinary gift of language and powerful ink, I am not surprised that she spends more hours in nature than with people, as her voice seemed so wonderfully unused and humbly hesitant as she addressed the audience. She began slowly, automatically aware that many of us are novices in the understanding of her respectful, but passionate approach to humankind and the planet, as a whole. Every word was a lesson, and every lesson, a savory taste from a life being lived without judgments and limitations, a reminder that when we judge one another and refuse to embrace another based on that judgment, we open ourselves to censure and marginalize our intellect. Yet, when we accept others for who they are despite our beliefs, it is only then that we can truly open ourselves to loving and being loved. And for Sister Alice, there is no higher existence but to love and be loved in return. It has been my experience that love (real love) takes a leap of faith and perseverance; in my opinion, it is no true wonder to love that which reflects us, but to endear to you something of an unfamiliar nature which you grow to love and accept over time is devotion and humanity in the highest form.

Because Sister Alice was shown the ways of love early in life from those closest to her, she is now able to translate the most supreme of emotions to her audiences everywhere. And she does so with the full blessing of her ancestors, grandparents and parents who lived to the fullest, wedded to both right and wrong, giving Sister Alice the humor and heartbreaking sadness in the stories we now know and love so well. These ancestors, spirits (guides) give her purpose and were very much present in the hall with us. I’m almost sure that her grandparents must have watched from afar in admiration as “Baby Alice” set fire to our cool hearts and minds. I sat speechless when she charged us (people, in general) with falling out of love too quickly or believing we no longer feel love for another, when, in actuality, we are often only experiencing a dampening or slowing of the emotion and not an absence. How intuitive of her…how many times have we thrown up our hands in disgust or sighed with regret, because we believed we had wasted months or years loving the wrong person, and the next moment, we were smiling at or laughing with them over a silly argument or simple misunderstanding. But this is not in every case; every Sofia doesn’t have a Harpo or vice-versa. Every bad break doesn’t have an easy mend or result in absolute healing; some things take time and need to be worked over profusely, again and again, and loved harder than all the rest.

Sister Alice touched on these things as well – the bad breaks in our world and our (women, in particular) slowness to retaliate and demand better for ourselves and our planet – women are the birth mothers of generation after generation. I wanted to fiercely applaud Sister Alice for broaching this subject and calling women everywhere to make a choice to reclaim this world for themselves and that which they hold most dear. I thought of the countless women who often go unnamed, unloved and battered everyday despite bringing sons and daughters into this world to continue the cycle. And I thought about Eve, forever marked and unclothed in the world after her sin. Yet, Adam loved her still and her, him. In many ways, this was the first leap of faith.

Our love will never be immaculate, but it can help us better navigate towards a brighter future in this world. It can stamp out hate, uplift the fallen and give rest to the weary. Love can heal old wounds, stop wars and transform the worst of enemies into allies. Love empowers, rejuvenates and protects. It has a vast memory, keen vision and a clear voice. But most of all, love creates more love in this world, like you, me and a woman named Alice. Yeah, love surely does that.


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