This year marks the 30th anniversary of Alice Walker's, Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Color Purple. She was recently at George Mason University reading from this great work. She agreed to share a poem when asked by Amy Goodman who was with Alice during the inauguration of President Obama in 2008.
ALICE WALKER: Yes, I’d like to. It’s dedicated to Wangari Maathai, who remembered the beautiful bountifulness of her land before the colonial invaders laid waste to it, and she resolved to bring it back to health by planting trees. And as you know, she died last year. Rest in Well Done; beloved sister of our clan.
You ask me why I smile
when you tell me you intend
in the coming national elections
to hold your nose
and vote for the lesser of two evils.
There are more than two evils out there,
is one reason I smile.
Another is that our old buddy Nostradamus
comes to mind, with his fearful
400 year old prophecy: that our world
and theirs too
(our "enemies" – lots of kids included there)
will end (by nuclear nakba or holocaust)
in our lifetime. Which makes the idea of elections
and the billions of dollars wasted on them
A Southerner of Color,
my people held the vote
while others, for centuries,
merely appeared to play
One thing I can assure
you of is this:
I will never betray such pure hearts
by voting for evil
even if it were microscopic
which, as you can see in any newscast
no matter the slant,
it is not.
I want something else;
a different system
One not seen
on this earth
for thousands of years. If ever.
Notice how this word has "man" right in the middle of it?
That’s one reason I like it. He is right there, front and center. But he is surrounded.
I want to vote and work for a way of life
that honors the feminine;
a way that acknowledges
the theft of the wisdom
female and dark Mother leadership
might have provided our spaceship
I am not thinking
of a talking head
kind of gal:
happy to be mixing
with the baddest
on the planet
her eyes a slit
her mouth a zipper.
No, I am speaking of true
Where women rise
to take their place
at the helm
of earth’s frail and failing ship;
where each thousand years
of our silence
and the cruel manner in which our values
of compassion and kindness
have been ridiculed
brought to bear on the disaster
of the present time.
The past must be examined closely, I believe, before we can leave
I am thinking of Democratic, and, perhaps
For who else knows so deeply
how to share but Mothers
and Grandmothers? Big sisters
both female and male?
Not to mention those in between.
To work at keeping
the entire community
would have as its icons
such fierce warriors
for good as
Aung San Suu Kyi,
& Barbara Lee:
With new ones always rising, wherever you look.
You are also on this list, but it is so long (Isis would appear midway) that I must stop or be unable to finish the poem! So just know I’ve stood you in a circle that includes Marian Wright Edelman, Amy Goodman, Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem and Mary McLeod Bethune. John Brown, Frederick Douglass, John Lennon and Howard Zinn are there. Happy to be surrounded!
There is no system
There is no system
now in place
that can change
the disastrous course
the Earth is on.
Who can doubt this?
The male leaders
appear to have abandoned
their very senses
though most appear
to live now
in their heads.
They murder humans and other
forests and rivers and mountains
they are in office
and never seem
to notice it.
They eat and drink devastation.
Women of the world,
Women of the world,
Is this devastation Us?
Would we kill whole continents for oil
(or anything else)
rather than limit
the number of consumer offspring we produce
and learn how to make our own fire?
Democratic Socialist Womanism.
A system of governance
we can dream and imagine and build together. One that recognizes
at least six thousand years
of brutally enforced complicity
in the assassination
of Mother Earth, but foresees six thousand years
ahead of us when we will not submit.
What will we need? A hundred years
at least to plan: (five hundred will be handed us
when the planet is scared enough)
in which circles of women meet,
organize ourselves, and,
allied with men
brave enough to stand with women,
men brave enough to stand with women,
nurture our planet to a degree of health.
And without apology —-
(impossible to make
a bigger mess than has been made already) -—
devote ourselves, heedless of opposition,
to tirelessly serving and resuscitating Our Mother ship
and with gratitude
for Her care of us
Alice Walker reading "Democratic Womanism"on Women Rising, Obama and the 2012 Election with Amy Goodman.
Alice Walker is an award-winning author, poet and activist. Her book, The Color Purple, was published 30 years ago this year. It won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction and was later adapted into a film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, and into a musical of the same name. Her latest book is The Chicken Chronicles, and before that, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel. She is set to participate next week in the fourth session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Irene O'Connell is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with degrees in visual art and Latin American and Latino studies. She is currently working with the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, CA organizing a youth program seeking personal and political empowerment through arts, music, and media. Along with exploring the arts as a vehicle for peace, Irene's passions include being in the redwood forests and surfing the oceans of Santa Cruz.