Alice Walker is the author of my favorite book, The Colour Purple, and today marks the joyous celebration of her 67th birthday. As her characters leaped off the pages, filling my mind with their lyrical speech, I pondered what it really means to be Black and female. Are we entitled to love? Are we entitled to joy and to have a seat at the table of plenty? In the face of all of the ugliness that has been done to us — and continues to occur every day — do we possess the singular strength to rise above and face this world as whole, rather than damaged, beings?
As I continued to read her work, she gave me words for things that I thought only existed in my imagination and I became a womanist
– a warrior. I came to know myself and trust in that knowledge to guide me. I began to see my body as beautiful, ripe with the beauty that is womanhood. And most importantly, I learned that my voice can and should be heard. There is no space which can hold me that I desire to be freed from, because my spirit and indeed the spirit of all women, is a force to be reckoned with.
As I came to understand, this was a metaphyiscal journey, in that everything I thought I knew before I came to consciousness was understood as the oppressor’s truth. I had to create new ways of learning and understanding this world with the idea that women of colour were central to its foundation and future success. I had to see that power was not only coercive, but a creative force through which I could ply my work in the name of freedom and equality. This new body — one that looked upon the world with large brown eyes — was forged in fire and from this savage heat, I would emerge rejuvenated with hope and a desire to bond with my sisters. In this sisterhood, we could share a community and birth a world of our creation, a world that spoke not of the master’s truth, but the true divinity of life.
So much of who I am today would not exist without Alice taking the time to mother me with the love, passion, and patience of her words. To read her work is to learn to rethink how we understand ‘woman’ and where we really belong in the twisted hierarchy of bodies. It takes courage to look into face of hatred and speak your truth and I thank Alice Walker for arming me with the strength to say, “I, too, will be heard.” Happy Birthday, Alice.