World-renowned writer and activist Alice Walker took the stage at the U this past weekend to read her work and speak on social justice and politics.
The first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, Walker read exclusively from her 2013 book of poetry titled The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers. The reading was followed by a discussion between Walker and Pratibha Parmar, the co-author of their book Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women. The event, held indoors at Rice-Eccles Stadium, ended with Walker fielding questions from the audience.
Chair of the Department of Economics Thomas Maloney prefaced the speakers by saying, “These artists have the capacity and courage to make the invisible visible.”
Walker began her speech by telling the crowd that her feelings on President Barack Obama have changed since she first began supporting him.
“I’ve been disappointed and disillusioned,” she said. “I don’t believe in droning.”
Walker continued her criticism of Obama’s foreign policy by speaking specifically about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: “I don’t like the way [Obama] can’t stand up to Israel.”
Transitioning from her denunciation of the president, Walker praised candidate Bernie Sanders. Walker said a Sanders presidency would not be a fix-all solution for the issues she combats with her activism, however.
“As we see with President Obama, one person is not going to be the change we want to see for everyone,” she said.
Despite some of Walker’s messages, the tone of the evening was not political pessimism. Before she began reading her poetry, Walker added one last comment on Obama, noting that, “Many people of color are so happy to see someone who looks like us.”
The first poem read by the award-winning writer, “Democratic Womanism,” was written for the 2012 election cycle, when Walker’s support for Obama had already waned. Walker interjected while reading her poems to add thoughts and to relate the pieces to current events. Each poem contained implicit or explicit political meaning.
The reading followed screenings of Parmar’s documentaries “Beauty in Truth,” a film about Walker’s life.
Walker’s work has been translated into more than two dozen languages and her books have sold more than 15 million copies around the world. Aside from the Pulitzer Prize, Walker has won many awards, including the National Book Award for Fiction, “Humanist of the Year” by the American Humanist Association and the LennonOno Grant for Peace.