The Flowers

Activism

Alice Walker's official website (alicewalkersgarden.com) describes her as having been “an activist all of her adult life” who believes “that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all." She is a staunch defender of both human rights, and of rights of all living beings. She is a prolific writer, and travels the world to stand on the side of the poor, and the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries, teachers and leaders whom she believe seek change and transformation of the world.”[21]

Walker met Martin Luther King Jr. when she was a student at Spelman College in the early 1960s. Walker credits King for her decision to return to the American South as a civil rights activist for the Civil Rights Movement. She took part in the 1963 March on Washington. Later, she volunteered to register black voters in Georgia and Mississippi.[22][23] On March 8, 2003, International Women's Day, on the eve of the Iraq War, Walker was arrested with 26 others, including fellow authors Maxine Hong Kingston, Terry Tempest Williams, for crossing a police line during an anti-war rally outside the White House. In an interview with Democracy Now, Walker said, "I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family. And so it would have felt to me that we were going over to actually bomb ourselves." Walker wrote about the experience in her essay, "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For."[24]

Walker was also greatly influenced by Zora Neale Hurston, and "almost single handedly rescued Zora Neale Hurston from obscurity.” [25] She called attention to Hurston's works, and made revived her popularity that had risen during the Harlem Renaissance. Walker was so moved by Hurston that she went to her blank tombstone and wrote "Southern Genius" on it [26] She also wrote in a personal essay, “I have come to know Zora through her books.” [26]

Walker was also a great feminist and worked to make women realize their significance and ability. In 1983, Walker coined the term “womanism” to mean “Black feminism.” The term was made to unite colored feminists under one term. She said, “Womanism gives us a word of our own.” [27]

In November 2008, Walker wrote "An Open Letter to Barack Obama" that was published online by The Root. Walker addressed the newly elected President as "Brother Obama" and wrote "Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina, and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about."[28]

In January 2009, she was one of over 50 signatories of a letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival's "City to City" spotlight on Israeli filmmakers, condemning Israel as an "apartheid regime."[29]

In March 2009, Walker and 60 other female activists from the anti-war group Code Pink traveled to Gaza in response to the Gaza War. Their purpose was to deliver aid, to meet with NGOs and residents, and to persuade Israel and Egypt to open their borders with Gaza. She wrote about her meeting with an elderly Palestinian woman who upon accepting a gift from Walker said “May God protect you from the Jews.” Walker responded “It’s too late, I already married one.” referring to her former husband, a Jewish civil rights lawyer whom she had divorced in the 1970s.[30][31][32] She planned to visit Gaza again in December 2009 to participate in the Gaza Freedom March.[33] On June 23, 2011, she announced plans to participate in an aid flotilla to Gaza that attempted to break Israel's naval blockade.[34][35] Explaining her reasons, she cited concern for the children and that she felt that "elders" should bring "whatever understanding and wisdom we might have gained in our fairly long lifetimes, witnessing and being a part of struggles against oppression."[36][37]

Walker's decision to take part in the 2011 Gaza flotilla was reported in the New York Times.[38] It also led to a June 2011 interview in Foreign Policy magazine in which Walker rejected the charge that many of her fellow participants had terrorist ties, saying that "I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves. If you go to Gaza and see some of the bombs -- what's left of the bombs that were dropped -- and the general destruction, you would have to say, yeah, it's terrorism. When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life, that's terrorism. So these countries are terrorist countries." She compared the Palestinians and Israelis to "David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians. They are David."[36][39] Walker supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.[40] In 2012, Walker refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her book The Color Purple, citing what she called Israel's "apartheid state."[41]

In an article for The Guardian, Walker explained her involvement in the Gaza flotilla, saying that “during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young.” She also compared herself and her fellow flotilla members to Gandhi and his followers.[42]

Her involvement in the flotilla also occasioned a Jerusalem Post article by Alan Dershowitz headlined “Alice Walker’s Bigotry.” Noting her “long history of supporting terrorism against Israel,” Dershowitz charged that she had “now resorted to bigotry and censorship against Hebrew-speaking readers of her writings,” comparing her refusal to allow a Hebrew translation of The Color Purple to “neo-Nazi author David Duke disallowing his books to be sold to Black and Jewish readers.” As for her involvement in the flotilla, Dershowitz accused her of “provid[ing] material support for terrorism” and said that Walker “should not be permitted to get away with such bigotry. Nor should her actions be seen as morally elevated.”[43]

Elisheva Goldberg, writing in the Daily Beast in July 2012, rejected the argument that Walker's refusal to allow the translation made her an anti-Semite. Noting that Walker was married to a Jew, that Walker has a half-Jewish daughter, and that The Color Purple itself was made into a film directed by a Jew, Steven Spielberg, Goldberg stated: “Alice Walker is not boycotting Jews. She is not even boycotting Israelis. She is boycotting the government of Israel. She is boycotting what she sees as state-subsidized symbols of racism that remind her of Apartheid South Africa.” To call Walker an anti-Semite, Goldberg claimed, was to “devalue” the experience of her, Goldberg's, grandfather at Treblinka.[44]

The Anti-Defamation League described The Cushion in the Road, her 2013 book on meditation, as antisemitic.[45] "She has taken her extreme and hostile views to a shocking new level, revealing the depth of her hatred of Jews and Israel to a degree that we have not witnessed before. Her descriptions of the conflict are so grossly inaccurate and biased that it seems Walker wants the uninformed reader to come away sharing her hate-filled conclusions," the ADL wrote.[46][47]

Walker was disinvited in 2013 from giving a speech at the University of Michigan, reportedly because a donor to the university disapproved of her views on Israel. On her website, Walker argued that “women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.”[48] Ms. Walker was re-invited shortly thereafter [49]

Walker posted an open letter to singer Alicia Keys in May 2013, asking her to cancel a planned concert in Tel Aviv. “I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work,” Walker wrote. “It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists.” Keys rejected the plea.[50]

In June 2013, Walker and others appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[51][52]

In May 2013 Walker expressed appreciation for the works of David Icke.[53][54][55] On BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs she said that Icke's book Human Race Get Off Your Knees (in which Icke claims that Earth's moon is actually a “gigantic spacecraft” transmitting “fake reality broadcast[s]...in much the same way as portrayed in the Matrix movie trilogy") would be her choice if she could have only one book.[56] Walker also praised this book on her website, stating that upon reading the book she "felt it was the first time I was able to observe, and mostly imagine and comprehend, the root of the incredible evil that has engulfed our planet."[53][57] Jonathan Kay of the National Post argued that Walker's public praise for Icke's book was “stunningly offensive” and that by taking it seriously she was disqualifying herself "from the mainstream marketplace of ideas."[58]


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