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Alice Walker Life and Her Fight for Woman’s Rights

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    Alice Walker is known world-wide for her literary protrayals of the African American Woman’s life. She was born in 1944 on February 9 in Eatonton, GA to Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant. Walker was one of 8 children and her parents worked as sharecroppers and maids making their money situation very tight. When Walker was little she lived in the time of Jim Crow Laws which were laws mandated by The United States at both the state and local levels. These laws included the segregation of whites and blacks in public places, public schools, public transportation and many other places.

    Alice Walker’s mother enrolled her into the first grade when she was only four years old. At the age of 8 she started writing very secretly and privately because she felt as though she needed to hide it from her family. From there, Walker went onto high school and continued onto college where she attended Spelman College in Atlanta on a full scholarship in 1961. Walker would later transferr to Sarah Lawrence College near New York City, where she graduated in 1965. Alice Walker graduated college at the time when the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing making her very interested in everything going on.

    A large part of her interest came from one of her college professors who was a big activist during the movement. Walker is known not only for all of her literary works but also for being a strong willed activist. In 1960 when she attented Spellman College, she met Martin Luther King and credits him for her returning to the south as a civil rights activist. During this time she was able to register black voters in Georgia and Mississippi. From there on she has been invloved in many activist organizations during her lifetime.

    Walker is associated with the organizations Code Pink and Women for Peace which are organizations that are women-initiated and work to end U. S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care,education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. In 2003, on the night before the War in Iraq was declared, she was aressted with 26 others outside the white house for crossing a police line during an anti-war protest rally. In January 2009, she was one of more than 50 signers of a letter protesting the Toronto

    Film Festival’s “City to City” spotlight on Israeli filmmakers, denouncing Israel as an “apartheid regime. ” In March 2009, Alice Walker traveled to Gaza along with 60 other female activists from Code Pink to give aid to those in need, to meet with NGOs and residents, and to persuade Israel and Egypt to open their borders into Gaza. On Jun 23, 2011, she announced plans to participate in an upcoming aid flotilla to Gaza which is attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade. The reason behind all of her interest in Gaza, she claims, is for the children.

    Alice Walker wants nothing more than to reach out to those being oppressed or hurt saying that she feels that elders should 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”. In 1967, Walker married a Jewish civil rights lawyer named Melvyn Roseman Leventhal who she met in 1965. They moved to Jackson, Mississippi where they were known as the first legal inter-racial couple in Mississppi. Together, they had a daughter who they named Rebecca.

    Unfortunetly in 1976, Walker and Leventhal divorced. The relationship that Alice Walker and Melvyn Leventhal had paralled to the relationship between Alice and her daughter. Rebecca and Walker became distant and eventually fell out of touch. Alice Walker’s writings are recognized mostly by their themes and symbolism of the life of African American oppression. Most of themes she encorporates in her writings include sexism, rascism, poverty,family,community self-worth and spirituality. Because she was just graduating college during the times of the civil rights ovement, most of her work is influenced by the problems and hardships African Americans were forced to go through during that time in history. Now, Alice Walker has dozens and dozens of Novels, Books, Short Stories and poems published. Throughout her life, she has been awarded not only because of her literary genius but also because of her die hard devotion to being an activist. These awards include but are not limited to The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1983) for The Color Purple, National Book Award for Fiction (1983) for The Color Purple, O.

    Henry Award for “Kindred Spirits” 1985, Honorary Degree from the California Institute of the Arts (1995), American Humanist Association named her as “Humanist of the Year” (1997), The Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts & Letters, The Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Front Page Award for Best Magazine Criticism from the Newswoman’s Club of New York, Induction to the California Hall of Fame in The California Museum or History, Women, and the Arts (2006) and The Domestic Human Rights Award from Global Exchange (2007. Since Alice Walker comes from an african american background, most of her works are known for the portrayals of the life of an african american woman.

    Walker has written numerous short stories including Everyday Use which she wrote in 1973. In this short story, a mother is revisted by her daughter Dee who had left their family because she was ashamed of the life they lived. Dee has always had a sense of embarassment toward her mothers home and her family’s heritage and never ruly appreciated what her mother and little sister maggie appreciated. In the story, Dee was always the one who cared more about what everyone else thought of her and her family and never took the time to enjoy and give thanks for the life she had. Now that she has come back home she tries to show her mother and maggie that she cares about their heritage and background but does the opposite.

    Dee asks her mother if she can take back a few things that her relatives have made including a blanket that her grandmother quilted by hand. Dee’s mother tells her that instead of that exact quilt, she should take wo other ones but Dee insists. The mother is forced to tell Dee that that infact blanket is saved for her sister maggie. Dee then tries to tell her mother insensitevly that maggie wont treat them as well as she would. The mother then realized that her daughter only cares about the overall value and satisfaction of the quilt and not the emotional and traditional being of it. The overall theme of Everday Use would in one sense be that people arent always satisfied with the life and heritage they are born into, so instead they try to create one of their own.

    For instance, in Everday Use, Dee leaves her family and comes back with a different name. When Dee comes back home her mother greets her. “Well, I say. ‘Dee. ” “No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo! ” “What happend to ‘Dee? ” I wanted to know. “She’s dead,” Wangero said. ” I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me. ” At the end of the poem, Dee leaves angry with the mentality that her mother and maggie will never move on from their heritage claiming that her mother did not understand it. Your heritage,” she said, And then turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, “You ought to try to make something of yourself,too,Maggie.

    It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it. ” Another theme of Everday Use could be that sometimes we have to let go of family who dont appreciate us for the people we truly are. Mama and Maggie watch as Dee leaves them and they realize they are happy with the way they live and proud of their heritage. “Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared.

    After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed. ” This final sentence of the story proves that Mama and Maggie are ok with the realization that their own flesh and blood are ashamed of them and that they can continue to live happily the way they do. One of many popular poems by Alice Walker include “Desire”. The overall theme of desire seems to be that by guarding your heart and protecting your intermost desires and wants, you can eventually gain all that you long or with steadfast prayer and dedication. The title of this poem is connotated very simply.

    When most people think of the word “Desire” you think of wants, requests, something you long for, something that you are attracted to or in some cases, something you lust after. From here, I was able to in a way disect the poem into six different parts in order to truly understand the points Alice Walker intended to get across. “My Desire is always the same; wherever life deposits me:” These first three lines are basically stating that no matter where she ends up, she knows that her wants, hopes and dreams will remain the same.

    Alot of Walker’s writings have a sense of spirituality attached to their themes or messages. In the next three lines of “Desire” I felt she intended to get the same message across. ” I want to stick my toe & soon my whole body into the water. ” Water is the only phsyical element that can truly cleanse a person, so in these lines she is longing to wash away whatever it may be that is causing her to hurt or to be opprsessed. The next four lines represent the problems, burdens and pains that she has been carrying and shows how bad she wishes they can be taken away. I want to shake out a fat broom & sweep dried leaves bruised blossoms dead insects and dust. “

    The next line ” I want to grow something” means that she wants something new, she wants to feel something that she hasnt been in awhile and she wants to start new almost like a breath of fresh air. In the next three lines Walker tries to tell us that sometimes we being to long for something so bad that we are devoted to it, that we must look towards something other than ourselves to reach want we want. “It seems impossible that desire can sometimes transform into devotion;but this has happend. She realizes that by dedicated prayer and devotion, that she is able to gain what she had been longing for. “And that is how I’ve survived: how the hole I carefully tended in the garden of my heart gew a heart to fill it. ” The “hole” that she tended to could represent that past which left her bruised and scarred. Now, she survived by taking care of her heart through prayer and now the hole in heart is filled with a new beginning, happiness.

    There is no doubt that some of Alice Walkers writings dont give off a sense of relief from all the oppression that people have had o go through in their lifetime. In her poem “Our Martyr” Alice Walker tries to get accross how bravely people can create a legacy by dying for something they belive in. From reading the poem multiple times i gathered two themes for Our Martyr, one being that those who have gone before us by giving their lives for something that could change the lives of others forever, will always be remembered and honored.

    The other theme was that it is beautiful the way people can die for something they believe in and leave behind an amazing legacy. In the first eight lines f the poem Walker questions what happens to those who have died for something. What did they have to go through or suffer from that those who are still alive, didn’t? “When the people have won a victory small or large do you ever wonder at that moment where the martyrs might be? ” The next six lines ” They who sacrificed themselves to bring to life something unknown though nonetheless more precious than their blood” simply means that nothing is more precious than human life, but those who sacfriced their own life brought something worth while to others.

    Walker tells us in lines 15-21 that those who have died before us look down on us and realize how much they have accomplished and are beyond happy for what they have done. “I like to think of them hovering over us wherever we have gathered to weep and rejoice; smiling and laughing, actually slapping each other’s palms in glee. ” Lines 22-26 “Their blood has dried and become rose petals. What you feel brushing your cheek is not only your tears but these. ” is saying that they are gone but always rememered, you feel their prescense when you remember all they went through and all they suffered from.

    Martyrs who die for what they know is right and just and what they believe in never die in vain which means that they do not regret anything. They are happy for pulling through and never giving up. “Martyrs never regret what they have done having done it. Amazing too they never frown. ” When people have gone before us it is hard to understand how they can still be so close to us in spirit. It is hard to accept the fact that people have actually died but we remember what they have accomplished in their life and the legacy they have left behind so we cannot help but to smile big and know they are proud. It is all so mysterious the way they remain above us beside us within us; how they beam a humam sunrise and are so proud.

    Known for her excessive interest and role in Human Rights, Alice Walker will stop at nothing to get her message across. In her poem “Torture” it is evident that Walker wants people to stop at nothing to get what they know is right. The overall theme for “Torture” is that you should never give up or stop pushing for what you deserve, even if you get knocked down 100 times, dont be afraid to get up one more time and take what is rightfully yours. In the poem

    Walker uses the repeition of “plant a tree” after she says someone has been tortured, for instance in the first two lines: “When they torture your mother plant a tree”. You get a huge sense of turmoil and repetitive oppression while reading this poem when Walker uses this technique. She desperatley tries to get the point across that you must never give up hope and that you must never be silenced by anyone or anything. “When they torture you too bad to talk plant a tree. ” Basically she is saying screw those who continue you opress and hold you back from getting what you want or deserve, you can make a difference.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What challenges did Alice Walker face?
    At age eight, Walker was accidentally injured by a BB gun shot to her eye by her brother. Her partial blindness caused her to withdraw from normal childhood activities and begin writing poetry to ease her loneliness.
    What did Alice Walker do in the civil rights movement?
    She worked as a social worker, teacher, lecturer, and took part in Mississippi's 1960s Civil Rights Movement. She also participated in the 1963 March on Washington. In 2003, Walker was arrested outside the White House with 26 others during the March 8th International Women's Day.

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