Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Answer is: Live Happily!

Copyright © 2010 by Alice Walker

To all my relations who have known this suffering. And for Miles Davis, just because. Happy New Year.

When you thought me poor,
my poverty was shaming.
When blackness was unwelcome

we found it best

that I stay home.

When by the miracle

of fierce dreaming and hard work

Life fulfilled our every want… Continue reading

 A Merry Christmas Day poem about trees for Bradley Manning

© 1986/2010 by Alice Walker

When they torture your mother
plant a tree
When they torture your father
plant a tree
When they torture your brother
and your sister
plant a tree
When they assassinate
your leaders
and lovers
plant a tree
Whey they torture you
too bad
to talk
plant a tree.… Continue reading

Tale One:  Horse History

© 2010 by Alice Walker

Listening to Bloodhound Bob the other day on the news talking about killing Julian Assange, Grandmother decided she needed to make her thoughts known about Julian, The Dark Knight (as someone commenting on a poem Grandmother posted on her blog calls him).  Grandmother likes Julian Assange and hopes he never again dyes his gray… Continue reading

©2009 by Alice Walker

Sounds True which offers so many amazing and helpful works, has recently produced an audio set of Howard Thurman’s talks.  Thurman was a mystic and theologian who influenced many of today’s most thoughtful leaders.  I was asked to introduce a segment of this collection.

Howard Thurman used to come speak to us at Spelman College during morning chapel and perhaps vespers.  I cannot claim to remember these visits precisely, but, listening to his voice on tapes made roughly half a century ago, I seem to be once again in that atmosphere.  There we were, young girls of seventeen to twenty, required to be in our assigned seats at Sisters Chapel each morning, five days a week, to hear words of inspiration that would propel us through our studies, and through our days.  Service started promptly at eight o’clock.  Or was it, more likely, seven?  I remember sliding into my seat just as the clock struck, pajamas tucked discreetly into my socks, yawning, and thinking of the French poetry I’d ventured to translate until late the night before.

After singing, after a prayer, after wondering whether there would even be time for breakfast, there would be, if we were very lucky, Howard Thurman, and not some other speaker whose concern would be more about our behavior with boys, or with a God who was always male and needing to be feared and obeyed, than with the growth of our spirit and the awakening of a political and social and activist conscience.

In fact, what struck me about Howard Thurman then, as I seem to recall those times listening to him now, is that he was one of the first spiritual guides I encountered who could pray to a “heavenly father” with every awareness, transmitted to his listeners, that the “heavenly father” of whom he spoke did not live by himself in heaven.  Thurman was capable of knowing and of teaching us also that “heaven” is inhabited by all things: ancestors, heroes of our interminable struggles for justice in the form of racial and economic equality, as well as the water in the ocean lapping at the shore, and the sunshine blessing us with its radiance.  The flowers were a part of heaven, as was our own kindness and thoughtfulness. This might not seem much now when we are surrounded by spiritual guides who acknowledge mystical and pagan and animist roots, but for most of the girls in Sisters Chapel, coming as we did from strict Christian families for whom the Bible was total law, and everything dominated by one God, himself jealous and alone, it was a revelation to be told, in quite clear terms that no, heaven was not a closed room.  It was not small either, it was vast.  And, even in its vastness it also existed inside of you.

He was subversive of the very system of the school he was speaking in.  I wonder how much he considered this, as he spoke to us.  For we were actively engaged in the struggle to free our people from American apartheid.  Sometimes leaving the chapel to march in the streets of Atlanta, some of us going to jail, reading our textbooks as we went.*

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for my country
©2010 by Alice Walker

I will keep
The big clay
With raised
Of their

I will keep
The old
To my
By Mississippi
A jagged
In its sturdy

I will keep
The memory
Long… Continue reading

for Julian Assange

© 1986/ 2010 by Alice Walker

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line… Continue reading