This is a story of how love works.
©2011 by Alice Walker
This is the house for orphaned young girls; the house that love built.
These are two of the beautiful girls who will live there.
Here is a flower for them!
It all started without a beginning! How cool. Alice was eating in a vegan restaurant because she is always trying to do things that sometimes she keeps failing at: still, she was there, eating her greens and peas and sweet potatoes. It was all really good! There was a young woman seated near her with a slender, elegant East African body and super long locks and this woman gave her a card that read: Beautiful Loks!
There was a picture of a child gently touching his mother’s locks. Alice liked this because one of her favorite things is tenderness!Years went by. She and the young Kenyan became friends. Over hair, actually. And learning new things, like: Irish Moss. Didn’t Bob Marley swear by it? But what was it? Exactly?
The Kenyan knew! Ground some up for Alice. Watched her drink it, along with other slippery stuff.Her name is Mo’raa M.B., which Alice liked the sound of. Her mother had died and her aunt Kwamboka Okari raised her. Raised her really well, too; Alice was happy to see. She worked hard, always learning new things. She said Please, May I help you, Auntie, and best of all: Thank you. When Alice looked around to find an orphanage to adopt, Mo’raa M.B. invited her aunt Kwamboka to Alice’s for dinner (she was visiting the country). Kwamboka brought Alice a beautiful sculpture of a woman carrying a child on her back. They became friends.
Kwamboka with help from wonderful folks in America – one of them a trustworthy soul named Mike Woods – was running an orphanage for children in Kenya who’d lost their parents to AIDS. Over the next two or three years the school at the orphanage needed many things that Alice was able to help with. A floor, books, things like that. But then, Alice was given a magical gift by Yoko Ono; a gift so magical it would only work if it were immediately handed to someone else! Alice loved this; and of course she always loved Yoko Ono. What did this mean? The dormitory for girls was going up brick by brick, with love and contributions of all sizes flowing or creeping in! More and more children, boys and girls, were finding their way to the orphanage.With Yoko Ono’s offering, and in spiritual cahoots with John Lennon, the girl’s dormitory was finished! This is the house that love built. Let’s look at it again!
Red! What joy! Blue! yes!
Alice feels happy every time she looks at these pictures sent by Kwamboka Okari, (founder or the Margaret Okari Foundation’s school and orphanage); of the girls Yvonne and Brenda, and of the cheerful residence the girls will occupy.
It is beautiful, just as housing for all our girls and boys should be. Wherever they are on the globe. (No child anywhere should live in ugly housing! Ugly housing damages the spirit. Not to mention the beauty loving soul!)
When something wonderful like this happens, when friends connect regardless of being dead (some of them) or far away (others of them) we know we are on the right path. Thorns may still prick our feet as we trudge hopefully along, but there will be moments of sheer incandescent joy.
As for instance, when Alice found herself face to face with someone she had loved long before he was born.
I have loved you since way before you were born,
she said to him.
He looked skeptical.
He was dressed like a handsome bumble bee
and this made Alice happy
because she loves bees.
They are the reason everything happens
thinks the farmer and flower grower in her heart.
How can that be? He finally asked.
Simple, she said to him:
It is because I loved your parents.
When the world learned that you were coming
s ome thirty-five years ago
I said a special prayer for you:
for your safety, for balance in life,
for your health and happiness.
Really? he said.
Really, she said.
And now, look at you:
a young man still,
but wise and thoughtful.
Someone who can talk sensibly
with someone twice your age.
And a woman, too!
You are well raised. Alice continued.
All of my prayers
seem to have been answered.
Thank you. He said.
They talked for a long time
amazing to Alice
it was as if she’d stumbled upon a wise
from the mountains:
he had much to tell her, much to share
about the austerities and the benefits of grief.
She was enchanted. She was restored.
She was so happy
it was almost more
than she could stand.
This solace of love and understanding
that could become a resting place
for the sorrow in her own heart
over something rare
that she had lost in her own life
that somehow complemented
something and someone he lost
while still a child;
that gave him so much gentleness
From Kisi, Kenya
Kwamboka Okari sent the photo of the girls’ dorm
with a note: Look what we have done with some of the gift
from Yoko Ono and her husband (this made Alice chuckle).
Alice was so happy she started to sing a song that once
meant the world to her: Changing
only a little:
All we have is love;
All we have is love;
All we have is love, love; Love is all we have.
And she felt so lucky to know in her heart
that this is a major moment of enlightenment,
once again she gave thanks
to her new friend’s father
who sang so many years ago
and with such gusto
that it’s just as well that love is all we have
because love is all we need.
Alice Walker and Sean Lennon, Iceland, October 9, 2010
Photo by Pratibha Parmar
Backstory to Adopting an Orphanage
Adopting An Orphanage
©2009 by Alice Walker
Alice thinks Africa is a magical and worthy Mother of Humanity, whatever may
be happening there; and she has had the honor, and the pain, of experiencing
Mother Africa in some of its most challenging situations. She has ceased
trying to explain, even to herself, why the eyes and smiles of African
children never leave her, or why the quiet strength and tender wisdom of
African elders stir her emotions. Or why her friends, the writers and
artists, musicians and dancers of Africa strike her as human miracles. Like
so many contemporary people Alice’s ancestry is mixed: African, Native
American, European, and yet it is Africa that seems to have a permanent call
to her heart.
Alice went to Africa for the first time as a college student, in 1964,
under the auspices of The Experiment in International Living. In a remote
village in Kenya, she and her companions built a school for the local
children out of sisal stalks,the only material available. Later she would
return to Africa to research the practice of Female Genital Mutilation,
which led to a novel POSSESSING THE SECRET OF JOY, a film, WARRIOR MARKS:
The Sexual Blinding of Women (directed by Pratibha Pamar) and a book by the
same name. She would return many times to monitor the advance of the
abolition of FGM and to visit her friends.
Alice’s belief in education is total, having been raised in a poor, highly
intelligent family in which education was prized almost as much as food.
Her parents led the effort to build the first school for black children in
their community: it was immediately burned to the ground by descendents of
slave-owners who wished to keep tenant farming families ignorant. She has
understood, since her first visit to Africa, how the West has used African
labor and resources to enrich its own people, while leaving Africa with less
than it needs to support and sustain itself. The “mystery” of Africa’s
poverty, its lack of a strong, well educated middle class, has never been
mysterious to her.
Alice has found the reality of upwards of 12,000,000 orphans in Africa,
whose parents have died of AIDS, especially hard to wrap her mind around.
For a while she thought her obligation was to adopt at least one, possibly
two, of these children. However, thinking rationally, this did not seem
feasible, given Alice’s age and her great distraction of mind, which has
often been pointed out to her.
Once, while in Rwanda, she met a young boy, David, whose mother Vestine, she
was supporting through the organization WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL.
Vestine’s family had been murdered, Vestine has AIDS. There were four
children living in a mud apartment whose dust was so thick that Alice,
having spent only an hour inside, coughed for weeks afterward. David was
twelve years old but looked five. He had never had enough food to eat. He
was, in spite of all this, gorgeous, and he and Alice took to each other
immediately. He owned only one toy, a truck so tiny it fit his hand; he
could close his fingers around it. This toy made him happy, as did walking
with Alice to the vehicle that carried her away from him. Take me with you,
he cried. Alice didn’t know how to take him with her; nor how she would
manage to take care of him, if the Rwanda government would let him go. His
voice, however, haunted her. It does still. It always will.
What to do?
Maybe instead of adopting an orphan, she finally thought, I can adopt an
orphanage. And she tried a couple on for size. What was missing, in each
case, was a sense of connection with the adults running the orphanage as
well as with the children. At one orphanage in Kigali she was sent a bank
number, for deposits, but no word of how she might learn the day to day
activities of the children. Or see pictures of them. At another, pretty much
the same. It was only when she met Kwomboka Okari, whose niece was already
a friend of Alice’s in Berkeley, and they talked over dinner, that she
realized that, perhaps, she had found her orphanage. The Margaret Okari
Alice realizes that Earth is in dire straits, and that there is everything
to be done, but she also knows the earth is forgiving and very willing. If
everyone does even a little, all that needs to be done will be done. This is
clear to her from her own life as one small being from one small place in
the world, but with a belief in service inherited from her parents, and a
deep love of people, and a faith in them, that she apparently brought in at
Adopting an orphan still appeals to her. After all, as we say these days:
Sixty-five is the new Fifty. If one appears, she will receive it with joy.
But if one does not, she is happy to be Auntie to any number of children in
orphanages, having adopted the institution itself as guardian of the child.
Alice has written some thirty books (four to be published) and received numerous awards, but
nothing comes close to the feeling of happiness she receives from knowing
she has helped one little Being climb onto her/his bed at night, with a full
tummy, with dreams of new books to read and new sums to configure, when morning