Keystone Academy Presents Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Alice Walker
April 29, 2013
Pulitzer prize-winning author Alice B. Walker presented a program in the Marian Anderson Music Center on April 24. Proceeds benefited the Keystone Honors Academy.
April 26, 2013 was an unforgettable fundraiser for the Keystone Honors Academy (KHA), featuring Dr. Alice Walker, the internationally acclaimed author, poet and activist. She spoke before a packed house in Cheyney University’s Marian Anderson Music Center. Her books include: seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. Walker is best known for her most successful and critically acclaimed 1983 novel, The Color Purple, which won her the Pulitzer Prize; making her the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. That same year, she also won the National Book Award.
Dr. Walker shared for more than an hour in her soft easy spoken voice. Walker told the crowd, “Figuratively, I was beaten black and blue by my critics for my work on The Color Purple.” She endured 10 long years of being vilified by reviewers who didn’t like her book and assumed it was all about male bashing. Walker was amazed that not one critic realized, since her novel begins with the words “Dear God,” that The Color Purple, is a theological work that examines the religious and the spiritual.
Dr. Tara Kent, Dean of the Keystone Honors Academy, said Cheyney students can certainly relate to and understand the themes of history and culture in Dr. Walker’s work. “Yet, I think that what truly captivates us about Dr. Walker’s historical fiction, is that her stories give us an opportunity to go beyond tradition, and the constrained roles and expectations of taken for granted assumptions about gender and race. We are all deeply empowered by these messages of transcendence in her books. We all need to know our history, yet there is great growth opportunity when we are challenged to think beyond ‘what is’ to help us imagine what else is possible.”
During her lecture, Walker suggested that we get our assignments from our ancestors. Part of her assignment, which was given to her by her grandfathers, was to go to school, learn to read and write, and take on the job of helping herself and others to understand how we grow and change. Moreover, The Color Purple is, in fact, about the ultimate ancestor, God--a topic Walker confessed she had spent the better part of her adult life trying to avoid; only to find out that she is a worshiper of nature. She said, “your spiritually has to be authentic, otherwise, it is not yours; you have to make a choice so it is yours.”
As the evening drew to a close, Walker dispensed words of wisdom to the audience and advised them to rise above the negative feedback that surrounds them with education, to never give up their personal power and to grab hold of it. The evening ended with Dr. Walker graciously autographing copies of her novel, The Color Purple, for a very large crowd. I will always cherish my signed copy especially since the character Sophia, portrayed by Oprah Winfrey in the film adaption, is modeled after Walker’s very own mother-- a delightful revelation.
The fundraiser was underwritten by The Cheyney Foundation, PK Financial Group and Wawa, plus a number of other sponsors including CFI, J. Savoy and Son, Westtown School, Kendal Crosslands, and many individuals such as Dr. Lynn Green and family. All proceeds support scholarships and educational programs at KHA, Cheyney University’s cornerstone program.