Guests Enjoy Evening With Literary Icon Alice Walker

By Jennifer L Warren

NEW ROCHELLE – Her feet barely made contact with the floor as she sat in the cushioned chair on the front stage of the Whitney Young Auditorium at New Rochelle High School last Wednesday night.

A broad, genuine smile crossing her face as well as joyful laughter, Alice Walker might be short of stature, but make no mistake about it: most everything else the literary icon and pioneer activist possesses is gigantic in scale. Her two feet are “firmly planted” in the ground, nurtured and fueled by her unwavering faith in truth, change, hope, growth, beauty and love. These are just some of the potent pieces that are embedded throughout her newly released book of poetry, TAKING THE ARROW OUT OF THE HEART, one of the many topics Walker provided insights into during the over 90 minute program at the High School and held in conjunction with The Women’s Enterprise Development Center. Dubbed as a “queen,”

Walker was welcomed in by a mesmerizing, drum chant and celebratory dancing, surrounded by an appreciative audience, who viewed her nothing short of royalty.

Alice Walker's newly released book of poetry, TAKING THE ARROW OUT OF THE HEART.
Alice Walker’s newly released book of poetry, TAKING THE ARROW OUT OF THE HEART.

“Hope is something we have to have and all we can expect,” said Walker, reflecting on the state of affairs in this country. “Women need to speak up and children need to start realizing they are a global tribe; more than anything I am seeking the truth in my writing.”

So, are things improving at all? For Walker, there is always hope.

“I’ve changed for the better,” Walker affirmed. “I really hope others can as well; it starts as an individual thing that needs to be a collective effort.”

That united effort, guided by continual honest dialogue, is a motif that resides in many of Walker’s poems in her new collection. Whether it’s a piece on the inherent beauty of Celie from A COLOR PURPLE, the fighting spirit of friend Muhammad Ali or the dire need to thwart fear of the African-American male, Walker aims to not only reveal how we must unite together for a more positive, beautiful tomorrow, but find a cathartic means to relieve our individual, shared pains. They are truisms weaved into the book’s very title.

“It is a Buddhist idea that we are all at one time or another shot in the heart so badly we thought only others could hurt this way; for many of us there is an inevitable need to circle the wound,” explained Walker. “How to take the arrow out of the heart? How to learn to relieve our own pain? That is the question.” For Walker, the answer never lies in taking down the archer, yet through other ‘unapplied’ avenues, “the medicine of life that abounds wherever we are.”

“I always go by what the heart is saying,” said Walker. “My dream is to really awaken you.”
Walker undoubtedly enlightened many of all ages Wednesday evening. Included in that large crowd were New Rochelle High School students who had diligently studied some of her earlier works along with her new poetry. Several posed questions to the literary and civil rights trailblazer. Some queries centered upon the content of Walker’s work, including racism and ancestry; while others were focused on her writing style and philosophy. Still another touched upon her “relevance” in society today.

“I don’t really care if I’m relevant”, Walker immediately responded. “People think about us a lot more than we do them.” She added, “I have a lot of pain, but it has never stopped me from truly loving life.”

Another student, visibly emotional, told Walker how her writing had changed her life for the better. Touched by the sentiment, Walker discovered this girl was an aspiring writer.

“You owe it to the universe to be uniquely fantastic,” Walker urged, as she encouraged her to pursue the fulfilling and amazing craft-passion of writing. “Writing is a great thing to do; ultimately it improves you as a human being.”

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