By Stephen E. Lipken
Over 925 enthusiastic New Rochelle High School (NRHS) students and adults poured into NHRS’ Whitney Young Auditorium to spend an enthralling and enchanting “Evening with Alice Walker” on Wednesday, October 10, jointly presented by NRHS and Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC). Supporters included sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha; Delta Sigma Theta; Merrill Lynch; Radisson New Rochelle; Sarah Lawrence College; Sister to Sister International (STSI), Linking Women of African Descent Globally, Wells Fargo and Westchester County Chapter of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College.
Introduced by Drama Desk Nominated Bongi Duma Composer Musical Performer/Actor drummers Bassanio Clark and Abbashani Wedderburn, Walker was warmly welcomed by NRHS Assistant Principal Camille Edwards Thomas; Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey and Anne M. Janiak, CEO, WEDC.
English Department Chair Lydia Adegbola, a member of the planning committee that arranged the event, amusingly noted the School District’s love for the color purple.
Other introductions included Nuestro Proposito by House IV Principal Shadia Alvarez; bilingual introductions from NRHS students Skylnn Ciriaco; Alondra Ochoa; Ajani Thomas and a brilliant welcome from The View co-host Sunny Hostin. Dr. “TEA” Traci Alexander served as moderator.
Walker’s works encompasses poetry, short stories and book The Color Purple as well as her latest bilingual book of poetry, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. Explaining the meaning of the title, Walker stated that it was a thought, expounded by Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.”
Many of the poems in her book are for Iraqi women, Palestinian children, mothers of police brutality victims and the overall oppressed. Her words filled with sorrow, salvation and hope address disregarded people around the world.
Finally, Walker spoke of seeing beauty, even in squalor. Growing up in a shack, Walker reminisced that her mother festooned it with flowers.