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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The World is Burning

    ‘Alice Walker, a womanist, an earth worshiper’hellip;a remarkable light in a time of darkness’hellip;the woman you have been waiting for’hellip;’

    Amy Goodman spoke these words to introduce Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple, to the SAC auditorium audience on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006.

    Dr. Olufemi Vaughan, Associate Provost and a Professor of Africana Studies at Stony Brook University, welcomed the audience to the 8th annual George Goodman Memorial Symposium featuring’ Walker, ‘a writer, activist, and social visionary.’ The Symposium was originally established by the Goodman family in honor of Dr. Goodman, Professor of Ophthalmology at the School of Medicine at SBU. After Dr. Vaughan’s address, Amy Goodman, host of the news program ‘Democracy Now,’ officially introduced Alice Walker, who is also the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

    Walker began her lecture, titled ‘The World is Burning,’ with a childhood story about her mother. In her soft, low-toned voice, she described how she used to watch her mother, who would be tired from her daily chores, watch soap operas in the afternoons. Walker said, ‘It became distressing for me to watch my mother because she had so much to offer to the community, yet she was becoming absorbed in soap operas ‘hellip; if she could use her wisdom and intelligence and experience, the world could be transformed’hellip;But she spent her life working and cleaning up after people.’

    Walker learned from her mother’s experience and tried to make a difference in present times. ‘We live in a time of such incredible distress, horror, hypocrisy, pain’hellip;what can we do?’ She answered this question herself.’ ‘If we can create circles of people, we can use them,’ she said, ‘and times will get much better’hellip;we can have leadership to help explain we are part of a whole. We should not create pyramidal structures, but circles.’ Walker herself belongs to many circles, such as her women’s council and her Buddhist study group.

    In 2003, Alice Walker, along with other public figures, was arrested during an anti-war rally in front of the White House in Washington, DC. Walker discussed why she joined the rally. ‘I knew war was not the answer,’ she said.’ ‘But, people have forgotten their humanity’hellip;It is an illusion that you drop bombs on ‘other people.’ There are no ‘other people.’ We have to join, survive together.’

    ‘We must change our society so more of us can belong to it. If we have circles’ we will not prevent Katrina, but we will be much more prepared if a Katrina strikes. We have lost our sense of community’hellip;We need to remake home, and this is important as more and more people lose their homes.’ Walker concluded her speech with an excerpt from her most recent collection of essays, ‘We are the Ones We are Waiting for.’

    The audience had various responses to the lecture after it finished. Nicole Hosten, a senior at SBU, said, ‘It was my first time hearing Ms. Walker, and it was a nice lecture geared towards peace and harmony’hellip;I enjoyed listening, but I was not deeply moved.’ Lyndonna Marrast, a medical student at SBU, had a different opinion. ‘I thought it was inspiring,’ she said. ‘It made me feel that I can actually cause something to happen. Usually, we feel everything is way out of our hands, while people at the top handle everything, but Ms. Walker made me realize that we can actually do something.’

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