Alice Walker: Women Can Solve Mideast Crisis

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Renowned author Alice Walker told a sold-out audience Sunday night that women are the key to solving the crisis in the Middle East, since men have so obviously failed.

Six hundred people packed into Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School and gave the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Northern California resident a standing ovation as she walked on stage.

In her speech, Walker talked about the "suffering" that is occurring throughout the world and cited the current Palestinian and Israeli conflict as an example.

"We are being called to stand by and to mediate and to 'inter-be' with these people," Walker said.

She went on to read an excerpt from a piece entitled "Let the Women Talk" which was written by an author in Tel Aviv. The piece calls for the Israeli and Palestinian women to come forward and "try to make sense where men could not." The work admonished the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"Too many men, too many egos (are) involved in the burning of this land," Walker read. "We are scared. We want them to be scared too. Jerusalem can be shared. This whole area can be shared."

According to Bob Baldock, a KPFA radio spokesperson, the event was a benefit for the Berkeley radio station, as well as for the Berkeley Eco House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of environmentally sound homes.

Medea Benjamin, the California Green Party candidate for Senate and a friend of Walker's, introduced Walker as the author of seven best selling books and numerous short stories, essays, volumes of poetry and children's books. Walker is perhaps best known for her novel "The Color Purple," for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award. Her work has been translated into 25 languages, Benjamin said.

"(Her writings are) the work of compassion, the work of the spirit, (and) the work of social activism," she said.

Walker read from her latest book, "The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart," a collection of autobiographical short stories. Among the selections she read was the epilogue entitled, "To the Husband of My Youth," in which she described the United States as a "broken hearted nation."

"We have reached a place of the deepest, emptiest sorrow," Walker said. "I send you my sorrow."

Walker read from her work without interpretation and spoke of the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

"Did any of us expect to outlive the boy we call John-John," she asked. "We have seen so much death."

She herself had a "frightening" experience when the plane she took on her flight home from Washington D.C. was hit by lightning.

Benjamin, in her politically charged introduction, promoted her party's platform.

"Not only are we going to fight against bigotry, against materialism, against the destruction of our environment, we are going to take over the system and we are going to be the ones in power," she said. "We are going to be the ones who are going to change the system."

Walker, who said she loved Benjamin's "spirit" and endorses her campaign, addressed contemporary politics by reading from a poem of UC Berkeley Professor June Jordan.

"Do not look outside of yourself for the leader," Walker read. "At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. We are the ones we've been waiting for."


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