Alice Walker agrees to speak on campus

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker does not normally speak at universities, but will take a break from her sabbatical to speak at TCU’s “Compassion and Justice Consultation,” Melanie Harris, assistant professor and event coordinator, said.

Walker was the first African-American woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize, which she won for her book “The Color Purple”. “The Color Purple” is considered a classic book in human and gender studies that also celebrates the history of African-American life, Harris said.

“[Walker] agreed to do this I think in part because [the consultation] will focus on compassion and justice, and she knows that TCU is a place where we are working very hard on diversity,” she said.

Scholars from around the country, including representatives from Yale Divinity School, Harvard University, Columbia University, Emory University and Claremont University will also participate in the consultation, Harris said.

In addition to discussing “The Color Purple” and other literary works by Walker, the “Compassion and Justice Consultation” will blend Buddhist studies and womanist religious thought, Harris said. The merging of Buddhist and womanist studies began in 2009 under Charles Hallisey, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, she said.

“Dr. Hallisey and I worked together to invite a group of womanist scholars to talk about ‘The Color Purple’ [and] Alice Walker’s writings,” she said. “But also to talk about how important the principles of compassion and justice are within Buddhism then also within Alice Walker’s understanding of womanism and what womanist scholars actually do.”

Harris said TCU’s ability to host this event demonstrated how TCU stood out as a university with students who could appreciate interfaith conversation between religious scholars. The consultation is also designed to celebrate some of the ways Alice Walker raised awareness about varying global justice issues, she said.

“There are ways in which we produce ethical leaders in ways that other universities do not do,” she said. “So we’re here to celebrate that.”

Many people in the community contributed and helped sponsor the event, Harris said. In addition to teaching “The Color Purple” in some of her classes at TCU, Harris wrote a book about Walker’s life entitled, “Gifts of Virtue, Alice Walker, and Womanist Ethics.” Her personal connection with Walker helped make Walker’s visit possible, she said.

The “Compassion and Justice Consultation” has received support from university administration, the Fort Worth community, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Sister Fund, as well as a private donation from Cecilia G. Boone, Harris said.

“The fact that [Walker] said yes to compassion and justice, and the fact that she’s saying yes to being with us here in Fort Worth is exciting,” she said. “And everybody has really gotten on board.

The Student Government Association also contributed, she said.

David Russel, SGA financial chair, said a financial contribution from SGA was the final piece of the puzzle in securing the money needed for the event. After much discussion, SGA decided to contribute the remaining $10,000 that was needed, he said.

Brett Phillips, TCU students activities coordinator for the university, said “[SGA] just thought that bringing a Pulitzer Prize-winning author would have far greater benefits than just the financial contribution; the benefits would have a far greater significance.”

Russel said in addition to financial backing, SGA would also help to market the event on campus. He said the organization hoped to hold a showing of the movie adaptation “The Color Purple.” “I think [the event] will increase people’s perspectives and outlooks on life,” Russel said. “I think anytime you start talking about diversity I think it broadens people’s horizons…People will come away with a different perception of the world.”

Phillips said an event with such a notable guest could also pave the way for other high-quality speakers and authors to come to TCU. The event would also be a great opportunity to host leaders in the Metroplex and facilitate connections in the community, he said.

An Evening with Alice Walker

When: 7 p.m. April 29, book signing to follow

Where: Ed Landreth


Tickets are $15; TCU students admitted free

The first 100 to arrive will receive free copy of “The Color Purple.”

Reserve seats at