Author and activist Alice Walker, best known for "The Color Purple," will speak tonight in Olympia. She is the keynote speaker for the Peace Works 2011 conference, sponsored by the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice.
The foundation, run by Craig and Cindy Corrie of Olympia, honors the memory of their daughter, who was killed in 2003 in Gaza while standing in the way of a bulldozer to try to prevent it from demolishing a family’s home.
Walker met the Corries when they all traveled to Gaza in March 2009 with the group Code Pink. The trip was scheduled in the wake of Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
Walker, the Corries and other delegates met in Cairo, Egypt, and traveled by bus to Gaza.
“One does not, in such a situation, forget that Alice Walker is on board the bus,” Cindy Corrie wrote in an email from Israel, where the Corries are attending hearings in the lawsuit they have filed against the Israeli army over their daughter’s death.
“I was very aware of her quiet presence, and, like everyone, had some amount of curiosity about this literary and activist legend,” Corrie said. “Most of all, I was simply pleased and grateful that she was with us.
“What I felt in Gaza from and with Alice was that she was one of us – of those who came for all the right reasons,” Corrie wrote. “The trip wasn’t about her or about me. It was about the people we were meeting, hearing from and learning from.”
Corrie began corresponding with Walker to see if she’d speak at the conference. “How does one draft an email to Alice Walker?” Corrie wrote. “But she responded generously and kindly.”
The appearance is a rare one for Walker.
“She does so few speaking engagements now,” said Rochelle Gause, the foundation’s project coordinator. “It’s really amazing.”
Because of the trial, the Corries will not be able to attend the conference. Cindy Corrie said she’s brought a book of Walker’s essays with her to Israel and plans to read it today since she will miss Walker’s speech.