Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Color Purple,” will appear in Wilmington this summer as part of Celebrating the Dream, a series of events announced Wednesday at the Cameron Art Museum to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
Walker is interested in coming to the Wilmington area in response to a recent attempt to ban “The Color Purple” in Brunswick County, according to Celebrating the Dream Program Director Juanita Harper. “But she believes that people have a right to say what they want to in a democracy, and people speaking out against her book is all part of free speech,” Harper added.
Walker will appear at Celebrating the Dream’s Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Presidential Legacy Awards Luncheon at the Wilmington Convention Center on July 2, the anniversary date of the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Celebrating the Dream, which is sponsored by Countywide Community Development Corp. of Navassa, also will include a black-and-white gala and art exhibit at the Cameron Art Museum, featuring internationally acclaimed artist Willie Cole, and a socio-economic summit with panelists who will speak about economic conditions and how they relate to human rights advances.
As a former Freedom Rider in the early 1960s who helped register black voters in the South, Walker will focus her comments on her legacy as a civil and human rights activist as well as a literary figure. In addition, Harper said Walker admires the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina and hopes its participants will be attending her talk.
Harper is hoping to set up a discussion with Walker and Brunswick County educators during her visit to discuss the meaning of “The Color Purple” and how best to teach it in the classroom.
Also honored at the Legacy luncheon will be Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient the Rev. C.T. Vivian, activist and close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Rev. Vivian also participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the country during the late 1950s through 1960s. He helped found civil rights organizations including the National Anti-Klan Network, and was featured in the civil rights documentary “Eyes on the Prize” and the PBS documentary “The Healing Ministry of Dr. C.T. Vivian.”
The luncheon also will honor civil rights luminaries, past and present, from Southeastern North Carolina.
“This is a homecoming for me,” Cole said at the press conference. In collaboration with Celebrating the Dream and the Cameron Art Museum, Cole will be creating an iconic exhibit about segregated schools in Southeastern North Carolina.
Cole is a sculptor with work in international museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His father is from Navassa and he still has cousins in the area.
Cole’s exhibit, titled “School Pride: The Eastern N.C. Story,” will explore images and artifacts from segregated schools.
“I plan to contemporize symbols from the era and bring them new meaning for civil rights today,” Cole said.
“Celebrating the Dream is a look at where we are and where we want to be,” said Joyce West, chairwoman of the black-and-white gala and exhibit opening. “We’re telling a story of the community, not just a black story or a white story. It’s everyone’s story.”
For information about tickets for Celebrating the Dream, contact Countywide Community Development Corp. at 910-383-1724 or visit the website www.celebratingthedream.org.
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