After Writing Letter to Alicia Keys Supporting Boycott of Israel, Alice Walker Disinvited from University of Michigan

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Pultizer Prize winning author of the Color Purple and Freedom Fighter Alice Walker was disinvited from the University of Michigan over her fight for the people of Palestine. Walker posted the following on her blog:

In Case You’ve Ever Wondered How It Is Done: Censorship by Purse String

An Invitation to speak at the 50th Anniversary for the Center for Education of Women at the University of Michigan has been withdrawn.

I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker’s comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women’s center do not have the resources to finance this on their own. They are deeply regretful but I wanted to let you know immediately either way. I hope you can appreciate the fact that I’m uncomfortable even having to send this email in the first place. Hopefully we can work together again down the road. Thanks for understanding. I wish things had turned out differently.

I so appreciate the tone of the agent’s letter, alerting my assistant and me to this situation. It isn’t hard to imagine how he feels, having been so enthusiastic about getting me to come to help the women celebrate a major milestone in their many struggles for education and equality. But there is a bright side: Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us.

I am bone weary of travel, after over half a century of doing it, so I don’t regret not getting on another plane and being x-rayed coming and going, and occasionally being patted down as if I’m hiding something under my blouse, but I am sorry to miss this joyful sounding gathering of women (and men) who are without doubt some of the best our country has to offer.

If you should read this, people of the invitation, know I send you my love, and my understanding, without reservation. I thought you were brave to invite me, and I cherish you for that. Whatever the truth is, that is what will always be. That is why Gandhi said Truth is God. It cannot be hidden forever, nor can it be kept from even the smallest child, indefinitely.
Alice Walker

Alice Walker speaks in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Lazar Simeonov TEDxRamallah

A representative of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women has responded and claims this is a simple misunderstanding:

The [Walker’s] blog was a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. As director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), I decided to withdraw our invitation because I didn’t think Ms. Walker would be our optimum choice for our 50th anniversary.

Our 50th-anniversary funding is assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech. In fact, in a conversation with one of Ms. Walker’s friends/representatives, I indicated that I would be willing to speak with other units around campus to serve as a possible co-sponsor for a lecture by Ms. Walker in the near future.

Walker has been seeking to recruit artists such as Alicia Keys to boycott Israel, here is a letter she penned to Keys:

Dear Alicia Keys,

I have learned today that you are due to perform in Israel very soon. We have never met, though I believe we are mutually respectful of each other’s path and work. It would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists.

You were not born when we, your elders who love you, boycotted institutions in the US South to end an American apartheid less lethal than Israel’s against the Palestinian people. Google Montgomery Bus Boycott, if you don’t know about this civil rights history already. We changed our country fundamentally, and the various boycotts of Israeli institutions and products will do the same there. It is our only nonviolent option and, as we learned from our own struggle in America, nonviolence is the only path to a peaceful future.

If you go to my website and blog alicewalkersgarden.com you can quickly find many articles I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major “crime” is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.

Under a campaign named ‘Brand Israel,’ Israeli officials have stated specifically their intent to downplay the Palestinian conflict by using culture and arts to showcase Israel as a modern, welcoming place.

This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil. You can spend months, and years, as I have, pondering this situation. Layer upon layer of lies, misinformation, fear, cowardice, and complicity. Greed. It is a vast eye-opener into the causes of much of the affliction in our suffering world.

I have kept you in my awareness as someone of conscience and caring, especially about the children of the world. Please, if you can manage it, go to visit the children in Gaza, and sing to them of our mutual love of all children, and of their right not to be harmed simply because they exist.

With love, younger sister, beloved daughter, and friend,

Alice Walker

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