Lessons From The Color Purple

These days I hardly pray at all
I let the monsters under my bed be
they git comfortable
they git to know me.

I sit with my friends
we drink red wine,
we puff smoke into the air,
we admire the world and the birds chirping on thick magnolias.

We know who made it all
we talk about him all the time,
but we don’t make reverence to him

Even when the sun shines and we applaud,
the moon smiles and we appreciate,
the rain falls and we wonder,
the wind blows and we bend here and bend there.

So much is happening now
I try to pray but my lips be stiff like stick
there’s no longer fear in my heart
just questions about who might be next.

I remember to think of him before I go to bed
like a lover, I wonder what he thinks of me too
then sleep comes and carries me away
I dream and dream and sometimes
I see him in my dream
trying to warn me to git right
better git right

But I don’t listen
I hardly pray at all
the times git hard
my heart git harder, still.

I wrote this poem after reading The Color Purple.

Dear God, Alice Walker wrote a book for the ages. I share an unbreakable bond with my siblings and I can not imagine being separated from them for 30 years. Granted we all have a long-distance relationship, but I know where everyone is. And we facetime or text regularly. Family for me is everything and the thought of being separated from them is like digging a never-ending well in the pit of my stomach. That is exactly what happened to Nettie and Celie. These sisters had to go through life separately for 30 years while holding each other close in their hearts. For those who have not read the book, I will be dishing out spoilers and you may not be able to follow along. A little advice, read the book or see the movie and then come back here so we can cry, laugh, and discuss it together.

Lesson 1 – You git to have faith and believe: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”

You see, Celie’s stepfather began sexually molesting her when she was 14 years old. With that came two pregnancies and eventual births of a girl named Olivia and a boy named Adam. Her stepfather did not want Celie to keep the children so he gave them away. Celie lived her life believing that her children no longer walked the earth. Her stepfather had given Celie’s children; Olivia and Adam to Corrine and her husband Samuel. Samuel and Corrine were missionaries doing the lord’s work. When Celie saw Olivia with Corrine at a clothing store, she knew the child she thought was dead was standing right in front of her, living and breathing. Corrine and Celie exchanged pleasantries and even though Corrine forgot about their meeting, Celie never did. When Celie’s younger sister, Nettie decided to run away from home, Celie encouraged Nettie to go in search of Corrine. Celie wanted a better life for Nettie and Corrine looked like a woman capable of providing Nettie with a better life. Celie was married to Albert, a man who despised her, she was taking care of his children, mending his hem, and cooking his meals. That was not the life Celie wanted for Nettie who was bright, young, talented, and beautiful. Before Nettie left to visit Corrine, Celie told her to keep in touch by writing letters. Nettie never wrote, and Celie thought Nettie had died.

Even with that realization, Celie held on to her faith in God for a long time. With every curve ball life brought her way, God was always her source of strength. On days when Celie couldn’t hold on to her faith, Nettie was on the other side of the world (in Africa on a missionary trip) believing enough for both of them. All along, Nettie was writing to Celie on paper and in her heart, but Albert, Celie’s husband was hiding the letters from Celie. Nettie never stopped believing that her sister Celie would write back one day. Faith keeps you going even in life’s greatest tribulations. And if you hold on just a little longer, things will work out. Sometimes, you have to go through life separately to cherish the moments you have with your loved ones. And sometimes you have to have a little faith, because that mustard seed type faith can go a long way in keeping hope alive.

Lesson 2- Be Shug Avery fine: Shug Avery was a very complicated character in the book. You see Celie’s husband Albert? Shug Avery used to be his lover before he married Celie. Albert’s father did not approve of Shug Avery and Albert’s relationship because Shug was known to be promiscuous. So, Albert ended up marrying someone else. However, Albert and Shug continued their relationship, making Albert’s wife miserable. This drove Albert’s wife to go out and find herself her own lover. Albert’s first wife ended up getting killed by her lover.

Shug Avery was dark and lovely. She was stylish and bold. She had an even greater singing voice. When Albert became a widower, he longed for Shug Avery to come back to him but Shug was not one to be tied down by any man. Shug traveled the world singing and living her life, breaking Albert’s heart in the process. Albert turned his sight on Nettie when he came across her in church and decided that he was going to marry her to fill the gap that Shug created. But Nettie’s father and Celie disapproved. Celie gave herself to Albert, saving her sister Nettie from a life of conformity and suffering. While Celie suffered in the relationship, Shug Avery came back to town sick and in need of care. Naturally, Albert welcomed Shug to his house with open arms, and eventually, they began their relationship again. During this time, Celie and Shug become very close. Celie had always fancied and adored Shug Avery even before meeting her. Shug and Celie ended up developing a romantic relationship behind Albert’s back. Did I say complicated?

Why did I say ‘be Shug Avery fine’ even though she seemed promiscuous and unattached to a particular person or place? Shug Avery was one of the strongest characters in the book. She lived her best life, worked hard, always looked beautiful, and never took shit from any man. In a patriarchal society, she was her own boss and lived her life by her own rules. She was also a very kind-hearted person who helped Celie find her faith in God when she lost it.

“I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.” ― Alice Walker

Although Shug was mean to Celie in the beginning, they ended up building a friendship that spanned over 30 years. Shug helped Celie set up a sewing business, recover the letters from Nettie that Albert hid, and most importantly, she loved Celie with her whole heart. In life, you gotta be hardworking, speak up, own your truth, look your best, and love with all your heart just like Shug Avery. Be the better part of Shug Avery.

Lesson 3 – Admire nature: I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” ― Alice Walker.

This summer, I have taken time out to feel the nature around me. In turn, it has fed my creativity greatly. The flowers, the skies, a stranger, a friend, a chair, a bus station, etc. God made them all and if you stop for a moment, you’ll see the beauty in everything.

Lesson 4 – Know God for yourself: As a Christian, the one thing I have learned in my walk with God and studying the bible is that it is all open to personal interpretation. Even the devil knows the bible and he uses it to manipulate the sons and daughters of God. Remember the temptations of Jesus Christ? I’ll say this, I appreciate and respect and honor the hand of God on those he has ordained and set apart to lead his flocks. But many times, pastors can preach without the direction, leading, and backing of the holy spirit. This is why it is important to come to the knowledge of truth personally. If your spirit does not agree with what a pastor, leader, or fellow follower of Christ is saying, you have to go back to the word of God and ask God for wisdom. God is not an author of confusion, and we are not to follow anyone with blind faith. Let’s not be led astray, God is in all of us. And he is the all-seeing and all-knowing God. So, when you do not understand, ask the maker of heaven and earth and he will always guide you in the light of his purity.

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” ― Alice Walker,

Lesson 5 – Be fierce like Sofia: “All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I love Harpo, she says. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.” ― Alice Walker. 

These are the words of the assertive Sofia. A little back story on my girl Sofia. Sofia had sisters who looked like amazon queens, large like her and extra fierce like her. She embodied that saying “what a man can do, a woman can do better.” Albert’s first wife gave birth to children for him. One of Albert’s kids was named Harpo and it was that Harpo that ended up falling in love with Sofia and marrying her. Now, Sofia was very assertive, she did not like the white man or any man for that matter telling her what to do. Harpo saw the way Celie submitted to his father, he saw the way his father maltreated and beat Celie. Harpo wanted that kind of submission from Sofia. Celie in her moment of weakness encouraged Harpo to beat Sofia in order to force her to submit to him. Celie later regretted her actions and Sofia and Celie became very good friends. Never the less, Harpo took Celie’s advice, and this created a rift between Harpo and Sofia. Whenever Harpo hit Sofia, she hit him back.

“Sofia the kind of woman no matter what she have in her hand she make it look like a weapon.”― Alice Walker,

Sofia and Harpo ended up hurting each other physically because Sofia would not let Harpo get away with hurting her. Eventually, Sofia and Harpo separated. She left him and took all 5 of their children with her. Sofia ended up getting thrown in jail later in the book. She refused to become a maid for the mayor’s wife who was white. The mayor saw her refusal as a despicable act and slapped Sofia. Sofia in turn hit the mayor back which led to jail time for Sofia. Not only did Sofia spend time in prison, but she was also beaten black and blue. After she was released, she went to work for the mayor’s wife as a continuation of her sentence.

One would look at Sofia’s life and say her mouth landed her in trouble. Women especially black women are not maids or slaves or punching bags. If you followed my feminism series you’ll know how strongly I feel about the mistreatment of women. WE NEED TO LEARN TO PROTECT THE BLACK WOMAN. Sofia stood up for herself because no one was ready to stand up for her. Even though life broke her and she became subservient, her fire and character in the book were unmatched. Ladies, wisdom is understanding the difference between when to act and when to stay still. Sofia was always ready to act and that got her in trouble. I would say, get a little of Sofia’s spice with a whole lot of wisdom.

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