Rebecca Walker Blog
GROWING UP, my sexuality, like for many, was shaped by the culture I lived and breathed, and heterosexuality was pretty much the only meal served at the Table of Sexual Orientation. Ken and Barbie did not have lovers of the same sex. Denise did not fret to Daddy Huxtable about her girl crush. From the moment I grew breasts, people asked whether I wanted to be a lawyer or an astronaut when I grew up, and if I had a boyfriend. No one, not ever, not once, asked if I had a girlfriend. If they had, I might have considered the possibility. But they didn't, so I didn't, either. The thought never crossed my mind. Which might explain why, the first time I fell in love with a woman, I was completely thrown.
I was 21 years old, four months out of college, three months out of a relationship with a boy I thought I was going to marry, and employed at a nonprofit. One evening, I was working a fundraiser at an awards ceremony for women in the film industry. A possible suitor, male or female, was as far from my mind as the salt lakes in the Himalayas. And yet, as I strode across the exquisitely appointed room toward yet another philanthropist, I bumped into a very beautiful woman.
She was a celebrity who shall go forever unnamed, but I will say that she was statuesque and confident, and her skin glowed with health, wealth, and carefully applied bronzer. I sputtered and apologized for almost knocking her down. She smiled and touched my arm, but I was mortified and dashed into the women's room. I had never felt attracted to a woman before. It was as if my whole view of what was sexy, sensual, and possible had just turned on its axis.
Spin the Globe: Rebecca Walker in Bulgaria
AFAR chooses a destination at random—by literally spinning a globe—and sends writer Rebecca Walker on a spontaneous journey to Bulgaria.
In the course of a single impromptu trip, the World Wide Web went from being very virtual to being very real. The shift began instantly after my destination was revealed, 48 hours before departure. I was headed for the unknown; what else could I do but send 140 characters to thousands of people I had never met? “Hey Tweeps! What’s good in Bulgaria?”
Within 20 minutes I received a direct message from Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian feminist blogger living in Tennessee who said she’d be thrilled to show me her Bulgaria. Her list, sent a few hours later to my personal email, included places for me to go, things to see, people to meet, and food to eat. My trip had officially begun. I didn’t know it then, but Petya’s generosity—and the miraculous nature of the Internet connection—would color every moment of my journey.
When I hit the tarmac in Sofia at 7 a.m., I felt buoyed by Petya’s spirit. Rather than bleak and unforgiving, the stripped-down airport—white on white, with huge windows looking out on blank runways and endless gray sky—was inspiring in its minimalism.
Once in the city, I noticed not the imminent rainstorm but the warmth of the people. Bulgarians strolled the spacious main street of Sofia’s posh Vitosha district in twos and threes, bundled against the chill. They held hands, linked arms, and talked quietly with heads bowed and pressed together.
Petya wrote that I must visit the 10th-century Rila monastery outside of Sofia, so on my first day I rode the local bus two hours into the mountains. At the remote hermitage, I found the sweetest, freshest air and meditated in the impenetrable stillness. I was alone but felt as if Petya was there, too; this person I had never met, who led me to this place I had never been. Back in Sofia the next morning, I fretted a bit about the connection. For a moment, I was determined to do my own thing, to reclaim my adventure. But then I roamed the streets aimlessly for a few hours and came to realize Petya was my adventure. She created the list, but even though I was following her bread crumbs, her magic trail, I was still tracking the unknown.
Which is how I ended up having coffee on my second day in Sofia with Petya’s friend, former world-class and national champion tennis player Magdalena Maleeva, who is also a founder of the country’s ecology movement and now the owner of the only group of organic grocery stores in Bulgaria. We sat in the café next to her main shop in the center of the labyrinthian city and talked about motherhood—how we loved it, how we wanted more children, how we were not ready for the time of cuddling babies to be over.
I asked about tennis—how could I not? Magdalena told me the story she must have repeated 10,000 times: Her mother worked at a tennis club and put all three of her talented girls in classes. Her mother pushed them. The Communist regime, in power from 1946 to 1990, pushed them. They all became tennis legends. “And now I educate corporations about going green,” she said. We laughed.
Rebecca Walker: Black is Cool
“…YOU CAN NO MORE SEPARATE COOL FROM BLACKNESS THAN YOU CAN SEPARATE HULA FROM HAWAIIANS, OR YOGA FROM INDIANS, OR FRENCH CUISINE FROM THE FRENCH. “
Rebecca Walker is cool. The origins of her cool aren’t located in some unquantifiable “swag,” nor is it strutting down a Fashion Week runway, cooing in a music video, or residing in a pulpit oratory whose cadence conjures protests of Southern trees bearing strange fruits. It isn’t even found in her casual Soho clothes or Noxema-clear complexion. Rebecca Walker’s cool stems from a mind, talent, experiences bred on both coasts (New York City and San Francisco, to be exact), and a pedigree of accomplishments that puts to shame many a slacker son and daughter of the 1%. Through her latest edited collection, Black Cool: A Thousand Streams of Blackness, one would say that Walker cites the ground-spring of her cool in a residence both less and more obvious, depending on your embrace of stereotype and level of social consciousness—her Blackness.
Biracial, bisexual, but far too multi-talented to be binary in any other way, for two decades Walker’s tackled the tough subjects of identity, community, power and justice placing her own life and experiences at the center of her discourse and making “the personal political” mean more than a lefty slogan. Considered one of the founding mothers of Third Wave Feminism and a leading multimedia voice from the Gen X generation, the Yale graduate and long-time contributing editor of Ms. has demonstrated all the modern renaissance woman can be. Whether working punditry at CNN or MTV, touring the college lecture circuit to inspire a generation of fresh, eager-eyed feminists, or writing the books they’re all talking about, including: To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism; Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self; What Makes A Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future and Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After A Lifetime of Ambivalence, the multiple award-winning Walker’s proven herself more than her last name.
Given all these lofty accomplishments, it seems almost bad manners to mention that Walker is the famously estranged daughter of womanist activist and Color Purpleauthor Alice Walker. Named one of The Advocate’s “40 under 40” and Time Magazine’s “50 Future Leaders of America,” Rebecca Walker has beaten back broadcast-whispered charges of nepotism with a grinder’s aplomb. It’s her tenacious talent that’s kept her pinnacled as a sought-after voice and frequently published cultural critic of note. Hers and the gifts of her talented circle are on earnest display in a work about a much dog-eared subject of “Black Cool” without the social science “pathology” invocations that usually accompany the subject. As you’ll see, for Walker the subject is so much more than a dissected “cool pose” leading to jail or hell. It’s as multi-faceted as the lady herself.
MAKE IT COUNT.
I am sooo loving being a part of this incredible collection.
Award-winning writer and high-flying sexual truth-teller Jong (Love Comes First, 2009, etc.) partners with 28 collaborators to create this fierce and refreshingly frank collection of personal essays, short fiction and cartoons celebrating female desire.
The approaches to the still-taboo topic of feminine sexuality—at least, for women writers seeking approbation from the literary establishment—are, as Jong notes, “as varied as sexuality itself” and as exuberantly diverse as the contributors themselves. They range from such emerging talents as Elisa Albert and J.A.K. Andres to such luminaries as Rebecca Walker, Eve Ensler, Susan Cheever, Anne Roiphe and Fay Weldon, and represent a multiethnic, multigenerational swath of some of the finest women writers in the United States.
By Rebecca Walker
Kara Walker is tall, fashionable and reserved when I meet her in the lobby of the chic Residence Du Parc, a brutalist landmark of poured concrete adorned with iconic examples of modernist and postmodern art. Outside huge windows, Turin is celebrating itself: Italian flags drip from every window, flutter along every boulevard.
Kara wears flat leather oxfords, tights and a paper-thin leather jacket. She eyes me somewhat warily as I extend my arms for an embrace and launch into small talk, which I normally detest. Luckily, my bags have been lost and I indulged in a truly remarkable spa treatment the night before, so I have plenty to talk about.
She's been working on the installation of her show we're both here in Italy to support. The necessary projectors have not arrived. The show is to open in five days, and today we have to teach a class to art students. I sense she'd like to get back to the gallery, and the class is a distraction. She twirls her hair as we wait for the taxi.
At the class, the students are on fire. They've studied our work and want to know about memory and myth, the creative process and its demands. Kara and I sit behind a paint-splattered table and do our best. I'm jet-lagged but exuberant, thanks to a piping-hot cappuccino; Kara is laconic and soft-spoken. But then I see it -- a gentle smile, then a big laugh followed by a series of confident assessments of student work.
As the day wears on, we find a groove. We tag-team it, develop a rapport, give everything we can in the time allotted. Driving back to the Du Parc to recover and prepare for dinner, we talk about our kids. Hers is starting high school, into fashion, gorgeous. Mine is 6, getting ready for soccer camp, and I miss him with an ache I can't begin to put into words.
The next five days are a whirlwind of activity. We teach the students, I present my memoir Baby Love at Il Circolo dei Lettori on the same night that Jonathan Franzen reads from Freedom. I introduce Kara's show, A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to a full gallery, and Melissa Harris-Perry and Jennifer Richeson follow up with talks about the black body and the neurological workings of prejudice. The press descends and recommends.
Egypt's Nawal El Saadawi: "We will not let Egypt Burn"
For five decades, the famed Egyptian physician/writer/feminist has been fighting the powers that be. The Root caught up with her just hours before President Mubarak stepped down.
By Rebecca Walker
The Root: Where are you now?
Saadawi: I am home in my apartment in Cairo, and we are preparing to go out into streets.
TR: Are you going to [Tahrir] Square?
NS: The Square is full. There is no more room in the square and so we have decided that we will be everywhere. Egyptians will be in every square, on every street, at the Presidential Palace, and at the national television station. We will be in every place. This revolution has unified us. We are not men and women, Christian and Muslim, professional and non-professional, we are all Egyptians and we will not let Egypt burn.
Rebecca Walker for The Root
Believe me, I do not want to cast aspersions on the famous Danish toy company that goes by the name "Lego Group." My 6-year-old is in love with the little plastic blocks and plays with them for hours at a time, leaving me to tap away blissfully on this keyboard that magically connects me to the Internet. Last week I even made my own first Lego creation and posted it on my Facebook page. It's called the Taj Mommal.
Imagine my surprise, then, when, while looking for holiday presents and blithely scrolling through the Lego offerings on the site, I came across a set for the 5- to 12-year-old Lego aficionado called -- are you ready? -- a Prisoner Transport vehicle. It has high user ratings and comes with a prisoner, a policeman and, well, a prisoner-transport vehicle with gated windows. I almost had a coronary. Is Lego normalizing the prison industrial complex to 5-year-olds?
I kept scrolling. Surely there was a tribunal set in which the guards who have been caught raping and abusing juvenile prisoners are held accountable for their actions. And what about a prisoner-DNA set, where our 6-year-old scientist pretends to discover that the prisoner doing the time didn't actually do the crime? How about the set designed after the peaceful prison strike in December in Georgia, where thousands of inmates -- black, white, Mexican and other -- put aside their gangbanging to make a statement about the human potential for greater good?
Rebecca Walker shares five ways out of the muck for all those not immediately feeling the happy new year vibe.
By Rebecca Walker
The dawn of 2011 has been mixed. Healthy family, busy writing life, and beautiful Hawaiian rain. Watched Inception and I Am Love, two brilliant films that inspired me no end. Patti Smith’s Just Kids is bringing me back to the magical vortex of New York--the mecca where somany of us began on this perilous road of love, life and art. I’m having one hell of a literary visit.
But honestly, I’ve also been feeling melancholy. I’m working on a book in its one-millionth draft, missing friends six thousand miles away, and shielding my eyes and soul from the news on more iGadgets than I can shake a stick at, Twitter and FB on iPhone, The New Yorker and The Guardian on iPad, cnn.com on my iMac. The world is looking bleak, people. Folks losing homes and jobs. America not living up to its ideals. Legos selling Prisoner Transport Vehicles as toys. Our lovely President looking exhausted and defeated. Sometimes it’s easy to be mesmerized by all that’s wrong. My husband says negativity is like a bullyon the playground, and he’s right. The bully is the same size as all the other kids, but seems so much bigger. Just thinking about that mean kid makes the heart pound with fear. Everything else falls away--your best friendand good grades, the leftover pizza from Chez Panisse your mom tucked into your lunchbox...
So how to keep our eyeson the prize? How to acknowledge the truly awful, but rob it of oxygen? How to banish that bully and magnetize the coolest bunch of friends a girl could ever want?Here are my tools to fan the hot flames of everything enlightening and regenerative. These are the ideas that bring me back from the ledge:
Rebecca Walker for The Root.
I'm all i-Ed out. At the moment I'm packing an iMac, iPad, iPod and iPhone, and David Pogue's review convinced me that I must have the new MacAir because, well, my iPad plus external keyboard just isn't cutting it for real work and real deadlines, no matter how many cool apps I've dutifully downloaded. I woke up this morning thinking that either I need each and every one of these devices to survive life on earth, or Steve Jobs is one of the biggest, baddest drug dealers of all time, and I'm addicted to hisproduct.
I've been using Macs since high school, when my father bought me a512K Enhanced Macintosh to bang out my college applications and I fell in love with the plug-and-play functionality designed for technologically challenged and manual-reading averse humans like myself. I use Macs today for those reasons and more. They're capable of amazing feats of digital wonder, and they drip with heart-stopping beauty.
But Apple really got me at "Think Different."The legendary campaign associated Apple users with Gandhi, John Lennon, Picasso, Einstein and Dr. King; who wouldn't want to be in that company? The bold, minimalist campaign suggested a seamless practice of company wide integrity that trumped all comers.
But things appear to be changing at Apple. At times, profit seems to be steering the ship. Some also say that Jobs has a scary God complex. And as a producer friend texted me the other day while we were waxing rhapsodic about the new MacAir, the company has consumers strung out, drinking Kool-Aid that may have been delish, organic and bursting with integrity 20 years ago, but today may be anything but.