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Rebecca Walker Blog

It's a Family Affair: One Big Happy Family in CLUTCH

It's always strange reading what people write about me. To see myself through their eyes. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's enlightening. Sometimes it makes me think about how I said something or what I really want people to understand.

This is an interesting piece by Zettler Clay on One Big Happy Family on Clutch today. I'm pondering how I feel about this profile. I don't think of myself as an "inveterate zealot," but I feel I should at least consider the possibility. 

I also don't think I've spent thirty-nine years seeking my mother's attention, but perhaps that's what it looks like to others. Alas--this profile is thought provoking. Quixotic, natch. 

What do you think? 

An excerpt:

"But who, pray tell, is Rebecca Walker?

She is a woman who has spent a good part of her 39 years on earth seeking her mother’s elusive approval. She’s the Jewish-Nubian who spent considerable parts of her childhood being shuffled from coast-to-coast, enduring ridicule from classmates because of her lineage and looks, while imbibing the rich customs of Jews and African-Americans alike. She is a woman who attended Yale University, graduated cum laude, wrote several treatises, books and articles, all while haunted by the memory of a lost baby and the fear of not being able to have another one.

She is, in essence, a woman of omnivorous tastes; a counterculture spokesperson and literary commuter who is still ultimately seeking her halcyon environment, if not understanding, of how to make the world a better place. A quixotic being, but certainly not apathetic."

My, my.

Read More

Buy the book 

March 23rd, 2009

Living the Divine Masculine, an Interview with Shantam Nityama, Sexual Healer

I conducted this interview a few years back for What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future where you can listen to the full audio, but it seems relevant for One Big Happy Family, too.

When I did the interview for KPFA in Berkeley, I was exploring the way men can, through supporting women, support a part of themselves. Nityama has taken this to an incredibly dynamic place, and spends his life offering sessions of sexual healing to women

This version is from the site Extatica.

RW: Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you came into this work.

SN: It is sex that brings us onto the planet. We must realize that if we have difficulty with the primal energy that brought us here, then we are going to be mired in self-hatred and be confused about the very thing that has brought us into being.

More

March 21st, 2009

My Body, My Butoh

Brilliant short video about Butoh, one my favorite forms of modern dance. Butoh was born in Japan after the atomic blasts. It explores death, destruction, resurrection, presence, purity, horror, the sublime, beauty, the power of a simple gesture, and more.

I'm a huge fan of Sankai Juku, one of the most respected and revered Butoh companies in the world, mentioned in this film. The first time I saw them, with a beloved choreographer friend, I was struck dumb. I was in awe, transported. Butoh changed my life. It gave me something that has never left.

March 17th, 2009

Mixed Chicks Chat, Interview with Heidi Durrow and Fanshen Cox

I share this hour-long interview (which I did from the Costco parking lot!) with Louie Gong, President of Maven. I come in after first half-hour--and have a lot of fun with the chicks.

We talk Buddhism, coming to the end of identity, and much more--all while trucks and cars and huge shopping carts careen past. I love these chicks. We met when they invited me to give the inaugural opening keynote at their baby, the Mixed Roots Film and Literature Festival in Los Angeles. 

Listen.

 

March 15th, 2009

Da Kine!

I love this! Living in Hawaii, I can't tell you how close to home this hits.

March 13th, 2009

Howard Zinn on Obama, from Alternet

Excerpt of Liliana Segura's fascinating interview with dear family friend and ultimate power-to-the-people historian, Howard Zinn. Thoughts? 

From Alternet

LS: What do you think about Obama and the fact that he's following the trajectory of the Bush administration with the whole "war on terror"? You endorsed him, right?

Howard Zinn: Endorsed Obama? (Laughs.) Yes -- I endorsed Obama, I wanted him to win. I wanted Bush and Cheney out of there. I wanted change -- and the truth is I didn't have much choice. It was Bush or Obama. I chose Obama. And, in fact, I was hopeful. Not too hopeful, because I know something about American history. I know how much hope has resided in presidents, and I'm aware that presidents are political animals. I'm very much aware that Lincoln was a policitian and Roosevelt was a politician and, in fact, you might say the theme of my work is that we cannot depend on people in the White House. We can depend on people picketing the White House. So my attitude towards Obama has been watchful from the beginning in the sense that, okay, it's good to have Obama in there, I'm glad that he aroused a lot of people getting people involved in politics -- now I hope these people who have been aroused and energized will use that energy to push Obama in a direction different from the one he seems to be going in right now.

LS: What do you think about the comparisons between Obama and Roosevelt that came up following the election?

Howard Zinn: It's interesting, you know, if Langston Hughes were around, we could have a poem, "Waiting on Obama." But the difference is, we shouldn't be waiting on Obama. We should be informing Obama that we expect more from him than he has done so far. Now, he has done some things that have moved in the right direction on domestic policy. In terms of the federal government taking a more aggressive stand in creating jobs, calling for a tax policy that will be directed at taking money from the richest one percent of the population, and easing the tax burden on other people, some of the initiatives he's taken have been good.

But his domestic policies are not bold enough. He is still doing too much through the market system, through private enterprise. For instance, right now he is having a a big conference with people who are giving him advice on the health system. But he has not shown an inclination to do what the public really wants and what is absolutely neeeded, and that is to institute a government-financed health system which will bypass the insurance companies -- the kind of system they have in Canada, and France, Italy, New Zealand. He's not shown the boldness necessary in certain domestic programs, even though as I say, he's moving little bit at a time in the right direction.

The economic situation is so bad. Although it's not as bad as it was in 1932, it's bad enough that it calls for bolder domestic measures. It calls for the government to institute, as Roosevelt did in his first couple years, a huge jobs program. The federal government under Roosevelt gave jobs to six million people; if you did it proporational to population, Obama would be creating a jobs program that would give jobs to ten million peope. He's very far from that. If he were bold enough, he would be instituting a federal arts program -- one of the very best things that came out of the New Deal -- where artists and musicians and writers and poets would be given jobs by the government to do the things they wanted to do. These are people who are bypassed by the market system. Artists struggle and they have to take other meanigless jobs in order to continue to do their art. And that's all, as I said, with his domestic policy.

With his foreign policy, unfortunately, he shows no signs of departing from the traditional militarism of the Democratic and Republican parties. The idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan is disastrous, really absurd. I mean, almost as soon as he came into office he sent missiles into Pakistan. Civilians were killed. The whole tone of foreign policy, adding more soldiers, leaving 50,000 in Iraq even after withdrawing them in 16 months, all of this is very bad. And, therefore, he's going to need a great big push -- protest, really. He's going to need demonstrations and protest and letters and petitions. He's going to have to face the kind of agitation that Roosevelt faced when he came into office.

Full interview 

March 12th, 2009

Today, in Waikiki

Walking around Waikiki today, I felt I was inside of a postcard, or somehow trying to be inside of one. It was what it was supposed to be, this Waikiki, and yet it was all completely contrived. It was once what it was, but it was now trying to be what it was. It succeeded, but left me wondering if it ever existed in the first place.
 
This excerpt from White Noise by Don Delillo summed up my feelings perfectly:

"Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing.

THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA.

We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said."

March 7th, 2009

Stripping Your Way to Success, from the Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

Great interview about I gave about strippers in blockbuster films reduced to one line mid-way. But I'm not complaining, it's a great article.

By Lauren Schuker

On Sunday night, actress Marisa Tomei could take home an Academy Award for her portrayal of a kind-hearted stripper in the critically acclaimed film "The Wrestler." In a tradition that dates as far back as the Oscar show itself, Ms. Tomei is the latest actress to win Hollywood acclaim for playing a character with a job in the sex industry, such as a striptease artist or streetwalker.

More

March 7th, 2009

In Love with A. Lincoln, by Maira Kalman

"The occasion is piled high with difficulty. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." --A. Lincoln, 1862

From the lovely Maira Kalman's lovely ode In Love with A. Lincoln

February 28th, 2009

Trailer for What's On Your Plate, a flim by Catherine Gund and Aubin Pictures

Amazing

Not a day goes by that I don't think about what I'm eating, what I'm feeding my family, and how little I know about where our food is from, and who handles it as it moves from place to place.

When I see films like this or read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, I feel fortunate to have lived in Berkeley for several years and spent many delicious evenings at Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse.

The first time, I was taken for my 16th birthday by one of my fabulous gay "uncles" named Ivory, whom I lost to AIDS years later. I will always remember him as the person who introduced me to Lillet and the concept of the "prix fixe". It was incredible. We ate rabbit and drank Lillet and then had delicious flourless chocolate ganache.

I love you Ivory!

Anyway.

Now that Waters is advising the White House and transforming public school cafeterias by teaching kids to grow their own lunches, I feel I was there at the beginning-- a part of yet another movement: The Food Movement!

Waters has just joined the Advisory Board for this great film, produced and directed by a friend and fellow co-founder of Third Wave Foundation, Catherine Gund. 

I'd love to hear your food stories. We don't have any CSA's here on Maui, or if we do, I need someone out there to tell me about them.

February 25th, 2009

Portrait

Love this portrait of Barack Obama by artist Juana Olga Barrios:

Sent to me by the coolest creative productivity guru I know, Danielle LaPorte at White Hot Truth

February 25th, 2009

Monographs, from Readerville

Hey--here's a nice bunch of sentences I strung together on Readerville, one of my favorite literary sites.

Monographs

In the life I didn’t choose, I am a photographer and installation artist. I make striking objects that live in a space beyond words. In the life I chose, I write books about houses and people and feelings, but I reach for my Yashica Mat camera to capture that which cannot be transcribed. I photograph my son like Sally Mann captured her kids, running wild in the nude. I try to photograph myself like Lorna Simpson would, in a white dress, from behind, with one hand pouring water from a pewter pitcher and the other pouring water from a plastic jug. I dream of building a life-sized southern shack like the ones I used to pass on the side of the road in Georgia, when I was a little girl, driving to the family cemetery.

I’m no longer surprised when I open a box that’s been taped shut for years, and find an artist’s monograph on top. A few books down, I’ll find catalogs from shows that were up at MOMA when I was an intern. I was sixteen then, sitting in front of Mark Rothko’s paintings for hours. I’ve tried to give these books away, to sell them, anything to keep from carrying them to another apartment, another country, but I can’t. I need them. 

Ana Mendieta: Earth Body
How to describe Ana Mendieta? She was a Cuban-American artist who made kick-ass, sensual, outrageously smart and seductive work. I love the Silueta series--Mendieta paints her body to blend into/become various pieces of earth. She is a tree, a body of lava scorching the earth, dirt in an open grave with flowers sprouting from her skin.

Her performance pieces are brave: she walks to the wall and slides her bare hands down it, leaving two red smears. She stops, walks away, and we’re looking: it’s a vagina, it’s a gash, it’s Ana’s mark on the art world, her X in the history of art.

Artwork by Shirin Neshat
When I came back to the states after living in a Muslim country, Shirin Neshat’s work explained everything to me: the power of the feminine in Islamic culture; the powerlessness of the feminine in Islamic culture. The hopelessness of the idea of “Islamic culture.” The way faith and art and desire come together to form something like a drug for the human soul. Beloved, a photograph of mother and son, mother covered in hijab, son held close to the breast, is heart stopping. The baby sits in the folds of the hijab. And to the left of the mother and child, the Muslim pieta, there is a gun.

Seydou Keita
I don’t remember where I first saw Keita’s portraits, or heard about the man who made photographs in a small studio in Bamako, Mali, for decades before being “discovered” by Western collectors. I do know that I wanted to buy his work the second I saw it. His work captures so much about Africa and modernity and style and colonialism and independence and youth and art and vibrancy, I can barely stand to talk about it. I bought two large prints when I sold my first book. He died a few years later.

Yayoi Kusama: Love Forever
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama makes her art at a studio a few blocks from the mental hospital in which she has lived, by choice, since the early 1970s. “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago,” Kusama has said, and I understand. Her work is feminine, sprawling, heroic, psychedelic, minimalist, absurd and fecund. She works in polka dots, giant nets and huge pumpkins. Yayoi visits conventional reality, but doesn’t live there.

The Art of Bill Viola
Man on fire. Man drenched in water. Man shifting through time, space and the elements, on a thin video screen, with sound. A man comes in and out of being before our very eyes. Genius. I love BV.

I could go on and on. Bill Eggleston, Gauguin, Paul Strand, Hiroshi Sugimoto: Seascapes! Odd shelf after odd shelf. 

To Readerville

 

February 23rd, 2009

What She Said.

From the New York Times:
 
Questions for Dambisa Moyo

The Anti-Bono

Interview by Deborah Solomon

Published: February 19, 2009

Q: As a native of Zambia with advanced degrees in public policy and economics from Harvard and Oxford, you are about to publish an attack on Western aid to Africa and its recent glamorization by celebrities. ‘‘Dead Aid,’’ as your book is called, is particularly hard on rock stars. Have you met Bono?

I have, yes, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year. It was at a party to raise money for Africans, and there were no Africans in the room, except for me.

What do you think of him?

I’ll make a general comment about this whole dependence on “celebrities.” I object to this situation as it is right now where they have inadvertently or manipulatively become the spokespeople for the African continent.

You argue in your book that Western aid to Africa has not only perpetuated poverty but also worsened it, and you are perhaps the first African to request in book form that all development aid be halted within five years.

Think about it this way — China has 1.3 billion people, only 300 million of whom live like us, if you will, with Western living standards. There are a billion Chinese who are living in substandard conditions. Do you know anybody who feels sorry for China? Nobody.

More

February 22nd, 2009

TwitterSheep

This TwitterSheep thing is GORGEOUS. Wish I could find a way to include the whole graphic of my cloud here. Maybe a screen shot?

 

February 21st, 2009

Goodbye Domino. xo Rebecca

Even though celebrating objects seems wrong at the moment, I think it's important to remember that beauty, like poetry, is not a luxury.* It heals, inspires, and is sometimes the only thing that keeps humanity going.

At every time, in every place, it's always about the art. 

I'm so sad to hear Domino is no more. Here's to seeing the team--Deborah and Joao and Catherine and everyone else who made the mag gorgeous--when they reconvene to make something new. 

 

Goodbye Domino!

xo

Rebecca

*Love to Audre Lorde: Poetry is Not a Luxury. 

February 21st, 2009