Alice Walker Pens Moving Essay on THE COLOR PURPLE, Celie as a Character and Oluwaseyi Omooba
As we previously reported, actress Oluwaseyi (Seyi) Omooba was removed from Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome's revival of musical "The Color Purple" after West End "Hamilton" actor Aaron Lee Lambert shared a screenshot of a 2014 Facebook post. It quickly went viral, resulting in a social media outcry with many calling the actress homophobic.
In the post, Omooba said she did not believe people could be "born gay", and described homosexuality as a sin - "legal" but not "right". Lambert questioned how she could possibly star as Celie in this important LBGTQ+ work while holding such views.
Last week the Mail on Sunday reported that Omooba claims she is a victim of religious discrimination. Omooba says she is no longer invited to auditions and has been unable to find a new agent, so she has instructed lawyers to file for breach of contract against the Curve Theatre and her former agents Michael Garrett Associates. She is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
On Facebook this week, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-Award winning producer Scott Sanders shared the below letter from novelist Alice Walker - who received both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for writing "The Color Purple".
Sanders writes: "I'm sure some of you have read about the recent and unfortunate developments that occurred with the Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome's licensed production of the musical "The Color Purple." Specifically an incident with one of the actresses considered for the role of "Celie."
I will not comment further since there is a pending dispute but I asked Alice Walker if she would like to comment publicly on who Celie really is as a character. She just sent me this very moving, honest and respectful letter. She has given me her permission to share it."
To whom it may concern: from Alice Walker
©2019 by Alice Walker
I feel the most heartfelt compassion for actress Oluwaseyi Omooba. Celie, the character she would have played, is based on the life of my grandmother, Rachel, a kind and loving woman brutally abused by my grandfather, and whoever was in reality the father of her children, offspring none of the family ever saw. Thankfully, after these births, and the disappearance of her children, she was barren.
It is safe to say, after a frightful life serving and obeying abusive men, who raped in place of "making love," my grandmother, like Celie, was not attracted to men. She was, in fact, very drawn to my grandfather's lover, a beautiful woman who was kind to her, the only grown person who ever seemed to notice how remarkable and creative she was. In giving Celie the love of this woman, in every way love can be expressed, I was clear in my intention to demonstrate that she too, like all of us, deserved to be seen, appreciated, and deeply loved by someone who saw her as whole and worthy.
Because I believe, and know, that sexual love can be extraordinarily holy, whoever might be engaging in it, I felt I had been able to return a blessing of love to a grandmother who had always offered only blessing and love, when I was a child, to me.
In much of my work I encourage the reader to question everything. I have been urging a questioning and reconsideration of all the so called "holy" books for over forty years. The Bible, like the Koran, like the Talmud, and others that claim to teach the best way for people to live, must be interrogated, questioned, and respectfully deconstructed. Love, however it may be expressed, is to be honored and welcomed into the light of our common survival as a consciously human, race.
For a short introduction of what I teach in this regard, please see an essay: THE ONLY REASON YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN IS YOU'VE BEEN DRIVEN OUT OF YOUR MIND...Off Your Land, and Out of Your Lover's Arms.
Playing the role of "Celie" while not believing in her right to be loved, or to express her love in any way she chooses, would be a betrayal of women's right to be free. As an elder, I urge all of us to think carefully about what I am saying, even as you, Oluwaseyi Omooba, sue the theatre company for voiding your contract. This is just an episode in your life; your life, your work, and your growth, will continue, in the real world. A world we must make safe for women and children, female and male. And the greatest freedom of all is the freedom to be your authentic self.
And with love to all of us!
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