Eleven Mills women, both alumnae and current students, read work from the latest issue of The Womanist on Oct. 2 at Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley.
The Womanist is an annual publication featuring artwork and writing from students, faculty, staff and alumnae of color. The journal was started in 1992 by faculty member Dorothy Tsuruta; however the publication lost its strength until about four years ago, according to Professor Vivian Chin of Ethnic Studies.
The reading had a large turnout, filling all seats; some of the audience even had to stand on the stairs to listen. Each woman read one or two pieces, either of their own or another’s.
“The reading was a great success,” audience member Katherine Frey said. “I am looking forward to hearing the next reading.”
This year’s Womanist has received much public attention. Not only are the women having a private reading with Alice Walker, but the publication is being sold in local bookstores as well. Alice Walker is an African-American Pulitzer Prize winning author, poet and essayist, most famous for the novel The Color Purple.
Moe’s, a local bookstore in Berkeley, is one of the main contributors to the publicity of the Womanist, thanks to the efforts of the director of the Women’s Leadership Institute, Daphne Muse. The Womanist publications are selling for $5 a piece.
Chin introduced the publication with Alice Walker’s definition of the term “Womanist.”
Chin read, “…referred primarily to African-American women, but it is for all women. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility-values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter-and women’s strength.”
Sophomore Mercedes Martin said the Womanist poets will have the opportunity to have a private reading with Alice Walker in her home.
This reading was a great opportunity for some of the new writers. For some readers, such as Darlene Elasigue and Martin, the event was their first time reading their work in public. Both students were very excited to have been asked to read their work. Although both were nervous, their reading gave no indications.
Martin, who read her own work, “Words I Would Say,” presented her work in a unique manner.
“The way I presented my poem was more of a spoken word style. I think that it gives my poem more power and meaning,” she said. “I’ve read my poems before to family and friends, but that was my first time performing a poem for a group of stranger and friends.”