As purple outfits trend on shopping sites and social media, we know why. If your book club has chosen a title for December, we’re pretty sure we know what it is. If a dear sister-friend hands you a small gift, regally wrapped in purple and with a vivid, violet bow, we’re guessing we know what’s inside. Fandango’s ticket gifting option for Oprah Winfrey’s new musical adaptation, with Steven Spielberg, of “The Color Purple,” opening on Christmas Day, is this season’s “it” stocking stuffer. The movie celebrates sisterhood, Black women, and a legendary literary masterpiece enshrined into our culture. Likewise, AMC Theatres are doing a brisk business in group sales of advance tickets to church groups, sorority chapters, book club members—and besties of all ages.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is what The Color Purple will do for the sisterhood,” Winfrey told Essence during a cover shoot also featuring cast members Danielle Brooks, H.E.R., Fantasia Barrino, and Taraji P. Henson.
A “purple extravaganza”
Barbie core? Move over. “I'm giving you six months to get your outfit together for opening day. All things purple. Whatcha gonna wear? The Color Purple,” Oprah told her more than 22 million Instagram followers, adding “It’s gonna be a purple Christmas.”
In 1982, Alice Walker painted the world purple with her monumental novel, forever changing the literary landscape.
As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Color Purple winning the Pulitzer Prize, we await a “purple extravaganza” with the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Broadway musical, starring Fantasia Barrino (Celie), Taraji P. Henson (Shug), Danielle Brooks (Sofia), Halle Bailey (young Nettie) and more. We’re also enjoying the recent re-release of the beloved masterpiece as a paperback.
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With the movie premiere just shy of two weeks away, I curiously combed through the social media chatter to find out how folks are gearing up for the moment. As expected, sisters are making it an event — reserving entire rows in the theater to revisit the story they’ve cherished for decades. Some of us are in countdown mode, as we eagerly wait to experience this treasure in a brand-new way. We’ll be sitting with our sisters, mothers, daughters, girlfriends and partners. We’ll be crying, laughing and healing all over again, together.
What Walker’s novel means to Black women everywhere
By Archuleta Chisolm’s own recollection, she’s seen the 1985 film adaptation at least 50 times. “As a Black woman, The Color Purple has always meant sisterhood, community and standing on God through the worst times,” the 51-year-old author and poet tells Sisters. “I am so excited to see the movie in December, and I plan on seeing it with Black women I love. I’m expecting the same tears, joy and laughter from the original, with new breath.”
Echoing Chisolm’s sentiments, I’m sure I’ll feel a slew of emotions as I sit before the big screen with the Black women I love. I, like so many others, praise this work for its bold truth-telling — even when the truth hurts. Watching the heavy moments of abuse and oppression can send me into a funk, so I come armed with a sense of humor for the lighter moments — because if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.
The pride I have in the story’s emphasis on sisterhood trumps any feeling of gloom and fury. It’s what Black womanhood was built on, and I’m glad the world got a glimpse of it. The friendships that Celie formed were instrumental to her character development, and witnessing her flourishing transformation as a result makes me ponder past companionships and encounters, I’ve had with women throughout my life. I realize how necessary these relationships were in shaping who I am today. And there’s been no stronger bond than the one I share with my blood sister, similar to the unsevered bond between Celie and Nettie. “Makidada.”
The movie celebrates sisterhood, Black women, and a legendary literary masterpiece enshrined into our culture.
Additionally, the tale’s portrayal of the complex realities of Black womanhood is not only validating but liberating. It sets us free from the generational silencing we’ve endured while giving others a taste of what it’s like to be the most oppressed being in the world. As author Tayari Jones wrote: “In writing us into the world — bravely, unapologetically, and honestly — Alice Walker has given us a gift we will never be able to repay.” For author Kiese Laymon, The Color Purple was “what church should have been, what honest familial reckoning could have been, and it is still the only art object in the world by which all three generations of Black artists in my family judge American art,” he wrote.
I call it a sisterly safe space on a plethora of pages.
Growing up in a predominantly white, metropolitan town in Michigan at the start of the 21st century, I experienced forms of oppression firsthand. I can hardly fathom what Celie and the rest of the characters had to endure in rural Georgia in the early 20th century. Nonetheless, there’s a sense of familiarity. I can think of times when being defiant was seen as threatening. When being too quiet was mistaken for weakness. Or when a moment of weakness was taken as an opportunity to tear me down.
The Color Purple is our very own compass for emancipation, empowering us to live our truth, to embrace our vulnerable side and to give ourselves permission to receive just as much love as we give out.
How we, as Black women, are perceived in society is something we grapple with constantly. Should we give in to the “strong Black woman” stereotype or reject it? Should we cry out for help or appear “unbothered.” We’re already marginalized as Black women. Will those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ (as Celie did) be marginalized even more? The Color Purple releases us of this societal burden. It’s our very own compass for emancipation, empowering us to live our truth, to embrace our vulnerable side and to give ourselves permission to receive just as much love as we give out.
Although trauma and oppression may play out differently for all of us, the common thread is survival. While there’s no doubt that my personal experiences have influenced how I’ve perceived myself in society, they’ve never defined me. Instead, they’ve helped me establish a sense of agency in my life. After all, only we wield the power to forge our own path.
To the sisters who’ve survived racism, sexism and abuse, I hope you’re healing. To the sisters who proudly own their Black queerness, remain unapologetic. To the sisters looking to break out of a stifling situation, may you soon revel in your freedom. To the sisters on the road to self-discovery, I hope you meet the version of yourself that you’ve been longing to be, and you befriend wise, loving sisters who will root for you along the way.
And to Alice Walker, I am grateful that your work is inspiring me now more than ever before to free myself of past burdens, to move with intention and to realize all the beauty that exists within and around me.