In all its forms, The Color Purple is a powerful account of generational trauma in the Black community. The novel by Alice Walker was published in 1982 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 before being adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. In 2005, the musical version opened on Broadway starring LaChanze with a book by Marsha Norman and a score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Ten years later, the musical came back to Broadway in a 2015 revival and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
Actor Isaiah Johnson, who played the role of Mister in the original Broadway cast of the 2015 revival production, opposite Cynthia Erivo, joins us to discuss the musical as we look at the character of Mister and generational trauma. What does it mean to carry the trauma of your ancestors? How does this type of trauma affect people, specifically Black Americans? What tools are there to heal this trauma for those experiencing it? And how can non Black people support Black healing? Experts Curtis Smith, Cymone Fuller, and Dr. Schekeva Hall weigh in, as well.
Create the Change
- Begin or deepen your mindfulness practice (resources from Moment of Mindfulness here)
- Seek out a therapist with cultural competency training
- Search Therapy for Black Girls, Psychology Today, Alma, etc.
- Consider a restorative justice process to heal pain and trauma in lieu of punitive justice
- For members of the Black community:
- Build relationships and unify Black people
- Check out the youth organization Jack and Jill of America or any of the 10 on this list
- Discover the Black Feminist Project
- Tell your truths, your stories, express yourself
- For members of non-Black communities: LISTEN.
- Read Dr. Yael Danieli’s book International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma
- Find more research on generational trauma via the International Center for Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma
- Read “Breaking the Chains of Generational Trauma”
- Learn more about generational trauma
- Explore the work of Dr. Joy DeGruy
Referred to in this episode
- Michaela Angela Davis
- Clips from the Schomburg Center Color Purple panel
- “Lynching Memorial” aka The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama
- What is generational trauma?
- What is mindfulness?
- Moment of Mindfulness LLC
- What is restorative justice?
- Impact Justice
- Statistic: Children of Holocaust survivors over-represented 300 percent
- Generational Trauma in Indigenous communities and its impact
Ruthie Fierberg, Host