Despite being an expert on The Color Purple, did you learn anything new during your writing and research process? Definitely. I didn’t know how intimate the Know What I Mean String Bean Shirt it is in the first place but characters were in Alice’s family. We usually associate Albert with her grandfather, but it’s only through reading interviews or work from her over years, or talking to her, that we learn the character Sofia was based on her mother, or that Shug was a real person who shared a husband with her grandmother, who Celie was based on. So, when all the attacks about the book came, they weren’t just attacking characters on a page—these were real people and that pain of those attacks was very real for Alice.
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I also didn’t know that Black men like Quincy Jones [one of the Know What I Mean String Bean Shirt it is in the first place but film’s producers] and Danny Glover [who played Mister], were so committed to telling this story onscreen, committed to sharing these stories and loving these characters—and they sacrificed a lot to do so. Glover talked about how much he identified with this story, and how he saw parts of Celie in his grandmother. In all the backlash about how the film portrayed Black men [accusing them on leaning in on racial stereotypes], we don’t always remember this type of compassion. There are always going to be people who are sexist, but there are also Black men who see the power and value in Black women’s art and their voices.