Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker is finally breaking her silence about the British musical actress who was fired from Color Purple after making anti-gay remarks.
According to NY Daily News, this month Walker wrote an open letter addressing the controversy surrounding Oluwaseyi (Seyi) Omooba, the British actress who was set to play the role of Celie during a staged, musical production of her book, but then sued the theater after she was let go due to homophobic statements.
The character of Celie Johnson, who is often seen as a gay literary role model has helped launched the careers of Whoopi Goldberg who played her on film and Cynthia Erivo who embodied her on Broadway. But after a fellow actor called out Omooba for a 2014 social media post stating she didn’t believe people could be “born gay” and described homosexuality as a sin that was “legal” but not “right” – her ability to play the role came into question.
Since her removal from the production, Omooba, who is a proud and devout Christian, alleges she’s been blackballed and is pursuing legal action for “religious discrimination.”
“I feel the most heartfelt compassion for actress Oluwaseyi Omooba,” Walker wrote Thursday in a letter addressed: “To Whom It May Concern.”
“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,” she explains.
“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,” Walker continued, about the origin of the beloved character.
“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.”
“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,” Walker maintained. “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,” she concluded. “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.”
As for Scott Sanders – who is not only producing the latest staged adaptation but also developing a new filmed adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, alongside Oprah Winfrey and music legend Quincy Jones -, he simply stated, “Alice said everything that needs to be said.”