Audre Lorde, a self-proclaimed “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” was a writer, feminist, womanist, and civil rights activist.
For Lorde, writing proved to be her powerful weapon against injustice. Painfully aware that differences could provoke prejudice and violence, she promoted the bridging of barriers.
Lorde began writing poetry at age twelve. She was inspired by poets such as Keats, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Helene Margaret. As the first Black student at Hunter High School, a public school for intellectually gifted girls, she worked on the school newspaper and published her first poem, “Spring, ” in Seventeen Magazine in 1951.
Her homo-erotic feelings began to emerge during her teenage years, through various crushes on female peers and teachers. So after graduation from high school, Lorde left her parents’ home and attended Hunter College. She surrounded herself with leftist thinkers and lesbian friends.
Audre Lorde dedicated her life to combating social injustice. She helped found Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the world’s first publishing company run by women of color.
She was also a founding member of Sisters in Support of Sisters in South Africa, an organization that worked to raise concerns about women under apartheid.
In 1968, Lorde received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and published her first volume of poetry, “The First Cities” as a poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. She began a romantic relationship with Frances Clayton that same year that would last until Lorde’s death in 1992.
As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, as well as her poems that express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.Her poems and prose largely deal with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.
Lorde won international acclaim for her poetry and prose, and was Poet Laureate of New York state from 1990 until 1991.
As a lecturer in 1970, Lorde engaged diverse student bodies on the interlocking identities of class, race, and gender, with history and culture.
Lorde reached audiences with her numerous writings. She published 15 books of poetry and prose, including 1984′s “Sister Outsider,” which is often included in the curriculum of women’s studies programs. In 1983, “Zami” hit the shelves. Lorde referred to it as a “biomythography,” but it was essentially her autobiography.
In addition to poetry, Audre Lorde was a powerful essayist and writer. In terms of her nonfiction work, she is best remembered for The Cancer Journals (1980), in which she documents her own struggle with breast cancer. Having undergone a mastectomy, Lorde refused to be victimized by the disease. Instead, she considered herself—and other women like her—to be warriors. The cancer later spread to her liver and this latest battle with the disease informs the essay collection, A Burst of Light (1989). This time, she chose to pursue alternative treatments rather than to opt for more surgery.
Dying on November 17, 1992, on the island of St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Audre Lorde spent a lifetime exploring the pleasures and pain of being a black woman in America. Lorde’s was an essential voice in African American literature.
As a lesbian woman of color Lorde asserted, “I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”
Happy Blackout!!! The top photo is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense. The last picture was taken at the opening of the African American of History and Culture’s opening where Public Enemy, Living Colour, and The Roots performed. (Jacket by Reformed School). (Photo creds in order : @jamesjuly, @36chambersof-oldirtybae, Paul Holston) (also I wear the jacket more for historical relevance than for gender)
Like run to the supermarket at 5 a.m. for a new bag of flour, because I can’t sleep until I fry you johnny cake and plantain for breakfast, just like your manman used to make:
like name my future children Assata and Shabazz, and already start color-coordinating their kente cloth headwraps and black power afro picks:
like pack my bags for the trips I want to give you, to the Dominican Republic to see the sandcastles your father built as a child, to Ghana to see the gate of no return, where your ancestors raised their shackles, to Ghana to see the fire lilies that are still your inheritance.
You make me want to introduce you to my friends even though we are not dating, to say Look at this girl! because Isn’t she lovely? (I have already shown them pictures, and the answer is yes.)
You make me want to sing black power anthems from the top of the South Carolina Statehouse, waving the pan-African flag beneath and green and red sun:
to put you to bed with I, too, sing America, and wake you up with Mwen se samba Rasin-mwen pa gen tobout, and write you love songs on the pages of Malcolm’s autobiography.
This is one of those poems, yes, this is one of those love songs, and it’s from the darkness of your eyes and the fullness of your lips that I draw inspiration.
Yes, we will write the anthem, baby. We will write the anthem.
We are no longer OK with the mainstream LGBT organizations among you who signal your complicity in anti-Black violence through your loud silence and deliberate ignoring of the types of systemic, institutionalized forms of anti-Black racism…
I can say, “Oppression,” but I can’t make you feel my bones ache as I bend to fit a society bent on breaking me.
I can define “prejudice,” but words fall flat when my white classmates silence my black tongue– when my white teachers call me reactionary, when my white friends toss me in a shoebox next to their high heels, so they can use me to accessorize whenever blackness is in style. They name me, “Urban.” They name you, “Ethnic.” They name themselves, “Post-racial.”
I can say the word “justice,” but I don’t know what that looks like. If straight hair, bleached skin, an Ivy education and a colonized tongue won’t save you, Sistah, then what will?
I don’t have the vocabulary for Ferguson. But I also don’t have the privilege of silence.