Audre Lorde

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I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or chisel to remind you of your me-ness as I discover you in myself.

Audre Geraldine Lorde (18 February 193417 November 1992) was a black writer, feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. Her poems and prose largely deal with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.


My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.
  • When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
    • The Cancer Journals (1980)
  • I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
    • The Uses of Anger : Women Responding to Racism (1981)
  • When I speak of the erotic, then I speak of it as an assertion of the life force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.
    • As quoted in Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much (1990) by Anne Wilson Schaef, entry for June 26: "Living Life Fully"
  • Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever / Only, nothing is eternal.
    • Undersong
  • Feminism must be on the cutting edge of real social change if it is to survive as a movement in any particular country.
    • A Burst of Light (1988), cited in Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
  • Overextending myself is not stretching myself. I had to accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
    • Lorde, Audre (1988). "A Burst of Light : Living with Cancer". A burst of light : essays. Firebrand Books. p. 125. ISBN 0932379400. 
It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather the security of any one particular difference.
  • I have always wanted to be both man and woman, to incorporate the strongest and richest parts of my mother and father within/into me — to share valleys and mountains upon my body the way the earth does in hills and peaks.
  • Being women together was not enough. We were different.
    Being gay-girls together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black women together was not enough. We were different.
    Being Black dykes together was not enough. We were different.

    Each of us had our own needs and pursuits, and many different alliances. Self-preservation warned some of us that we could not afford to settle for one easy definition, one narrow individuation of self. At the Bag, at Hunter College, uptown in Harlem, at the library, there was a piece of the real me bound in each place, and growing.

    It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather the security of any one particular difference.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press. 1984. ISBN 978-0-89594-142-8. 

Notes from a Trip to Russia

  • The grapes in Uzbekistan are incredible fruit. They seem to have a life of their own. They’re called “the bridesmaid’s little finger,” and that’s about the size of them. They’re very long, and green, and they’re absolutely the most delicious.
    • p. 30
  • We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.
    • p. 31

Poetry is Not a Luxury

  • The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.
    • p. 36
  • As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.
    • p. 36
  • For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, “Beautiful and tough as chestnut/stanchions against our nightmare of weakness” and of impotence. These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.
    • p. 36
  • For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
    • p. 37
  • As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.
    • p. 37
  • We can train ourselves to respect our feelings and to transpose them into a language so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it.
    • p. 37
  • Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
    • p. 38
  • Possibility is neither forever nor instant. It is not easy to sustain belief in its efficacy. We can sometimes work long and hard to establish one beachhead of real resistance to the deaths we are expected to live, only to have that beachhead assaulted or threatened by those canards we have been socialized to fear, or by the withdrawal of those approvals that we have been warned to seek for safety.
    • p. 38
  • The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom.
    • p. 38
  • Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, what we feel within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fears, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.
    • p. 39
  • Within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare. If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is discounted as a luxury, then we give up the core — the fountain — of our power, our womanness; we give up the future of our worlds.
    • p. 39
  • It is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.
    • p. 39

The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

  • I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.
    • p. 40
  • What I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence.
    • p. 41
  • Your silence will not protect you.
    • p. 41
  • The transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger.
    • p. 42
  • In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live. Within this country where racial difference creates a constant, if unspoken, distortion of vision, Black women have on one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the depersonalization of racism. Even within the women’s movement, we have had to fight, and still do, for that very visibility which also renders us most vulnerable, our Blackness. For to survive in the mouth of this dragon we call america, we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson — that we were never meant to survive. Not as human beings. And neither were most of you here today, Black or not. And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.
    • p. 42
  • Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.
    • p. 43
  • For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to share and spread also those words that are meaningful to us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth. And it is never without fear — of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death. But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death. And I remind myself all the time now that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die. It is very good for establishing perspective. And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own.
    • p. 43
  • We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.
    • p. 44

Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving

  • Racism: The belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and thereby the right to dominance.
    • p. 45
  • Sexism: The belief in the inherent superiority of one sex and thereby the right to dominance.
    • p. 45
  • Heterosexism: The belief in the inherent superiority of one pattern of loving and thereby its right to dominance.
    • p. 45
  • Homophobia: The fear of feelings of love for members of one’s own sex and therefore the hatred of those feelings in others.
    • p. 45
  • For Black women as well as Black men, it is axiomatic that if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others — for their use and to our detriment. The development of self-defined Black women, ready to explore and pursue our power and interests within our communities, is a vital component in the war for Black liberation.
    • p. 45
  • In the interests of separation, Black women have been taught to view each other as always suspect, heartless competitors for the scarce male, the all-important prize that could legitimize our existence. This dehumanizing denial of self is no less lethal than the dehumanization of racism to which it is so closely allied.
    • p. 50
  • The distortion of relationship which says “I disagree with you, so I must destroy you” leaves us as Black people with basically uncreative victories, defeated in any common struggle. This jugular vein psychology is based on the fallacy that your assertion or affirmation of self is an attack upon my self — or that my defining myself will somehow prevent or retard your self-definition. The supposition that one sex needs the other’s acquiescence in order to exist prevents both from moving together as self-defined persons toward a common goal. This kind of action is a prevalent error among oppressed peoples. It is based upon the false notion that there is only a limited and particular amount of freedom that must be divided up between us, with the largest and juiciest pieces of liberty going as spoils to the victor or the stronger. So instead of joining together to fight for more, we quarrel between ourselves for a larger slice of the one pie.
    • p. 51
  • As Black women we have the right and responsibility to define ourselves and to seek our allies in common cause: with Black men against racism, and with each other and white women against sexism. But most of all, as Black women we have the right and responsibility to recognize each other without fear and to love where we choose. Both lesbian and heterosexual Black women today share a history of bonding and strength to which our sexual identities and our other differences must not blind us.
    • p. 52

Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

  • There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives.
    • p. 53
  • The erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.
    • p. 54
  • Pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.
    • p. 54
  • The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.
    • p. 54
  • It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.
    • p. 54
  • The erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.
    • p. 54
  • The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need — the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.
    • p. 55
  • As women, we need to examine the ways in which our world can be truly different.
    • p. 55
  • The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects — born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.
    • p. 55
  • The ascetic position is one of the highest fear, the gravest immobility. The severe abstinence of the ascetic becomes the ruling obsession. And it is one not of self-discipline but of self-abnegation.
    • p. 56
  • Understanding is a hand-maiden which can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born. The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.
    • p. 56
  • The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.
    • p. 56
  • We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But, once recognized, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women.
    • p. 57
  • When we live outside ourselves, and by that I mean on external directives only rather than from our internal knowledge and needs, when we live away from those erotic guides from within ourselves, then our lives are limited by external and alien forms, and we conform to the needs of a structure that is not based on human need, let alone an individual’s. But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.
    • p. 58
  • There is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.
    • p. 58
  • The need for sharing deep feeling is a human need.
    • p. 58
  • The erotic cannot be felt secondhand.
    • p. 59
  • Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama. For not only do we touch our most profoundly creative source, but we do that which is female and self-affirming in the face of a racist, patriarchal, and anti-erotic society.
    • p. 59

Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface

  • Black feminism is not white feminism in blackface. Black women have particular and legitimate issues which affect our lives as Black women, and addressing those issues does not make us any less Black.
    • p. 60
  • Black feminists speak as women because we are women and do not need others to speak for us.
    • p. 60
  • One tool of the Great-American-Double-Think is to blame the victim for victimization: Black people are said to invite lynching by not knowing our place; Black women are said to invite rape and murder and abuse by not being submissive enough, or by being too seductive, or too …
    • p. 61
  • In this country, Black women traditionally have had compassion for everybody else except ourselves. We have cared for whites because we had to for pay or survival; we have cared for our children and our fathers and our brothers and our lovers. History and popular culture, as well as our personal lives, are full of tales of Black women who had “compassion for misguided black men.” Our scarred, broken, battered and dead daughters and sisters are a mute testament to that reality. We need to learn to have care and compassion for ourselves, also.
    • p. 62
  • Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves.
    • p. 63
  • It is not the destiny of Black america to repeat white america’s mistakes. But we will, if we mistake the trappings of success in a sick society for the signs of a meaningful life.
    • p. 63
  • One oppression does not justify another.
    • p. 63
  • As a people, we most certainly must work together.
    • p. 64
  • Pain is very visceral, particularly to the people who are hurting.
    • p. 64
  • If the problems of Black women are only derivatives of a larger contradiction between capital and labor, then so is racism, and both must be fought by all of us. The capitalist structure is a many-headed monster. I might add here that in no socialist country that I have visited have I found an absence of racism or of sexism, so the eradication of both of these diseases seems to involve more than the abolition of capitalism as an institution.
    • p. 64

An Open Letter to Mary Daly

Open Letter to Mary Daly
  • When I speak of knowledge, as you know, I am speaking of that dark and true depth which understanding serves, waits upon, and makes accessible through language to ourselves and others. It is this depth within each of us that nurtures vision.
    • p. 68
  • As outsiders, we need each other for support and connection and all the other necessities of living on the borders. But in order to come together we must recognize each other.
    • P. 69

Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response

  • The truest direction comes from inside.
    • p. 72
  • All our children are outriders for a queendom not yet assured.
    • p. 73
  • Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive. And in order to survive they must let go. This is what mothers teach — love, survival — that is, self-definition and letting go. For each of these, the ability to feel strongly and to recognize those feelings is central: how to feel love, how to neither discount fear nor be overwhelmed by it, how to enjoy feeling deeply.
    • p. 74
  • The knowledge of fear can help make us free.
    • p. 75
  • For survival, Black children in america must be raised to be warriors. For survival, they must also be raised to recognize the enemy’s many faces.
    • p. 75
  • The strongest lesson I can teach my son is the same lesson I teach my daughter: how to be who he wishes to be for himself. And the best way I can do this is to be who I am and hope that he will learn from this not how to be me, which is not possible, but how to be himself. And this means how to move to that voice from within himself, rather than to those raucous, persuasive, or threatening voices from outside, pressuring him to be what the world wants him to be.
    • p. 77
  • When I envision the future, I think of the world I crave for my daughters and my sons. It is thinking for survival of the species — thinking for life.
    • p. 78
  • We are jointly responsible for the care and raising of the young, since that they be raised is a function, ultimately, of the species.
    • p. 79

An Interview: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich

Interview with Adrienne Rich
  • You know Cuernavaca? You know the big barrancas? When the rains come to the mountains, the boulders rush through the big ravines. The sound, the first rush, would start one or two days before the rains came. All the rocks tumbling down from the mountains made a voice, and the echoes would resound and it would be a sound of weeping, with the waters behind it.
    • p. 86
  • That’s how I found out, again through experience, that poetry is not Play-Doh. You can’t take a poem and keep re-forming it. It is itself, and you have to know how to cut it, and if there’s something else you want to say, that’s fine.
    • p. 89
  • The only thing I had to give was me.
    • p. 92
  • It was more than pain. The horror, the enormity of what was happening. Not just the death of King, but what it meant. I have always had the sense of Armageddon and it was much stronger in those days, the sense of living on the edge of chaos. Not just personally, but on the world level. That we were dying, that we were killing our world — that sense had always been with me. That whatever I was doing, whatever we were doing that was creative and right, functioned to hold us from going over the edge. That this was the most we could do while we constructed some saner future. But that we were in that kind of peril. And here it was reality, in fact.
    • p. 93
  • I learned how important grammar is, that part of the understanding process is grammatical. That’s how I taught myself to write prose. I kept learning and learning. I’d come into my class and say, “Guess what I found out last night. Tenses are a way of ordering the chaos around time.” I learned that grammar was not arbitrary, that it served a purpose, that it helped to form the ways we thought, that it could be freeing as well as restrictive.
    • p. 95
  • The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot. And then, just possibly, hopefully, it goes home, or on.
    • p. 98
  • I knew, as I had always known, that the only way you can head people off from using who you are against you is to be honest and open first, to talk about yourself before they talk about you. It wasn’t even courage. Speaking up was a protective mechanism for myself.
    • p. 98
  • One thing has always kept me going — and it’s not really courage or bravery, unless that’s what courage or bravery is made of — is a sense that there are so many ways in which I’m vulnerable and cannot help but be vulnerable, I’m not going to be more vulnerable by putting weapons of silence in my enemies’ hands. Being an open lesbian in the Black community is not easy, although being closeted is even harder.
    • p. 99
  • Perceptions precede analysis just as visions precede action or accomplishments.
  • That’s the only thing I’ve had to fight with, my whole life, preserving my perceptions of how things are, and later, learning how to accept and correct at the same time. Doing this in the face of tremendous opposition and cruel judgment. And I spent a long time questioning my perceptions and my interior knowledge, not dealing with them, being tripped by them.
  • What understanding begins to do is to make knowledge available for use, and that’s the urgency, that’s the push, that’s the drive.
    • p. 109

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

  • Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.
  • Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.
  • Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.
    • p. 112
  • As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.
    • p. 112
  • Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.
    • p. 112
  • In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action.
    • p. 112

Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference

  • The form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women. A room of one’s own may be a necessity for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time. The actual requirements to produce the visual arts also help determine, along class lines, whose art is whose. In this day of inflated prices for material, who are our sculptors, our painters, our photographers? When we speak of a broadly based women’s culture, we need to be aware of the effect of class and economic differences on the supplies available for producing art.
    • p. 116
  • As we move toward creating a society within which we can each flourish, ageism is another distortion of relationship which interferes without vision. By ignoring the past, we are encouraged to repeat its mistakes. The “generation gap” is an important social tool for any repressive society. If the younger members of a community view the older members as contemptible or suspect or excess, they will never be able to join hands and examine the living memories of the community, nor ask the all important question, “Why?” This gives rise to a historical amnesia that keeps us working to invent the wheel every time we have to go to the store for bread. We find ourselves having to repeat and relearn the same old lessons over and over that our mothers did because we do not pass on what we have learned, or because we are unable to listen.
    • p. 116
  • To examine Black women’s literature effectively requires that we be seen as whole people in our actual complexities — as individuals, as women, as human — rather than as one of those problematic but familiar stereotypes provided in this society in place of genunine images of Black women. And I believe this holds true for the literatures of other women of Color who are not Black.
  • The literatures of all women of Color recreate the textures of our lives, and many white women are heavily invested in ignoring the real differences. For as long as any difference between us means one of us must be inferior, then the recognition of any difference must be fraught with guilt. To allow women of Color to step out of stereotypes is too guilt provoking, for it threatens the complacency of those women who view oppression only in terms of sex. Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women.
  • Unless one lives and loves in the trenches it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.
  • Black women and our children know the fabric of our lives is stitched with violence and with hatred, that there is no rest. We do not deal with it only on the picket lines, or in dark midnight alleys, or in the places where we dare to verbalize our resistance. For us, increasingly, violence weaves through the daily tissues of our living — in the supermarket, in the classroom, in the elevator, in the clinic and the schoolyard, from the plumber, the baker, the saleswoman, the bus driver, the bank teller, the waitress who does not serve us.
  • The threat of difference has been no less blinding to people of Color. Those of us who are Black must see that the reality of our lives and our struggle does not make us immune to the errors of ignoring and misnaming difference. Within Black communities where racism is a living reality, differences among us often seem dangerous and suspect. The need for unity is often misnamed as a need for homogeneity, and a Black feminist vision mistaken for betrayal of our common interests as a people. Because of the continuous battle against racial erasure that Black women and Black men share, some Black women still refuse to recognize that we are also oppressed as women, and that sexual hostility against Black women is practiced not only by the white racist society, but implemented within our Black communities as well. It is a disease striking the heart of Black nationhood, and silence will not make it disappear. Exacerbated by racism and the pressures of powerlessness, violence against Black women and children often becomes a standard within our communities, one by which manliness can be measured. But these woman-hating acts are rarely discussed as crimes against Black women.
    • 119-120
  • Rape is not aggressive sexuality, it is sexualized aggression.
    • p. 120
  • My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition. Only then can I bring myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those struggles which I embrace as part of my living.
  • It is not our differences which separate women, but our reluctance to recognize those differences and to deal effectively with the distortions which have resulted from the ignoring and misnaming of those differences.
    • p. 122
  • Our future survival is predicated upon our ability to relate within equality. As women, we must root out internalized patterns of oppression within ourselves if we are to move beyond the most superficial aspects of social change. Now we must recognize differences among women who are our equals, neither inferior nor superior, and devise ways to use each others’ difference to enrich our visions and our joint struggles. The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference. The old definitions have not served us, nor the earth that supports us. The old patterns, no matter how cleverly rearranged to imitate progress, still condemn us to cosmetically altered repetitions of the same old exchanges, the same old guilt, hatred, recrimination, lamentation, and suspicion. For we have, built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression, and these must be altered at the same time as we alter the living conditions which are a result of those structures. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
  • The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationships. Change means growth, and growth can be painful. But we sharpen self-definition by exposing the self in work and struggle together with those whom we define as different from ourselves, although sharing the same goals. For Black and white, old and young, lesbian and heterosexual women alike, this can mean new paths to our survival.

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism

  • Women respond to racism. My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also.
    • p. 124
  • Guilt and defensiveness are bricks in a wall against which we all flounder; they serve none of our futures.
    • p. 124
  • Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.
  • Anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies.
  • Anger is loaded with information and energy.
  • Any discussion among women about racism must include the recognition and the use of anger. This discussion must be direct and creative because it is crucial. We cannot allow our fear of anger to deflect us nor seduce us into settling for anything less than the hard work of excavating honesty; we must be quite serious about the choice of this topic and the angers entwined within it because, rest assured, our opponents are quite serious about their hatred of us and of what we are trying to do here. And while we scrutinize the often painful face of each other’s anger, please remember that it is not our anger which makes me caution you to lock your doors at night and not to wander the streets of Hartford alone. It is the hatred which lurks in those streets, that urge to destroy us all if we truly work for change rather than merely indulge in academic rhetoric. This hatred and our anger are very different. Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change.
  • Women of Color in america have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.
  • Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change.
  • It is not the anger of other women that will destroy us but our refusals to stand still, to listen to its rhythms, to learn within it, to move beyond the manner of presentation to the substance, to tap that anger as an important source of empowerment. I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
  • I have no creative use for guilt, yours or my own. Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action, of buying time out of the pressing need to make clear choices, out of the approaching storm that can feed the earth as well as bend the trees.
  • When we turn from anger we turn from insight, saying we will accept only the designs already known, deadly and safely familiar. I have tried to learn my anger’s usefulness to me, as well as its limitations.
  • The strength of women lies in recognizing differences between us as creative, and in standing to those distortions which we inherited without blame, but which are now ours to alter. The angers of women can transform difference through insight into power. For anger between peers births change, not destruction, and the discomfort and sense of loss it often causes is not fatal, but a sign of growth.
  • Guilt is only another form of objectification.
  • My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.
  • What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman's face? What woman's terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?
  • I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.
  • I speak here as a woman of Color who is not bent upon destruction, but upon survival. No woman is responsible for altering the psyche of her oppressor, even when that psyche is embodied in another woman. I have suckled the wolf’s lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter. We are not goddesses or matriarchs or edifices of divine forgiveness; we are not fiery fingers of judgment or instruments of flagellation; we are women forced back always upon our woman’s power. We have learned to use anger as we have learned to use the dead flesh of animals, and bruised, battered, and changing, we have survived and grown and, in Angela Wilson’s words, we are moving on. With or without uncolored women. We use whatever strengths we have fought for, including anger, to help define and fashion a world where all our sisters can grow, where our children can love, and where the power of touching and meeting another woman’s difference and wonder will eventually transcend the need for destruction.
  • It is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liquid. It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth. It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind, dehumanizing power, bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have, our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct, anger by painful anger, stone upon heavy stone, a future of pollinating difference and the earth to support our choices.

Learning from the 60s

  • Malcolm X is a distinct shape in a very pivotal period of my life. I stand here now — Black, Lesbian, Feminist — an inheritor of Malcolm and in his tradition, doing my work, and the ghost of his voice through my mouth asks each one of you here tonight: Are you doing yours?
  • There are no new ideas, just new ways of giving those ideas we cherish breath and power in our own living.
  • I was one of the ones who didn’t really hear Malcolm’s voice until it was amplified by death. I had been guilty of what many of us are still guilty of — letting the media, and I don’t mean only the white media — define the bearers of those messages most important to our lives. When I read Malcolm X with careful attention, I found a man much closer to the complexities of real change than anything I had read before.
  • One of the most basic Black survival skills is the ability to change, to metabolize experience, good or ill, into something that is useful, lasting, effective. Four hundred years of survival as an endangered species has taught most of us that if we intend to live, we had better become fast learners.
  • We do not have to live the same mistakes over again if we can look at them, learn from them, and build upon them.
  • As Black people, if there is one thing we can learn from the 60s, it is how infinitely complex any move for liberation must be. For we must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves. Through examining the combination of our triumphs and errors, we can examine the dangers of an incomplete vision. Not to condemn that vision but to alter it, construct templates for possible futures, and focus our rage for change upon our enemies rather than upon each other. In the 1960s, the awakened anger of the Black community was often expressed, not vertically against the corruption of power and true sources of control over our lives, but horizontally toward those closest to us who mirrored our own impotence.
  • Historically, difference had been used so cruelly against us that as a people we were reluctant to tolerate any diversion from what was externally defined as Blackness. In the 60s, political correctness became not a guideline for living, but a new set of shackles. A small and vocal part of the Black community lost sight of the fact that unity does not mean unanimity — Black people are not some standardly digestible quantity. In order to work together we do not have to become a mix of indistinguishable particles resembling a vat of homogenized chocolate milk. Unity implies the coming together of elements which are, to begin with, varied and diverse in their particular natures. Our persistence in examining the tensions within diversity encourages growth toward our common goal. So often we either ignore the past or romanticize it, render the reason for unity useless or mythic. We forget that the necessary ingredient needed to make the past work for the future is our energy in the present, metabolizing one into the other. Continuity does not happen automatically, nor is it a passive process.
  • The 60s were characterized by a heady belief in instantaneous solutions. They were vital years of awakening, of pride, and of error. The civil rights and Black power movements rekindled possibilities for disenfranchised groups within this nation. Even though we fought common enemies, at times the lure of individual solutions made us careless of each other. Sometimes we could not bear the face of each other’s differences because of what we feared those differences might say about ourselves. As if everybody can’t eventually be too Black, too white, too man, too woman. But any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve. The answer to cold is heat, the answer to hunger is food. But there is no simple monolithic solution to racism, to sexism, to homophobia. There is only the conscious focusing within each of my days to move against them, wherever I come up against these particular manifestations of the same disease. By seeing who the we is, we learn to use our energies with greater precision against our enemies rather than against ourselves.
  • The 60s for me was a time of promise and excitement, but the 60s was also a time of isolation and frustration from within. [...] It was a time of great hope and great expectation; it was also a time of great waste. That is history. We do not need to repeat these mistakes in the 80s.
  • There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors. Black people have been here before us and survived. We can read their lives like signposts on the road and find, as Bernice Reagon says so poignantly, that each one of us is here because somebody before us did something to make it possible. To learn from their mistakes is not to lessen our debt to them, nor to the hard work of becoming ourselves, and effective.
    • p. 138
  • We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of an amnesia that robs us of the lessons of the past rather than permit us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding. We know what it is to be lied to, and we know how important it is not to lie to ourselves. We are powerful because we have survived, and that is what it is all about — survival and growth.
  • Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust. If we are to keep the enormity of the forces aligned against us from establishing a false hierarchy of oppression, we must school ourselves to recognize that any attack against Blacks, any attack against women, is an attack against all of us who recognize that our interests are not being served by the systems we support.
  • Survival is not a theory.
  • We are women trying to knit a future in a country where an Equal Rights Amendment was defeated as subversive legislation. We are Lesbians and gay men who, as the most obvious target of the New Right, are threatened with castration, imprisonment, and death in the streets. And we know that our erasure only paves the way for erasure of other people of Color, of the old, of the poor, of all of those who do not fit that mythic dehumanizing norm. Can we really still afford to be fighting each other?
  • Revolution is not a one-time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses; for instance, it is learning to address each other’s difference with respect. We share a common interest, survival, and it cannot be pursued in isolation from others simply because their differences make us uncomfortable. We know what it is to be lied to. The 60s should teach us how important it is not to lie to ourselves. Not to believe that revolution is a one-time event, or something that happens around us rather than inside of us. Not to believe that freedom can belong to any one group of us without the others also being free. How important it is not to allow even our leaders to define us to ourselves, or to define our sources of power to us.
  • Change is the immediate responsibility of each of us, wherever and however we are standing, in whatever arena we choose.
  • We who are Black are at an extraordinary point of choice within our lives. To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing we can do). Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means knowing that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair.
  • Nothing neutralizes creativity quicker than tokenism, that false sense of security fed by a myth of individual solutions.
  • You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.
  • In order to be whole, we must recognize the despair oppression plants within each of us — that thin persistent voice that says our efforts are useless, it will never change, so why bother, accept it. And we must fight that inserted piece of self-destruction that lives and flourishes like a poison inside of us, unexamined until it makes us turn upon ourselves in each other. But we can put our finger down upon that loathing buried deep within each one of us and see who it encourages us to despise, and we can lessen its potency by the knowledge of our real connectedness, arcing across our differences.
  • Name-calling is always easiest when it is removed, academic.
  • How are you practicing what you preach — whatever you preach, and who exactly is listening? As Malcolm stressed, we are not responsible for our oppression, but we must be responsible for our own liberation. It is not going to be easy, but we have what we have learned and what we have been given that is useful. We have the power those who came before us have given us, to move beyond the place where they were standing. We have the trees, and water, and sun, and our children. Malcolm X does not live in the dry texts of his words as we read them; he lives in the energy we generate and use to move along the visions we share with him. We are making the future as well as bonding to survive the enormous pressures of the present, and that is what it means to be a part of history.

Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger

  • To search for power within myself means I must be willing to move through being afraid to whatever lies beyond. If I look at my most vulnerable places and acknowledge the pain I have felt, I can remove the source of that pain from my enemies’ arsenals. My history cannot be used to feather my enemies’ arrows then, and that lessens their power over me. Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.
  • Survival is the greatest gift of love.
  • Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair. Four little Black girls, none more than ten years of age, singing their last autumn song in a Sunday church school in Birmingham, Alabama. After the explosion clears it is not possible to tell which patent leather Sunday shoe belongs to which found leg.
  • The power to kill is less than the power to create, for it produces an ending rather than the beginning of something new.
  • We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of Black women for each other.
  • Anger — a passion of displeasure that may be excessive or misplaced but not necessarily harmful. Hatred — an emotional habit or attitude of mind in which aversion is coupled with ill will. Anger, used, does not destroy. Hatred does.
  • Growing up, metabolizing hatred like a daily bread. Because I am Black, because I am woman, because I am not Black enough, because I am not some particular fantasy of a woman, because I AM. On such a consistent diet, one can eventually come to value the hatred of one’s enemies more than one values the love of friends, for that hatred becomes the source of anger, and anger is a powerful fuel.
  • Sometimes it seems that anger alone keeps me alive; it burns with a bright and undiminished flame. Yet anger, like guilt, is an incomplete form of human knowledge. More useful than hatred, but still limited. Anger is useful to help clarify our differences, but in the long run, strength that is bred by anger alone is a blind force which cannot create the future. It can only demolish the past. Such strength does not focus upon what lies ahead, but upon what lies behind, upon what created it — hatred. And hatred is a deathwish for the hated, not a lifewish for anything else.
  • To grow up metabolizing hatred like daily bread means that eventually every human interaction becomes tainted with the negative passion and intensity of its by-products — anger and cruelty.
  • We do not love ourselves, therefore we cannot love each other. Because we see in each other’s face our own face, the face we never stopped wanting. Because we survived and survival breeds desire for more self. A face we never stopped wanting at the same time as we try to obliterate it.
  • We had to metabolize such hatred that our cells have learned to live upon it because we had to, or die of it. Old King Mithridates learned to eat arsenic bit by bit and so outwitted his poisoners, but I’d have hated to kiss him upon his lips! Now we deny such hatred ever existed because we have learned to neutralize it through ourselves, and the catabolic process throws off waste products of fury even when we love.

Grenada Revisited: An Interim Report

  • With the constant manipulation of the media, many Black americans are honestly confused, defending “our” invasion of Black Grenada under a mistaken mirage of patriotism. Nineteen eighty-four is upon us, and doublethink has come home to scramble our brains and blanket our protest.
  • In addition to being a demonstration to the Caribbean community of what will happen to any country that dares to assume responsibility for its own destiny, the invasion of Grenada also serves as a naked warning to thirty million African-americans. Watch your step. We did it to them down there and we will not hesitate to do it to you.
  • Hundreds of Grenadian bodies are buried in unmarked graves, relatives missing and unaccounted for, survivors stunned and frightened into silence by fear of being jailed and accused of “spreading unrest among the people.” No recognition and therefore no aid for the sisters, mothers, wives, children of the dead, families disrupted and lives vandalized by the conscious brutality of a planned, undeclared war. No attention given to the Grenadian bodies shipped back and forth across the sea in plastic bodybags from Barbados to Grenada to Cuba and back again to Grenada. After all, they all look alike, and besides, maybe if they are flown around the world long enough they will simply disappear, or become invisible, or some other peoples’ sacrifice.
  • Weeks after the invasion, Grenadians were still smelling out and burying bodies which lay all over the island. The true casualty figures will never be known. No civilian body count is available. Even the bodies of Maurice Bishop and his slain ministers are never positively identified, no doubt to forestall any possible enshrinement by the people who loved him, no doubt to make the task of smearing his popular memory more easily accomplished. It has already begun.

Quotes about Audre Lorde

  • No matter what the venue, we can be witnesses to our own existence. "If we do not define ourselves for ourselves," said Audre Lorde, "we will be defined by others- for their use and our detriment." Each generation must look around with a critical eye and ask, "Is this who I am? How will we be portrayed to future generations?"
    • Kathleen Alcalá "The Madonna in Cyberspace" (2000) in The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (2007)
  • I'm using the word nos/otras. Otras means other and nos means us, we. We don't have to keep using the oppositional language of the fathers. We were taught to write and think like these theorists. It's complicitous for somebody who is an "other" to be using "their" terms and "their" styles all the time. It's like fighting them with their own language. Audre Lorde said it very succinctly: "You cannot use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house.
  • Poetry is not a luxury for women, explained Audre Lorde. It is the distillation of our experience, the moment of interpretation, the intuitive leap transcending the boundaries of the conventional coordinates on the official map designating our place in the world
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Lorde sees mortality as both weapon and power: "I am talking here about the need for every woman to live a considered life."
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Audre Lorde taught us, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
    • Thema Bryant, Homecoming: Overcome Fear and Trauma to Reclaim Your Whole, Authentic Self (2022)
  • At the library I would go the shelves alphabetically. I was drawn to anyone with a female name, with a Latino or Spanish name. There were very, very few. But as a teenager I discovered African American poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first. Then Phillis Wheatley. I really identified with this slave woman writing poetry to assert and affirm her humanity. Suddenly my eyes were open to history. There was a whole explosion of African-American women poets-Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, June Jordan. I have a poem in my head that's going to take me years to write down. Its working title is "On Thanking Black Muses." I owe them, because poetry really changed my life, saved it.
  • With its paradoxical title, Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde's most influential book of prose, is ever more trenchant twenty-three years after its first printing-surpassing even the reputation of her poetry, which is no minor feat...On the shelf with or at the bottom of that stack of other well-mined tomes-The Black Woman: An Anthology; Conditions: Five, The Black Women's Issue; Lesbian Fiction; Top Ranking-Sister is never far from me. I retain several dog-eared, underlined, coffee-splotched copies of her-at home, at work, on my nightstand-as necessary as my eyeglasses, my second sight... In one paragraph, Lorde can simultaneously blow away the entire Enlightenment project and use its tools, too. In 1990 I quoted myself in "Knowing the Danger and Going There Anyway," an article I wrote on Lorde for the Boston feminist newspaper, Sojourner; I'll change the sister trope and quote myself again: "I said that Audre Lorde's work is 'a neighbor I've grown up with, who can always be counted on for honest talk, to rescue me when I've forgotten the key to my own house, to go with me to a tenants' or town meeting, a community festival'."4 In 1990, Lorde was still walking among us. Sister Outsider has taken its creator's place as that good neighbor. And with this new edition, we will have our good neighbor and sister for another generation. May those of us who are Sister Outsider's old neighbors continue to be inspired by her luminous writing and may those new neighbors be newly inspired.
  • This is not the first period during which we have confronted the difficult problem of using difference as a way of bringing people together, rather than as incontrovertible evidence of separation. There are more options than sameness, opposition, or hierarchical relations. One of the basic challenges confronting women of color today, as Audre Lorde has pointed out, is to think about and act upon notions of equality across difference. There are so many ways in which we can conceptualize coalitions, alliances, and networks that we would be doing ourselves a disservice to argue that there is only one way to construct relations across racial and ethnic boundaries. We cannot assume that if it does not unfold in one particular way, then it is not an authentic coalition.
  • Aymar Jean Christian of Northwestern University historically contextualizes and updates the notion of intersectional storytelling in his recent book Race and Media: Critical Approaches. “Most creators are ‘intersectional,’ meaning they identify with multiple communities marginalized by their race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability, or citizenship status,” he writes. He argues that the framework of intersectionality was developed throughout the 20th century by women writers of color like Sojourner Truth, Audre Lorde, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. Those early intersectional writers sought to describe “the interlocking nature of oppression and the specificity of being both Black and woman (and often queer).”
  • Audre Lorde's essay "Eye to Eye" was one of the very first readings on the list. It was the work everyone called to mind in our class as we spoke about how important it is for black women to stand in feminist solidarity with one another.
    • bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994)
  • We participate in, and are excited by, organizing that takes as a starting point the interconnections between struggles to dismantle our carceral state and to build just and flourishing public K-12 educational systems. These include LGBTQ liberation movements that reject criminalization as the response to gender and sexual violence in schools, immigration rights organizers who say no to legislation that pits children against parents, and anti-violence movements that do not rely on policing as their primary strategy for peace-building. As the Black feminist lesbian poet and scholar Audre Lorde wrote years ago, "There are not single-issue struggles because we do not live single-issue lives."
  • we have learned from Lorde: At the same time as we organize behind specific and urgent issues, we must also develop and maintain an ongoing vision, and the theory following upon that vision, of why we struggle-of the shape and taste and philosophy of what we wish to see.
  • Lorde is right: "Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."
    • Mariame Kaba in Who Reads Poetry edited by Fred Sasaki and Don Share (2017)
  • The poet Audre Lorde has said, "Poetry is not a luxury." I think it is no accident that these words were spoken by a Black lesbian radical poet, and that they have been echoed throughout the feminist writers community.
    • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz "While Patriarchy Explodes: Writing In A Time Of Crisis" in The Issue is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence and Resistance (1992)
  • We can watch a classic becoming. When Audre Lorde tells a room full of women, many lesbians, many Black women, "Your silence will not protect you," and Gloria Hull writes "Poem," dedicated to Audre Lorde, which concludes: "Dear Eshu's Audre/please keep on/teaching us/how/to speak/to know/that now/"our labor is/more important than/our silence" and this poem is chosen to introduce Conditions: Five-The Black Women's Issue, we know we're in the presence of something classic. The invocation. The passionate connection. The exhortation to speak.
  • Today's mic-hogging, fast-talking, contentious young (and old) lefties continue to hawk little books and pamphlets on revolution, always with choice words or documents from Marx, Mao, even Malcolm. But I've never seen a broadside with "A Black Feminist Statement or even the writings of Angela Davis or June Jordan or Barbara Omolade or Flo Kennedy or Audre Lorde or bell hooks or Michelle Wallace, at least not from the groups who call themselves leftist. These women's collective wisdom has provided the richest insights into American radicalism's most fundamental questions: How can we build a multiracial movement? Who are the working class and what do they desire? How do we resolve the Negro Question and the Woman Question? What is freedom?
  • Audre Lorde was one of my role models when I first came out as a lesbian. Audre was an extraordinary African American lesbian writer. It really meant a lot to me that she wrote to me on three different occasions that the dedications to "Bashert" were important to her.
    • Irena Klepfisz 1997 interview in Meaning and Memory: Interviews with Fourteen Jewish Poets by Gary Pacernick (2001)
  • Poets—incredible nature poets like Mary Oliver, Gabriela Mistral, or Audre Lorde—look deeply at the world and make us feel like we are connected. Poetry that addresses the natural world helps us repair that connection. When you are paying attention to something, it’s a way of loving something. How can we continue to hurt something that we love?
  • In a uniquely distinct way, Audre Lorde's and Toni Cade Bambara's presence in Bridge also impacted Bridge's success. Audre and Toni were exemplary sister-writers, emblematic of that great surge of Black feminist writing spilling into our hands in 1970s and 80s. As "sisters of the yam"... they stood up in unwavering solidarity with the rest of us "sisters of the rice, sisters of the corn, sisters of the plantain" and that mattered. It helped put Bridge, coedited by two "unknown" Chicana writers, on the political-literary map. All in all, it was a brave moment in feminist history.
  • It is my conviction that currently in the United States, more women than men are writing good and vital poetry, although there are fine male poets. This is our renaissance, our Elizabethan plenty. We have giants like Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Diane di Prima and Maxine Kumin, we have rising powers like Joy Harjo and Celia Gilbert and Sharon Olds, and we have dozens and dozens of individual voices sharply flavored and yet of our time, our flesh, our troubles.
    • Marge Piercy Introduction to Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1987)
  • One of the most sensual and sensuous women poets I can think of is Audre Lorde. She thinks in images that are most certainly lesbian images. But also images from Afro-Caribbean culture and from African mythology and experience. And that's a very powerful combination. Because that also has not been available in most poetry in English.
    • Adrienne Rich, interview (1991) in Adrienne Rich's poetry and prose
  • When I read Jefferson's disparagement of Wheatley, it felt like he had been disparaging the entire lineage of Black poets who would follow her, myself included, and I saw a man who had not had a clear understanding of what love is...When Audre Lorde fractured this language and then built us a new one, giving us a fresh way to make sense of who we are in the world, it was an act of love.
  • Insisting that "Poetry is not a luxury," Audre Lorde writes, "Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives,"
    • Melissa Tuckey Ghost Fishing : An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (2018)
  • I had long ago found courage in Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider when she says: “I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as a meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live. My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition. Only then can I bring myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those struggles which I embrace as part of my living"
  • Who am I today is a composite of many aspects; I am a Puerto Rican woman, I am also a lesbian, a woman of color, and a human rights advocate. Excluding one identity in lieu of the other does not tell the whole story. After I met the poet Audre Lorde I realized I had to embrace all this in order to have a holistic view. Audre said: "you can only empower yourself when you join all the parts of your own Self." So I had to join all the pieces of the puzzle so it could be read.
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