Audre Lorde described herself as ‘a black feminist lesbian mother poet’. Born in New York, the daughter of Caribbean migrants to the US, she had her first poem published at just seventeen years old. She continued writing poetry throughout the 1960s, while working as a librarian and engaging in the struggle for LGBTQ rights. In the 1970s, after divorcing her white, gay husband with whom she had two children, Audre became poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College and met her long term partner, Frances Clayton. Ever prolific, Lorde published seven collections of poetry in this decade. In 1980 she published The Cancer Journals, her first book in prose, it tackled Lorde’s experiences with breast cancer, her mastectomy and its aftermath. Typically, Lorde did not shy away from addressing pain, noting;
‘I feel 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.’
Audre Lorde’s wrote unapologetically from her experience as a ‘black lesbian mother poet’ – employing her outsider status to mainstream US feminism to shine a light on the way that difference is understood and acted upon.
‘When I say I am a Black feminist, I mean I recognise that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my Blackness as well as my womanness, and therefore my struggles on both these fronts are inseparable.’
Her prescient reflections on authenticity, difference and activism have meant that her works have gained greater public attention in the years since her death in 1992. Recent US and UK publications of anthologies of her work have meant that Lorde’s wisdom is reaching new audiences who respond to her truthfulness and insights on difference
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
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
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction
Before she died, Lorde in an African naming ceremony took the name Gambda Adisa, meaning ‘Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known’
Think like Audre
BlackOutUK is keen to celebrate the differences among Black queer men, and believe that our diversity is our strength. We are working to build networks and creating spaces that enable black queer men to meet and work with each other across barriers of age, ethnicity, identity and experience.
We believe that by articulating our own stories (painful and joyful) we will be able to make a greater contribution to the communities of which we are part
Read more about Audre Lorde and her legacy
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