February is Black History Month! To celebrate, we'll be sharing portraits and profiles of three ladies we love. Today, we'll be talking about Audre Lorde.
Audre Lorde does not want you to be silent.
A proud Black, feminist, lesbian poet and mother, Audre Lorde graced the world with her presence in 1934 and departed for bigger and better adventures in 1992. She refused to apologize for a single second of it. Audre dedicated her life to making people heard, and that absolutely included herself.
Though a poet first and foremost, Audre was also a writer and activist. She was usually all three of those things at the same time. Her autobiography, Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name, created an entirely new genre of memoir writing, which Audre aptly named “biomythography.” It was also gay as hell and proudly Black during the eighties, which is no small feat by any means. Her essay collection, Sister Outsider, talked about intersectional feminism long before the phrase ever landed on mainstream feminist tongues.
Basically, the lady got a lot of stuff done, and we are forever indebted to her for it.
Audre is probably best known for her thoughts on self-care, but my personal favorite quote comes from a speech titled “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.”
“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?”
I keep that quote tucked inside a little pocket of my heart at all times. When I first read it, I felt that I’d been waiting my whole life for someone to ask me what I needed to say, what I did not yet have words for. It also reminds me as an able-bodied white woman with US citizenship that I need keep working to make more of my sisters feel less like outsiders.
Because, you see, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Audre said that, too. I think it’s time we listened to her.