James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still Defying Silence: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a poet of stunning eloquence, a political activist, a theorist and a chronicler of the times she lived in. Growing up in Harlem as a self-identified black, lesbian-feminist she was unwilling to suppress any aspect of her identity for the sake of expediency or acceptance. Her quotation, "Your silence cannot protect you!" became a mantra of sorts for the lesbian community. Her 1982 biography, "Zami: a New Spelling of My Name," captivated many who had never read a word about being butch, black and lesbian on the gritty streets of 1950's New York.

The essays in this book, "I am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde," are as powerful and relevant today as they were when she wrote them. Although she speaks to everyone, her writing here is directed primarily toward the straight, black, feminist community, to shake out the fear and prejudice that stands as a barrier to achieving a politically powerful base "family" from which to take on oppression. In this respect the title becomes a plea for unity in that struggle.

Audre Lorde died in 1992 at age 58 after a battle with metastatic breast cancer. Here is some video footage from that last year. Her final memoir, "The Cancer Journals," documented her experience with fatal illness, and was just another example of her refusal to succumb to silence.

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