Friday, April 5, 2013

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

The life and work of Audre Lorde, a self-described black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior, was highlighted at the event, An Evening with Audre Lorde, held in Montreal, Quebec. The event was hosted at Café l'Artère, through Politics & Care--a project that works to make explicit the links between the process of creativity, through holistic healing, street art practices, and an integrated political discourse around well-being and self-care in activism and organizing. A big thanks goes out to the organizers who made this event happen!

The event featured readings from Lorde's book, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by members of C-uniT, followed by a film screening, The Berlin Years 1984-1992, by Dagmar Schultz. The film focuses on Lorde's relation to German Black Diaspora, her literary and political influence, as well as a serves as a visual documentation of the time Lorde spent in Germany. 

Particularly resonant, was a reading of Lorde's Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism, where she discusses the way in which anger is an appropriate response to racism. She explains how "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 this 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" (p. 127). 

Also highlighted, was Lorde's paper, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, that was originally delivered at the Modern Language Association's Language and Literature Panel in Chicago, Illinois in 1977. In the paper, she makes a powerful call for action with her questions; "What are the words you do not have yet? 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 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?" (pp. 41-42). 

She draws on a conversation she had with her daughter to think through the ways in which her silences have not protected her. Lorde confesses that of course she is afraid, "because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger." After telling her daughter about the topic and the corresponding difficulty she has with it, her daughter said, "Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don't speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside" (p. 42). Lorde moves beyond her silences and insists that your silence will not protect you; she reassures that speaking will get easier and easier, urging folks to teach by living and speaking their truth. 

Further reading and information on Audre Lorde: