Audre Lorde 1934 - 1992
“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.” - Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was born in New York City to immigrant parents from the Caribbean. Best known for her riveting exposure to feminism, motherhood, civil rights and sexual identity while being a (self-described) black lesbian feminist. At a very young age, Lorde developed a passion for written prose. This made her preferred method of communication expressive poetry. When asked how she was feeling, Lorde responded with a poem she had written or with one a poem she had memorized by another poet. Her first poem was written in the eighth grade.
Her work would later described the many issues a majority of people experienced, as they were unwilling to accept each other’s ”differences" out of fear. After graduating high school, she attended Hunter College, working to support herself throughout her studies. Lorde later earned a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1961. During the 1960s Lorde explored marriage. She had two children, embraced and addressed her sexuality, and experienced first-hand civil and social injustices in the Deep South. All this while finding it within herself to share her true identity as a black lesbian feminist. Lorde would later divorce and share these experiences in her most famous work today in Coal, The Black Unicorn, and Martha.
At a time when many were fighting for equality, she mentioned in her work that not always is the black woman provided the same respect or passage to equality as her white female counterparts. Lorde even stated, “one oppression does not justify another” explaining how Black men that chose to use their male privilege at the expense of oppressing women, were also at fault.
In a poem titled Coal, she laments the layers of her identity. In one section of the collection she describes her childhood and the hopes she has for her individual motherhood and allowing her daughter to be a free and independent spirit. During Lorde’s childhood she was subjected to a cold and withdrawn mother who treated her inferior due to the darker hues of her complexion. Lorde also pushed for individuals to relinquish the stereotypes they believed and rather transformed ones thinking of intersectionality.
Below is an excerpt from Sister Outsider describing the system and barriers women must overcome:
"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 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. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support."
For the last decade of her life she battled cancer, but shared with us overcoming the disease and reclaiming one's worth and power through self-discovery. In The Cancer Journals, her courageousness is described as she discusses overcoming breast cancer and a mastectomy. She discusses her refusal to have prosthetic breasts as she views it as silencing and covering up who we are as women and not acknowledging one's strength and power.