Celebrate Audre Lorde’s Birthday With This Essay Roundup

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Still powerful, still relevant.

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Nina Mashurova | February 18, 2015

It’s Audre Lorde’s birthday! An incredibly influential poet, activist, and essayist, Lorde’s deeply empathetic and fearlessly intentional writing is an ongoing source of inspiration for many. As a Caribbean-born black lesbian radical feminist writing in response to a 60’s feminism led chiefly by affluent white hetero women, Lorde wrote foundational texts about intersectionality and embracing difference.

There are tons of decontextualized Audre Lorde quotes circulating via Tumblr and image macros, but much of Lorde’s work is actually accessible in full online, so you can celebrate what would have been the warrior poet’s 81st birthday by giving yourself or someone you know the gift of reading her work. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites:

The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action
“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism
“If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you: I have not put a gun to your head and shot you down in the street; I have not looked at your bleeding sister’s body and asked, “What did she do to deserve it?””

Poetry is Not a Luxury
“We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared.”

Uses of the Erotic
“For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of….And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”

Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference
“Too often, we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers, or that they do not exist at all. This results in a voluntary isolation, or false and treacherous connections.”

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House
“If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?”

For more Audre Lorde, follow the work of the Audre Lorde Project (a New York-based community organizing center for LBGTQ people of color) and stream this podcast produced by Mark Gunnery (of the Riot Folk Collective) honoring her legacy with Abdu Ali and other Baltimore artists, activists, poets, academics and performers.

It also happens to be the birthday of fellow amazing women Toni Morrison and Yoko Ono, which makes a compelling case for cosmic coincidence and all the Aquarians in our lives.

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