Audre Lorde was born today in 1934 and I’m thinking about her most notable quotes while reading her essays this evening. They give me pause, because the timelessness of her writing is of great comfort now. Our great writers and thinkers deserved so much more than we what gave them when they were with us. Scotland’s first Black national poet Jackie Kay talked about Lorde’s prescience in an interview with the BBC, observing that Lorde “was always a woman that was head of her time, and now she’s walking with us in ours.” “When people are brave, bold, and brilliant they risk the wrath of people of their own time.”
When the weight of the world continues to bear upon our psyches, I continue to be drawn to prolific writers who used their work and their voice to grapple with problems that we continue to struggle to find answers to. Lorde’s writing is also a brave reminder to us that we must not be silent. We must use our voices.
“We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”
Audre Lorde delivered these powerful words to the Modern Language Association in 1977, and her personal challenge is as urgent today as it was then:
“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 at, tempt 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?”