LGBT History Month: Person of the week - Audre Lorde

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Audre Lorde - Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet.

Audre Lorde was born in 1934 in New York City to West Indian parents. Lorde’s passion for poetry grew in her early teens and her first poem was published by Seventeen magazine whilst she was still in high school. Lorde’s poetry continued to get published and received much public merit for her work. In particularly, her highly acclaimed volume The Black Unicorn, received a lot of attention as it dealt with lesbian relationships and themes of love in accessible and visceral ways. It was said that one did not need to profess heterosexuality, homosexuality or asexuality to react to her poems. The idea was that anyone who had ever been in love could respond effectively to the straightforward passion and pain that love may bring.

Audre Lorde described herself as a ‘black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’ who committed her life and her creative talent to fighting injustices of sexism, racism and homophobia. Lorde was concerned with how modern society categorised particular groups of people. Lorde fought hard against the marginalisation of such categories as ‘lesbian’ and ‘black woman’ - thereby empowering her readers to react to prejudice in their own lives.

Refusing to be silent, Lorde’s poetry became popular in particular channels because of its lesbian topics – which however, made her a target of those who opposed her radical agenda, nonetheless Lorde continued, undaunted, to express her individuality.

Lorde’s later work created a rapid shift to more political statements after she began expressing her experiences of civil unrest during the 1960s. Jerome Brooks explained that ‘Lorde’s poetry of anger is perhaps her best-known work.’ Lorde protested against white America forcing its unnatural culture on the black community, she likened blacks to cockroaches in her poetry – hated, feared and poisoned by whites. Nonetheless again Lorde’s poetry was unbound, she also extended her anger to feminist issues as well. She criticised African American men who reinforced sexual discrimination ‘As Black people, we cannot begin our dialogue by denying the oppressive nature of male privilege.’ Lorde famously stated that one oppression does not justify another.

 Lorde, who participated in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979, used her theory of difference to establish the fight for gay rights as part of the greater fight against all oppressive forces that affect those who embody difference. Audre Lorde quickly became the best known out-of-the-closet Black radical lesbian feminist – What a title huh?

 

Lorde, A. (1985). I am your sister. New York, NY: Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press.

Outhistory.org. (2018). Audre Lorde · Big Lives: Profiles of LGBT African Americans · outhistory.org. [online] Available at: http://outhistory.org/exhibits/show/aa-history-month-bios/audre-lorde [Accessed 29 Jan. 2018].

   

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