“I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my power as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.” -Audre Lorde
Her entire life is quotable genius. Audre Lorde is a self-described Black-lesbian feminist mother lover poet. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg with this civil rights activist. As a critic of what she saw as feminism’s blindness to racial differences, Lorde dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism and homophobia.
Lorde’s groundbreaking poetry was captured in her books: First Cities and From a Land Where Other People Live, but it was perhaps her books on issues of identity and concerns about global issues, New York Head Shop and Museum, Coal and The Black Unicorn that gained her the most attention. Lorde is best known for her works during her battle with breast cancer, The Cancer Journals. Lorde battled cancer for 14 years and during the last years of her life, she moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands and changed her name to Gamba Adisa, meaning “she who makes her meaning clear.”
Lorde was noted for eloquent prose, which is why her quotes are widely shared as motivation and inspiration to us all. Here are some of her best.
1. If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
2. I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.
3. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
4. I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.
5. I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? 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? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.
6. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
7. Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
8. Revolution is not a one time event.
9. I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes–everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a f*cking meteor!
10. Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.
11. As move toward creating a society within which we can each flourish, ageism is another distortion of relationship which interferes without vision. By ignoring the past, we are encouraged to repeat its mistakes.
12. Some women wait for themselves around the next corner and call the empty spot peace, but the opposite of living is only not living and the stars do not care.
13. For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
14. As we come to know, accept, and explore our feelings, they will become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas — the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.
15. If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough.