Audre Lorde: 1934-1992
Audre Lorde is a self described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her first poem was published when she was still in high school. She earned her B.A. from Hunter College and an M.L.S. from Columbia University. Over her life she published numerous volumes of poetry and prose, including her courageous account of her struggle to overcome breast cancer, The Cancer Journals. As Allison Kimmich noted in Feminist Writers, “Throughout all of Audre Lorde’s writing, both nonfiction and fiction, a single theme surfaces repeatedly. The black lesbian feminist poet activist reminds her readers that they ignore differences among people at their peril… Instead, Lorde suggests, differences in race or class must serve as a ‘reason for celebration and growth.’” Lorde “dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism and homophobia.”
Audre Lorde’s speech, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” is at the heart of the Rhetoric and Revolution project. Lorde’s elegant contention that what she most regrets in her life are her silences is a powerful statement on each person’s responsibility to themselves and to the community in which they live to speak out about the issues which most impact them.
Lorde asks, “What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say? 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?” Lorde’s speech offers a glimpse into the power that comes from examining our own “tyrannies” and then taking the next step of speaking out.