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  • Jeremy Wells

Deliberate & Afraid of Nothing: Audre Lorde

Affirming, expressive, feministic and dedicated--Audre Lorde was a talented wordsmith and activist who used poetry beginning at the age of twelve to express her emotions and to communicate. She later used the medium to convey the outrage she felt at the inquiries she faced as a black gay woman. Born in 1934 to Caribbean immigrants, she was subjected to very little experiences with her parents because of the demanding real estate work during the Great Depression. Further rockiness between her and her parents--her mother in particular--drove her to struggle with communication, and came to appreciate the power of poetry as a form of her expression. While attending high school, Lorde published her first poem in the popular Seventeen magazine after her school's literary journal rejected it for being inappropriate. "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

Lorde remained focused on not only the groups she was apart of, but talked about her intersectional experiences as well. Her conception of her many layers of selfhood is replicated in the multi-genres of her work. Her refusal to be placed in a particular category, whether social or literary, was characteristic of her determination to come across as an individual rather than a stereotype. Lorde considered herself a 'lesbian, mother, warrior, poet' and used poetry to get this message across. Her work was also featured in Langston Hughes' 'New Negro Poets' and in several other black literary magazines. Her release of 'Coal' established Lorde as an influential voice in the Black Arts Movement, and the large publishing house behind it – Norton – helped introduce her to a wider audience. Two years later, with the release of 'The Black Unicorn' she describes her identity within the mythos of African female deities of creation, fertility, and warrior strength. This reclamation of African female identity both builds and challenges existing Black Arts ideas about pan-Africanism--and allowed her the courage and confidence in her attraction to women. This year, as we march in the San Diego Pride Parade, let us do so with the powerful, fearless spirit of Audre Lorde. For when we walk boldly, without fear or shame in who we are, we shine light into the dark closets around the world, giving our queer kinfolk, who choose not to or are unable to live openly, a glimmer of hope that they are not alone.

"Revolution is not a onetime event."

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