Audre Lorde: A black, lesbian, mother, socialist, warrior, poet

by Tessa R. Echeverria

February 18, 2012

“Your Silence Will Not Protect You…”

“…within the war we are all waging with the forces of death, subtle and otherwise, conscious or not – I am not only a casualty, I am also a warrior.”

Audre Lorde

Born in New York City, February 18th, 1934, Audrey Geraldine Lorde decided when she was very young to drop the “y” from her name, saying that she like the artistic symmetry of the ‘e’ ending. Audre explains this decision in ‘Zami: a New Spelling of My Name” published in 1982. In writing ‘Zami’, Lorde developed a new style instead of autobiography, calling it a biomythography, meaning an invented or made-up life story.

Audre Lorde used her creative talent to confront injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Focusing on the discussion of difference, not only between people but also the differences within the individual. She noted, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept & celebrate those differences.”

Lorde wrote many essays and poems during her life. On her birthday and in recognition of her life’s work, we have collected some poems and links to a number of her essays below.

In Lorde’s work she addresses; class, race, gender, age, and sexually. She argued that the intersection of all these identities is fundamental to the female experience. Many of Lorde’s writings address the ‘theory of difference’, which is the idea that gender is not binary. That the way we see the opposition between men and women is overly simplistic. In Audre Lorde’s expressions through written and spoken word she explored that strength comes of our differences between ourselves and with in ourselves. Describing herself as part of a ‘continuum of women’. The mark she left on feminism has re-shaped the very conceptions of what it means to be a feminist and was fundamental to the transformation out of 2nd wave feminism.

Audre Lorde reads Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

East Berlin

It feels dangerous now
to be Black in Berlin
sad suicides that never got reported
Neukölln Kreuzberg the neon Zoo
a new siege along Unter den Linden
with Paris accents New York hustle
many tattered visions intersecting.
Already my blood shrieks
through East Berlin streets
misplaced hatreds
volcanic tallies rung upon cement
Afro-German woman stomped to death
by skinheads in Alexanderplatz
two-year-old girls
half-cooked in their campcots
who pays the price
for their disillusion?
Hand-held the candles wink
in Berlin’s scant November light
hitting the Wall at 30 miles an hour
vision first
is still hitting a wall
and on the other side
the rank chasm
where dreams of laurels lie
hollowness wed to triumph
differing from defeat
only in the approaching tasks.

The Politics of Addiction

17 luxury condominiums
electronically protected
from criminal hunger the homeless
seeking a night’s warmth
across from the soup kitchen
St. Vincent’s Hospital
razor wire covering the hot air grates.
Disrobed need
shrieks through the nearby streets.
Some no longer beg.
a brown sloe-eyed boy
picks blotches from his face
eyes my purse shivering
white dust a holy fire
in his blood
at the corner fantasy
parodies desire replaces longing
Green light. The boy turns back
to the steaming grates.
Down the street in a show-window
camera Havana
the well-shaped woman smiles
waves her plump arm along
half-filled market shelves
excess expectation
dusts across her words
“Si hubieran capitalismo
hubiesen tomates aquí!”
“If we had capitalism
tomatoes would be here now.”

A Family Resemblance

My sister has my hair my mouth my eyes
And I presume her trustless.
When she was young, and open to any fever
Wearing gold like a veil of fortune on her face,
She waited through each rain a dream of light.
But the sun came up
Burning our eyes like crystal
Bleaching the sky of promise and
My sister stood
Black, unblessed and unbelieving
Shivering in the first cold show of love.
I saw her gold become an arch
Where nightmare hunted
Down the porches
Of her restless nights.
Now through the echoes of denial
She walks a bleached side of reason
Secret now
My sister never waits,
Nor mourns the gold that wandered from her bed.
My sister has my tongue
And all my flesh unanswered
And I presume her trustless as a stone.

Between Ourselves
Once when I walked into a room
my eyes would seek out the one or two black faces
for contact or reassurance or a sign
I was not alone
now walking into rooms full of black faces
that would destroy me for any difference
where shall my eyes look?
Once it was easy to know
who were my people.
If we were stripped to our strength
of all pretense
and our flesh was cut away
the sun would bleach all our bones as white
as the face of my black mother
was bleached white by gold
or Orishala
and how
does that measure me?
I do not believe
our wants have made all our lies
Under the sun on the shores of Elmina
a black man sold the woman who carried
my grandmother in her belly
he was paid with bright yellow coin
that shone in the evening sun
and in the faces of her sons and daughters.
When I see that brother behind my eyes
his irises are bloodless and without color
his tongue clicks like yellow coins
tossed up on this shore
where we share the same corner
of an alien and corrupted heaven
and whenever I try to eat

Audre Lorde’s Works

  • The First Cities (1968).
  • Cables to Rage (1970).
  • From a Land Where Other People Live (1973).
  • New York Head Shop and Museum (1974).
  • Coal (1976).
  • Between Our Selves (1976).
  • The Black Unicorn (1978, W.W. Norton Publishing).
  • The Cancer Journals (1980 Aunt Lute Books).
  • Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power (1981 Kore Books) Uses of the Erotic.
  • Chosen Poems: Old and New (1982).
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1983, The Crossing Press.)
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984, 2007, The Crossing Press).
  • Our Dead Behind Us (1986).
  • A Burst of Light (1988, Firebrand Books).
  • The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance (1993).


One response to “Audre Lorde: A black, lesbian, mother, socialist, warrior, poet”