Audre Lorde: "Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet"

In a time of systematic discrimination and inequality, it is vital for each of us to reflect on the role we play in the fight for equality, connection, inclusivity, justice, and acknowledgement. One of the most profound ways to further our own influence on this ever-evolving movement is through the stories of those before us, whose voices and actions impacted the groups that many of us are part of today. Only a few times within each generation does an individual transcend, challenge and break down the social structures that have confined them. One of the most powerful examples of this is Audre Lorde- a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet."

Hands forming the shape of a heart Pexels / ATC Comm Photo She was an activist and artist that fought against barriers only few had the courage to confront. Her work transcended her demographics in a way that defied oppression and discrimination. Her writing touched the hearts of all those who read her haunting, beautiful, and eloquent poems. What perhaps made Audre Lorde one of the most profound activists of her time, was herself being the embodiment of many oppressed groups- and she fought for justice for each and every one of them. Former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, acknowledged the profoundness of her efforts upon designating her New York State Poet (1991-1993): “Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice… She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere." 

This is the very essence of Audre Lorde that made her such an impactful activist: her words and voice spoke for so many different groups. She was the daughter of immigrants, an African American woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, and a self-proclaimed “outkast” during the Great Depression. From a young age, she expressed herself through poetry and writing. Audre Lorde utilized her voice and writings in two profound ways. She spoke to the human soul through poetry, and spoke up for oppressed groups through leadership. She influenced African American activism through leading workshops during her undergraduate years in college. She gave opportunity to African American women through co-founding Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press that provided African American women a platform to publish their writing in a world that often did not provide African Americans, especially women, with opportunities to pursue writing as a formal career. Furthermore, she fought for women's opportunity through her association and support of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press, starting in 1971. Beyond her work in activism for African Americans and women, she was a co-founder of the Women's Coalition of St. Croix in 1981- an organization dedicated to aiding female victims of sexual and domestic abuse. In her later years, she acted as a voice against age and disability discrimination.

hard back books Sarah Pflug What makes Audre Lorde such an inspirational figure was her well-rounded pursuit for equality and justice throughout her life. She fueled the liberation of so many different kinds of people; she is an individual that virtually anybody could relate to and admire. She preached inclusivity, understanding, love, and connection through her activism, bringing together all walks of life. Audre Lorde’s work is just as impactful now as it was then, through the example it serves. From her story can be pulled an ultimate lesson: no oppressed group will achieve equality and justice unless each and every one of us opens our hearts, minds, and ears to others and their unique life experiences. Although we may all be different and face varying challenges, as Audre Lorde taught so many, the movement toward a more equal, connected, and liberated world is not for a single cause, a single group, or a single outcome. It is through each individual's acknowledgement of the complexity, worthiness, and equality of one another. We must stand up for one another... always. In Lorde’s words, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."