Audre Lorde, in her own words, was a “Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, poet” — and as self-descriptions go, hers really hit the nail on the head. Lorde was fierce and passionate in everything she did, be it her poetry, her radical feminism, her teaching, philosophy, or civil rights activism. She was outspoken when it came to confronting injustices such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, and she frequently repeated the idea that being quiet and shying away from important issues was not an option. “Your silence will not protect you” was her blunt but honest rallying call.
Lorde often commented on the idea of difference — the way we all differ one from another, by creed or race, gender, sexuality, or identity. Fundamentally, she wanted her differences — and those of all individuals — to be acknowledged but not judged, and she believed they should be celebrated rather than used to cause division.
Here are 16 quotes from Lorde that reveal both her innate bravery and her overwhelming compassion for her fellow humans.
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.
The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival.
For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises… These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through that darkness.
Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors.
If you can’t change reality, change your perceptions of it.
I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.
Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.
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.
In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.
That visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.
If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you.
When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak.
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