The first time I sat down and read Audre Lorde’s words was in college.
But so many of her most famous quotes and poems had been floating around the periphery of my world for years prior.
As a writer, a poet, a librarian, a lesbian, a feminist, and an equal rights activist born in New York to West Indian immigrant parents, Lorde was someone I could relate to on many levels.
And her words are ones I still turn to, especially when I’m filled with sadness and rage.
When I’m trying to make sense of a world that feels like it’s been flipped upside down.
When I’m inching closer to the battle lines of what feels like a never-ending fight.
When I’m in desperate need of courage and radical inspiration.
When I’m struggling to understand how people can be so cruel, so careless.
When I’m heart-deep in pain but know I have no choice but to push forward.
On the days when you need help to keep fighting the good fight, read these words from the incomparable Audre Lorde:
“Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.”
“Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”
“We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present.”
“My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…What are the words you do not yet have? 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? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
“What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.”
“And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
“Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.”
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
“The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.”
“If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive.”
“Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”
“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”
“Anger is useful to help clarify our differences, but in the long run, strength that is bred by anger alone is a blind force which cannot create the future. It can only demolish the past. Such strength does not focus upon what lies ahead, but upon what lies behind, upon what created it—hatred. And hatred is a deathwish for the hated, not a lifewish for anything else.”
“You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same.”