100 Inspirational Quotes By Audre Lorde, The Author Of Zami
Harlem, New York City
Founder / Co Founder:
Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press
Audrey Geraldine Lorde, better known as simply Audre Lorde, was an American civil rights activist, author and feminist of Caribbean descent, who is best known for waging her activism through her poems. She was born in New York in 1934 and following her school education, she went to study at the University of New Mexico, where she developed her ideas as an activist and feminist, who also happened to be lesbian. She was not only a poet but also an essayist and shared her thoughts on the different aspects of social activism in journals which were radical enough to publish them. Eventually she went on to attend Columbia University and earned a post graduate degree in Library Science. She continued to work as a librarian at several institutions but at the same time, she continued to be a prominent civil rights activist and poet. Lorde was an extremely important social activist of her time and continued to be so for the majority of her life. The combination of a political activist and firebrand poet, with great oratory skills is a rare combination and in the process a great many Lorde quotes finds great resonance even today. Here are the selected ones.
Your silence will not protect you. If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive. 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. I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. 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 I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge. Revolution is not a one time event. Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it. There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women. I am my best work - a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines. I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless. Without community, there is no liberation. I am deliberate and afraid of nothing. 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. We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot. Some women wait for themselves around the next corner and call the empty spot peace but the opposite of living is only not living and the stars do not care. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. ...and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a Ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. ...oppression is as American as apple pie... I soon discovered that if you keep your mouth shut, people are apt to believe you know everything, and they begin to feel freer and freer to tell you anything, anxious to show that they know something, too. We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created. What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? 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. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way. I learned so much from listening to people. And all I knew was, the only thing I had was honesty and openness. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive. The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black goddess within each of us - the poet - whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free. 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 must be the change we wish to see in the world. The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. We recognize that all knowledge is mediated through the body and that feeling is a profound source of information about our lives How much of this truth can I bear to see and still live
How much of this pain
can I use? To that piece in each of us that refuses to be silent. You cannot, you cannot use someone else's fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it. Learning not to crumple before these uncertainties fuels my resolve to print myself upon the texture of each day fully rather than forever. Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs. When we define ourselves, when I define myself, the place in which I am like you and the place in which I am not like you, I'm not excluding you from the joining - I'm broadening the joining. There is a timbre of voice
that comes from not being heard
and knowing / you are not being
heard / noticed only
by others / not heard
for the same reason. What you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit. It does not pay to cherish symbols when the substance lies so close at hand. Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves. I cannot shut you out the way I shut the others out, so maybe I can destroy you. Must destroy you? 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. The more I use my strength in the service of my vision the less I am afraid... There are many kinds of open. . . Love is a word, another kind of open. . . Take my word for jewel in your open light. We must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams imply and so many of our old ideas disparage. How hard it is to sleep
in the middle of life. Out of my flesh that hungers and my mouth that knows
comes the shape I am seeking for reason. And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. The Seventh Sense"
who build nations
who build nations
building sand castles
by the rising sea What better way is there to police the streets of a minority community than to turn one generation against the other? Did you ever read my words, or did you merely finger through them for quotations which you thought might valuably support an already conceived idea concerning some old and distorted connection between us? Our visions begin with our desires. You can not take down the master's house with the master's tools
Audre Lorde See me now
your severed daughter
laughing our name into echo
all the world shall remember The cockroach
who is dying
and the woman
who is blind
not to notice
each other’s shame. The oppression of women knows no ethnic nor racial boundaries, true, but that does not mean it is identical within those boundaries. How are you practicing what you preach—whatever you preach, and who is exactly listening? It is not the destiny of Black america to repeat white america's mistakes. But we will, if we mistake the trappings of success in a sick society for the signs of a meaningful life. Dark-bright fire lit eyes I wasn't cute or passive enough to be "femme," and I wasn't mean or tough enough to be "butch." I was given a wide berth. Non-conventional people can be dangerous, even in the gay community. A choice of pains. That's what living was all about. For Black women as well as Black men, it is axiomatic that if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others — for their use and to our detriment. Love is a word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes
into a knot of flame
I am Black
because I come from the earth's inside
take my word for jewel
in the open light. Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. What happens when you narrow your definition to what is convenient, or what is fashionable, or what is expected, is dishonesty by silence. We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not. There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not lead single issue lives. I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell. Black women who define ourselves and our goals beyond the sphere of a sexual relationship can bring to any endeavor the realized focus of completed and therefore empowered individuals. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. If I do not bring all of who I am to whatever I do, then I bring nothing, or nothing of lasting worth, for I have withheld my essence. When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women. There is an important difference between openness and na´vetÚ. Not everyone has good intentions nor means me well. I remind myself I do not need to change these people, only recognize who they are. She taught me that women who want without needing are expensive and sometimes wasteful, but women who need without wanting are dangerous – they suck you in and pretend not to notice. I forgot what we were celebrating. Because we were always celebrating something, a new job, a new poem, a new love, a new dream. Too often, we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers, or that they do not exist at all. 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. Some of our finest writers, organizers, artists, and scholars in the 60s as well as today, have been lesbian and gay, and history will bear me out.
I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.
Nobody was dreaming about me. Nobody was even studying me except as something to wipe out.
As a Black lesbian mother in an interracial marriage, there was usually some part of me guaranteed to offend everybody's comfortable prejudices of who I should be.
Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change.
Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.
In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only poetry to hint at possibility made real. Always
in the middle
of our bloodiest battles
you lay down your arms
like flowering mines
to conqueror me home,"