Audre Lorde

A Litany for Survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and 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
we were never meant to survive.

This was the poem we read on the first day of my Sex & Power in the African Diaspora class. My professor Lyndon Gil planted a seed in my head with a seemingly simple command that I still think about to this day: ‘check your privilege’.

We looked at Audre Lorde a few more times during the semester. She was the first person to make me think of the ‘erotic’ or the divine feminine energy that women possess. She made me commit to seeing myself as part of a larger social movement. To push back on the patriarchy and know that self care is part of the revolution just as our activism.

Our acts of love and kindness within and between our marginalized communities could be a force of political power. Connecting and mobilizing was obviously powerful. Connecting and healing is more subtle and can be where we find our power.

When I was going through the lowest low I would read parts of a Burst of Light and just bust out crying. Her writing, her voice through her words were so genuine it would move me to tears behind motherhood, the eventuality of death, or even my son’s future. There were a few times I would read a sentence or a section, close the book and clutch it to my chest and just look at my son hoping he couldn’t feel all the worry I was diffusing.

She really understood how to enjoy her full self, relish in her sensuality and how to express the complexities of EMOTION.

She’s my revolutionary godmother.

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