Author: Audre Lorde
Edited by: Rudolph Byrd; Johnnetta Cole; Beverly Guy-Sheftall
For reasons too numerous to mention individually; with most, if not all, of those reasons being based on their uninformed, sexist and homophobic views – and were therefore invitations for me to also join them in their misogynistic tendencies – I have been “warned” by many black men to ‘be weary of these girls who call themselves feminists’, to quote one of them. ‘They are nothing but a bunch of angry girls who know nothing but male bashing,’ is what another one once said, but whenever I enquired as to where they get their information about these people they are so hell-bent on painting as evil I have never had any of them give me a source that I myself can check to corroborate their theories. Feminism is one of the most misunderstood theories I have ever come across and even though there is a considerable amount of literature on it, most people – especially those who are critical towards it, i.e males – have never read any of it.
There is a pool of individuals who have written some excellent work on feminism and the theories behind it, and within this pool Audre Lorde is considered to be one of those people who have shaped modern feminism thinking, ideology and pedagogy. “I Am Your Sister” is a collection of some of Audre’s published and unpublished work and allows us to take a walk in one of black feminism’s greatest minds. Published in 2009 by Oxford University Press, Inc, and edited by RUDOLPH P. BYRD, JOHNNETTA BETSCH COLE and BEVERLY GUY-SHEFTALL this collection of Audres’ work is considered by many to be one of the most important pieces of literature on feminism.
The book contains four parts, with three of those parts – ‘From Sisiter Otsider and Burst of Light’; ‘My Words Will Be There’; and ‘Defiance and Survival’ – containing works, both previously published and unpublished, by Audre herself and the forth section – Reflections – containing work written by Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Alice Walker, Bell Hooks, and Gloria I. Joseph about Audre Lorde. The book contains a total of 24 essays, speeches and other work by Audre before she passed away in 1992. In these works Audre writes about her journey as a Black woman, a mother, a lesbian and a feminist and shows how even though those four tittles define her in different ways, she is never one of those things without being all of the others. She uses her amazing penmanship to highlight the struggles she faced as a Black lesbian feminist and how this not only adversely her but also how it adversely affected the Civil Right Movement together with the black lesbian and gay movement – with her being a key role player in both.
The brilliance of her work is made evident by the fact that she not only wrote these pieces as a black lesbian activist, but she also has pieces she wrote as a mother and woman who faced the same challenges that every other black straight woman faced in those days – some, if not all, of which they are still facing today. She highlighted the important role that every member of the black community – be they straight or gay – had to play in ensuring the liberation of all black people in both America and the world. The diversity of her work sets it and her apart from most writings and authors in black feminism and makes her more than just an academic commenting on a subject she studied; she wrote about her fears after she was diagnosed with cancer, and she also wrote about her optimism for the future after meeting black women across the world: teaching them how they can also play a role in the development and liberation of black people in their native countries and the world at large.
The collection has some amazing work by her but there are two specific ones that stood out for me: “Apartheid U.S.A” and “A Burst of Light: Living With Cancer”.
In this essay Audre discusses the plight of the black people across the world and how alienating the lesbian and gay community in the black community is more detrimental to its development and liberation than it is advantageous. The essay proves how well informed she is about the issues that black people across the world are facing and she shows how interconnected our struggles are with each other. She shows how being a lesbian and feminist does not stop her from being a black person and vice versa. It is a compelling read and it will open many people’s eyes to how there is no “us” and “them” in the black communities across the world.
A Burst of Light: Living With Cancer:
This is a collection of her diary inputs and tracks her journey of living with cancer. She documents her fears, her concerns and her trips across the world talking to black women about their development. She also documents her times spent teaching poetry in Germany and how that helped her while she was getting treatment for the cancer. In this collection she is not just an activist but she is a mother concerned about the future of her children, she is a friend thanking the support of her friends through her difficult times and she is a black woman concerned about the future of black women and people across the globe.
This collection of writing is one of the most insightful and educational work about feminism and the struggles that black woman and people from the LGBT community come across I have ever read+. It is by far a MUST READ – especially for those seeking knowledge about feminism in the black community.