Editor’s note: DC Service Corps volunteer Megan McCarthy reflects on the words of favorite writer and activist, Audre Lorde and encourages us to continue lifting the voices of black authors during these monumental moments in our history.
As the Black Lives Matter movement gains more visibility each day, it’s crucial now more than ever to listen and read about the experiences of black people. For that reason, I would like to share some quotes from one of my favorite authors, Audre Lorde. I encourage you to read her work if you have not done so already. My hope is that her words might touch you in the ways they have touched me.
When I first discovered the works of Audre Lorde, I was a sophomore in college exploring a used book shop in Brooklyn, New York. Never did I expect this torn up, dusty, old book to impact my life the way it has. Audre Lorde was an influential writer and activist who identified herself in her work as a black, queer, feminist. Through her writing, I have gained a deeper understanding of the different experiences people face because of their identity. She has shown me how we can all find common ground whether or not we identify ourselves in the same ways, and she has taught me to love myself fiercely, just as I am.
She writes on feminism and intersectionality:
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
“There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
“Women have been programmed to view our bodies only in terms of how they look and feel to others, rather than how they feel to ourselves, and how we wish to use them.”
“You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other.”
and the importance of using your voice:
“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.”
“If I did not 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.”
On life and death:
“What is there possibly left for us to be afraid of, after we have dealt face to face with death and not embraced it? Once I accept the existence of dying as a life process, who can ever have power over me again?”
“But I do live. The bee flies. There must be some way to integrate death into living, neither ignoring it nor giving in to it.”
And on love:
“Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever / only, nothing is eternal.”
“Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me.”
“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
Thank you, Audre for your gifts. I will cherish your words forever.