Remembering the Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde

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Remembering the Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde

Have you ever wondered what unseen photos, faux pas, untold stories, and unfinished works surviving partners of famous people are left with?

Dr. Gloria I. Joseph has a treasure trove of memories of the renowned Audre Lorde. Joseph’s long-awaited new book "The Wind is Spirit: The life, love and legacy of Audre Lorde" gives us a rare glimpse of Lorde, as told by people who knew Lorde or, whose work was greatly impacted by her. 

Who was Audre Lorde?

While I gasp at having to pen such a query I realize there's a generation who are the beneficiaries of Lorde's prodigious body of work and social activism, but who don't have a clue who she was.

If she were among us today this "poet, warrior, feminist, mother, pioneer, lover, survivor” would be 80 years old. She was born February 18, 1934 in Harlem to Caribbean immigrant parents.

I met Lorde in my early 20's after returning home from Wellesley College looking for a LBTQ support group. I was taken to African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change (AALUSC)—the first out LBTQ sister organization in NYC. Back in the day AALUSC was known as Salsa Soul Sisters, and Lorde facilitated workshops helping us to love ourselves regardless of family and church rejections.

But Lorde's indefatigable spirit fought on many fronts—and white feminist exclusion was just one of the battles.

The rise of the Second Wave Feminist Movement was intentionally an exclusive women's country club. Betty Friedan's feminine mystique of upper-crust "pumps and pearls" wearing white women was the audience, and poor white women and women of color—straight or gay—had neither voice nor visibility.

Lorde not only addressed Friedan’s omission of us, but she also called out Mary Daly’s hubris in an open letter.

"To dismiss our Black foremothers may well be to dismiss where european women learned to love.... What you excluded from Gyn/Ecology dismissed my heritage and the heritage of all other noneuropean women, and denied the real connections that exist between all of us."

Lorde had shaped contemporary feminist and womanist thought before her 1984 seminal book "Sister Outsider"—a collection of speeches and essays unflinchingly depicting black lesbian women's lives as interlocking oppressions-sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class—as a clarion call for change and activism.

"As a Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother of