Audre Lorde is one of the most influential figures of the last century. She is widely known for her creativity in tackling issues such as racism and sexism while also speaking out on behalf of the socially marginalized groups through her works. That is why her poetry and her use of literature is widely celebrated. Many people right now draw inspiration from her words, and here are some of them.
Your silence will not protect you.
Today, there are plenty of issues and problems that have divided the beliefs of many people. Some speak out about it while others try to stay silent. However, what a lot of people do not know that staying silent regarding societal issues will not protect you from them.
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.
We are all strong and powerful in our own different way, and the best way to use our strength and power is to fight for our own vision. Only then can we be stronger than our own fears.
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
Always define yourself for who you are or else other people will do it for you based on how they see you and how they perceive your own personality.
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
Fighting for others is the biggest cause you can fight for. While there are other people who are not as privileged as you are, you are never truly privileged even though their problems may not be the same as yours.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
Always remember to care for yourself first before you care for others. It is by doing so that we are able to fight the good fight as we try to preserve our own selves before we fight for the rights of others.
There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.
No one in this world struggles with issues that are unique to their own because the fact is that we live in a world together with others and that we are here to share our own issues with people who are also facing the same problems in society.
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
Those who built the society we live in and the problems that come with will never be the ones who will solve those issues. It is up to us and to those who are oppressed by the system to try to dismantle or fix it.
Revolution is not a one-time event.
A revolution is something that happens over time, from generation to generation. Each generation happens to face similar problems, and it is up to use to fight right now for the sake of future generations.
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.
No matter what happens, you have to speak your mind out if it is important to you and for others, even if it is against the norm, and even if there is a chance, you would be hated or even persecuted for your words and actions.
My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.
Nobody’s silence has ever protected them from the problems of society. That is why you have to speak up and continue to speak up in an attempt to try to change the world we live in for the better.
I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.
When you are fighting the good fight, always see to it that you are deliberate in your words and that you are not afraid of what people might say or do to you.
I am my best work – a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.
You and you alone are the product of your best works in life regardless of what you may do and what you are working on for the future.
I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain.
When you are speaking out, remember that you have to speak the entire truth and not just the ones that are beneficial to you.
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.
When we are fighting for a cause, we do not have the luxury to choose where we are and what kind of fight we must fight. The important thing is that we do it and that it is for a good cause.
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.
When you speak out about yourself, do not leave the bad parts behind. The good parts and the bad parts rolled together to create your entire person.
But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.
When you are a feminist or even someone who is fighting for the cause of others, you do not necessarily have to be like them as long as you are actually conscious about their struggles and that you are willing to fight for them.
Without community, there is no liberation.
If we do not have a sense of community in the society we live in, then there really is no true freedom for you and for the people around you.
We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.
In the society we live in, we are raised to fear things we desire but are considered as taboo. But as long as we love what we desire and that it is not hurting anyone, why should it be a crime?
The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.
You can actually invite someone to try to learn more about the things around him or her. It is not something that is inborn, but it is something that you can try to start up.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.
If there are words or things in your mind that are too difficult to put into words, try using poetry to give it a name so that other people can also understand what is in your thoughts.
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.
Just because something is empty in your life, it does not mean that you are at peace.
Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people.
Believe it or not, rejection of people who are different is actually one of the ways the economy seeks profit as they look at these people as an entirely new market they can try to profit from.
Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.
When you want people to know you, tell them the whole story and not just the good parts. If you neglect the bad parts, they will slowly eat you from the inside.
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.
Being afraid to speak your mind is normal and is something that will always be there. That is why you should not wait until the fear is gone because the only time that will happen is when you are already dead and emotionless as a corpse.
Once you start to speak, people will yell at you.
If you try to speak your mind when the issue you are talking about is something that other people do not agree with, expect for the worst. People will hate you, yell at you, and try to ostracize you from society. But that should not stop you from fighting for what you believe is right.
I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning.
Anger is a normal part of fighting for a cause. However, it is easier to be angry at an issue or a problem in society than to live life yearning for something that you should have fought for in the first place.
Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me.
If you accept everything about yourself from top to bottom, people cannot use anything about you to hurt you.
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.
We were taught in philosophy that you exist when you think. In the same way, you can also be free so long as you feel. And that is why you should try to fight for your freedom.
Men who are afraid to feel must keep women around to do their feeling for them while dismissing us for the same supposedly “inferior” capacity to feel deeply. But in this way also, men deny themselves their own essential humanity, becoming trapped in dependency and fear.
Men should not be afraid to try to be emotional because feeling is not something that makes you feel inferior. If you avoid feeling anything because of how society might think of you as inferior, you will forever be trapped in your own fear.
…oppression is as American as apple pie…
They may call America the land of the free. However, oppression has always been a part of its society ever since the country was instituted. But that should not stop you from trying to be free or fighting for your own freedom. After all, the American dream is to be free.
The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.
Again, staying silent about an issue will not help it and will not bridge the gap between the problem and the solution. What immobilizes us and keeps us unable to do anything to do about an issue has always been our silence.
We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.
Creativity is something that should always be encouraged and nurtured even though you really do not know what will come out of it in the end. After all, uncertainty has always been the essence of creativity.
There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dike, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.
When society oppresses you, you are grouped into one or two classifications while the other parts of you are dismissed. But that should not be the case. Society should take you as who you are as a whole and not just merely some of the parts that make you who you are.
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 have always been brought up to avoid doing things out of fear rather than doing things because they must be done. By doing so, we end up waiting for something to be done only for us to realize that our silence has already killed the chances of us being fearless in fighting for a cause or an issue.
…community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.
When we are fighting as a community, it does not mean that there are no differences between us. We have to realize that there are still differences between people in a community, but such differences must not be the dividing factors that can derail our cause.
If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive.
Love and resistance are as part of a society’s survival than any other factor. By loving, we get to grow as a society. And by resisting, we get to improve our own faults and be a better society.
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.
When you are fighting for a cause or if you are simply trying to get something done, you must not use the motivation of others to try to motivate yourself. You have to be your own fire, and you have to use your own motivation.
I learned so much from listening to people. And all I knew was, the only thing I had was honesty and openness.
Listening is always the most important part of learning because, at the start, you really had nothing but your own honesty and openness. It is by listening that you get to learn something new as you simply did not know anything before you listened.
Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
By trusting what we feel, we are more open to learn more and to accept knowledge for what it is.
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?
If you have been brave enough to face death straight in the eye, then there are no other reasons for you to be afraid of fighting for a good cause.
Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves.
In the society we live in today, the oppressors are always the ones waiting for the oppressed to try to make them understand how difficult society is for them. However, it should have always been the other way around as the oppressors are in the more privileged position to try to understand the difficult life that the oppressed have been living.
It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.
The fact is that there will be times when you have to be alone in this world. But you should make those moments your opportunity to try to develop yourself and to seek other people who are willing to fight alongside you.
You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other.
When you are supporting a cause, you do not have to be placed in the same situation as those who are fighting for it. You simply have to understand them and to empathize with them.
We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit.
It should be a habit that we try to treat each other with the tenderness and care that we deserve.
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.
By defining who you are and what you are standing for, you are also inviting others to join you in your cause and to understand who you are and what you are fighting for.
I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.
Not everyone in the world can be as brave as you. But by speaking for others and fighting for them, there is a chance that you could actually make a difference for those who are too afraid to speak out.
Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.
If you are someone who does not have your own feet to stand with, you will find that you can never truly stand up for yourself no matter where you might go in the world.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
If we want something in this world to change, we have to start with ourselves.
I cried to think of how lucky we both were to have found each other since it was clear that we were the only ones in the world who could understand what we understood in the instantaneous manner in which we understood it.
Being able to find other people who are able to understand the things you believe in is a rare opportunity. Treasure those people as they are the ones who will be there with you until the very end.
The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.
By spreading joy throughout the world, we are able to form a bridge together with those people no matter how different you might be.
what you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority.
Fury and anger are important when you are trying to make a change. After all, it is by being angry at the system that we are able to see what is wrong with it.
A choice of pains. That’s what living was all about.
Life is about choosing whatever pains you want to feel. You have to choose your own battles and accept whatever pain comes with them.
Life is very short, and what we have to do must be done in the now.
We only have one life to live, and it is a very short one at that. That is why we have to do what must be done or else the only life we know of expires without us being able to anything worth doing.
In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.
We are all different in this world. But such a difference should never be the reason for us to try to destroy one another. Instead, the differences we have should be avenues for us to learn and grow.
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.
Speaking and staying silent have a common denominator—fear. However, when we speak, we can make a difference. You cannot say the same for when you try to stay silent.
The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has a direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.
Everything we do in life has a direct impact on the changes we are trying to instill. That is why we need to do things that give meaning to the product we are trying to introduce.
Learning not to crumple before these uncertainties fuels my resolve to print myself upon the texture of each day fully rather than forever.
Life has plenty of uncertainties. But if you learn not to fear such uncertainties, you are making yourself stronger each and every day until you fulfill your goals.
We are powerful because we have survived, and that is what it is all about—survival and growth.
The only reason why we have survived for this long is that we were strong enough to grow. And that, at the end of it, is what life is all about.
When times are hard, do something. If it works, do it some more. If it does not work, do something else. But keep going.
Living has a lot to do with trial and error. If something works, then you just keep on doing it. But when it starts to fail, try to change things up a bit. The important part here is that you keep ongoing.
The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationships.
Trying to instill change is not merely about changing the situation but to also try to remove the seeds that have been planted by the oppressor.
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 poems we live by and write are not merely there because we have a dream. Instead, they form part of the blueprint that makes our lives and are what we use to try to instill changes for the betterment of society.
And I find I must remember that the pain is not its own reason for being. It is a part of living. And the only kind of pain that is intolerable is pain that is wasteful, pain from which we do not learn. And I think that we must learn to distinguish between the two.
There are different types of pain in life. Choose the ones that can give you an avenue to learn. Avoid the pain that is wasteful.
There is an important difference between openness and naïveté. 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.
Not everyone you meet in the world has good intentions. That is why it must be important for you to distinguish between those who are truly open and those who are naïve.
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.
It is their responsibility of every woman in the world to seek out those who are crying and oppressed and to try to make a difference in the way you and those women live.
What better way is there to police the streets of a minority community than to turn one generation against the other?
A community should never try to turn against one another despite the generational gap. The oppressors might try to use this to divide a community, but different generations should try to understand one another.
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.
Times are changing, and the things that used to be heretical or taboo in the past might not have the same kind of cultural and societal connotation as they did before. That is why we must try to encourage ourselves to make a difference and to introduce things that used to be wrong, as society would define them.
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.
We waste a lot of time and effort by thinking that certain differences between people exist to separate us. However, we must also pour in the same kind of effort into breaking such barriers if they even exist at all.
When a people share a common oppression, certain kinds of skills and joint defenses are developed. And if you survive you survive because those skills and defenses have worked. When you come into conflict over other existing differences, there is a vulnerability to each other which is desperate and very deep.
Fighting against oppression does not come without its own benefits as by doing, so we are able to develop skills and talents we did not even know we had.
When we create out of our experiences, as feminists of color, women of color, we have to develop those structures that will present and circulate our culture.
When making a difference in society, it must be able to permeate and circulate into the culture you live in and into the present and future generations.
The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.
The truth of the matter is that the differences between you and other people can be used as a strength for you to lean on. You must empower yourself by using your own differences.
Each one of us had been starved for love for so long that we wanted to believe that love, once found, was all-powerful. We wanted to believe that it could give word to my inchoate pain and rages; that it could enable Muriel to face the world and get a job; that it could free our writings, cure racism, end homophobia and adolescent acne.
Because society as a whole as lacked the real kind of love, we have been conditioned to believe that finding true love in the world is what will cure everything that is wrong with it.
Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.
Pain has always been an important part of life because how we respond to pain is what will ultimately define who we are in the future.
You become strong by doing the things you need to be strong for. This is the way genuine learning takes place. That’s a very difficult way to live, but it also has served me. It’s been an asset as well as a liability.
Being strong is a part of learning no matter how difficult it might be.
Our visions begin with our desires.
Everything we see for ourselves in the future all starts from the very desires we have today.
Out of my flesh that hungers and my mouth that knows comes the shape I am seeking for reason.
It is from what we hunger today that we are able to seek what we ultimately want for ourselves.
In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only poetry to hint at possibility made real.
Poetry is what we use to inspire people that what we are dreaming and fighting for is actually possible.
The oppression of women knows no ethnic nor racial boundaries, true, but that does not mean it is identical within those boundaries.
Wherever you go, women of different colors and races are all oppressed and for different reasons.
Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.
Whatever differences we may have with one another should not be the reason for us to fight with one another but must be the avenue for us to have a dialogue with one another.
…may I never lose that terror that keeps me brave
Make no mistake. Your fears should be the one that fuels your courage. After all, there is no courage without a reason to be afraid.
To acknowledge privilege is the first step in making it available for wider use. Each of us is blessed in some particular way, whether we recognize our blessings or not. And each one of us, somewhere in our lives, must clear a space within that blessing where she can call upon whatever resources are available to her in the name of something that must be done.
Privilege should not be the reason for us to live comfortably but should be what awakens us to the plight of others who do not have the same privileges as we do. It is still a blessing for us, but it can also be a blessing for others so long as we know how to use it to fight for the problems that others have.
I have been woman for a long time beware my smile I am treacherous with old magic.
Being a woman should never be a weakness. Instead, it should be the reason for other people to fear what you can do for this world.
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.
If we allow ourselves to never grow beyond our fears, we will forever be slaves to our own fears and to the ones oppressing us.
We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not.
Often times, we forget about the things we have now when we are seeking the things that we do not have. That is why we should never be blind to what we have.
Because the machine will grind you to dust anyway, whether or not we speak.
The machine that runs society is so powerful that we will all end up falling to it. So, in the end, it is better to speak up so that future generations will have a better chance against the machine.
Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.
Love for the right reasons and do it with all that you have as if it is the last love you will ever feel in your life.
In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
If we were to fail to realize that we are all different, this myth that each and every one of us is the same could eventually destroy our own uniqueness.
What happens when you narrow your definition to what is convenient, or what is fashionable, or what is expected, is dishonesty by silence.
If you happen to confine yourself to the things that are fashionable or easy in today’s society, you are merely lying to yourself.
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.
If you do not pour everything you have into your craft, then it all amounts to nothing because you have not poured your entire being into it.
It does not pay to cherish symbols when the substance lies so close at hand.
If you are already close to the truth of it all, then there is no reason for you to try to stick to the symbolic meaning of things.
How hard it is to sleep in the middle of life.
It is indeed tough to rest in the life we live in because of how a lot of things are too troublesome that we cannot have the peace in ourselves to rest.
How are you practicing what you preach—whatever you preach, and who is exactly listening?
When we practice what we preach, we need to be deliberate with how we are doing it and we need to choose the people who are listening to us so that whatever we are preaching will not fall into deaf ears.
The cockroach who is dying and the woman who is blind agree not to notice each other’s shame.
If we do not really recognize the shame that we feel right now and the problems we encounter, then there is not a lot of differences between us and insects.
As a living creature I am part of two kinds of forces- growth and decay, sprouting and withering, living and dying- and at any given moment of our lives, each one of us is actively located somewhere along a continuum between these two forces.
We are all living creatures that are always in the middle of the usual cycle of life at any given moment in time. That is why we must cherish whatever we have today because we would never know if we are already in the middle of dying.
When there is no connection at all between people, then anger is a way of bringing them closer together, of making contact. But when there is a great deal of connectedness that is problematic or threatening or unacknowledged, then anger is a way of keeping people separate, of putting distance between us.
Anger is an important part of life as it may be a reason for us to get together to fight for a common cause or a reason for us to fight one another when we already have the necessary connection between one another.
When you reach out and touch other human beings, it doesn’t matter whether you call it therapy or teaching or poetry.
There are plenty of ways we can use to reach out to other people. Use whatever means you can so long as you are reaching out to them with a good purpose in hand.
I have died too many deaths that were not mine.
If you feel for the people suffering around you and if you are actually empathic enough, you could actually feel their death as if it were your own.
Each one of us is here because somebody before us did something to make it possible.
We are living in behalf of the people who did the work in the past. At the same time, we are also living today so that other people in the future can live comfortably.
You need to reach down and touch the thing that’s boiling inside of you and make it somehow useful.
That very thing that infuriates you inside should be what you should use to try to fight a good cause. Reach deep down to it and use it as your fuel. Make it useful instead of keeping it inside of you until it kills you from the inside.
Nobody was dreaming about me. Nobody was even studying me except as something to wipe out.
If you are making enough differences in society, it is normal for you to actually find trouble to the point that those who do not agree with you would like to bring you down.
All of our children are prey. How do we raise them not to prey upon themselves and each other? And this is why we cannot be silent, because our silences will come to testify against us out of the mouths of our children.
The children we have today and the ones we will have tomorrow are all vulnerable to the fangs of society. Our goal here is to make sure that they do not try to prey upon one another. And that is the reason why we should never be silent about the issues we have in society today.