Named New York’s Poet Laureate in 1991, Audre Lorde once described herself as a “black lesbian feminist warrior mother” who used her words to address sexism, classism, homophobia, and racism in America. Throughout her career as a writer, librarian, and civil rights activist, Lorde authored more than 10 books, including Sister Outsider and was the subject of three biographical films. As a tribute to her trailblazing work, here are some of her most notable quotes.
On speaking up
“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,” Lorde wrote in The Transformation of Silence into Language & Action.
On celebrating diversity
“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,” Lorde told Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light” and Other Essays.
On staying true to yourself
“If I didn’t define myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive,” Lorde said during a speech at Harvard University in 1982.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences,” Lorde wrote in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.
On doing everything with intention
“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing,” Lorde wrote in The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde.
On the female bond
“The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival,” Lorde wrote in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.
On using your voice
“Your silence will not protect you,” Lorde wrote in The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.
On not being afraid
“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,” Lorde wrote in the The Transformation of Silence into Language & Action.
On living in the present
“Life is very short. What we have to do must be done in the now,” Lorde wrote in The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.
On being heard
“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,” Lorde wrote in The Black Unicorn: Poems.
On accepting your flaws
“Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat,” Lorde wrote in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.