Week 14 (5/4-5/8) Instructions

For week 14, you have three primary tasks

  1. Revise, revise, revise those blog posts to get them in the best possible shape. Run a spelling and grammar check; make an appointment at the Writing Center; mess with the font size, style, and spacing to help you get distance from your writing and view it through an editor’s eyes; read (or bribe a family member to read) your post aloud; exchange final drafts with friends from our class (or another class); download Grammarly and thank yourself later — do whatever it takes!
  2. Post your final project to our course website by your assigned due date/time. Don’t forget to add a featured image, so I can compile them into a collection (instructions in lecture #2). 
    1. Group 1 (Acevedo-Hallman): 4 pm on Monday, May 4
    2. Group 2 (LeTourneau-McCarthy): 4 pm on Wednesday, May 6
    3. Group 3 (Oakes-Zimmer): 4 pm on Friday, May 8
  3. For the two days your post is not due, read your classmates’ posts and leave a comment on at least one. I ask that you complete the two comments by 4 pm on Monday, May 11. You might also try to share the love — if one project receives many comments, try to leave a comment on a different one. You are, of course, welcome to comment on as many as you’d like. 

As described on the assignment sheet, extra credit will be awarded to those who email me an audio recording of you reading your final draft aloud to catch mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Behind the (Hospital Room) Curtain: Injustice in the Medical Field

To some, a doctor’s appointment may be nothing more than a routine visit, while for some others the hospital may act as their second home. When Audre Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer, she began spending more time in the hospital, being examined, tested, going through chemotherapy, and what Lorde does best of all – writing. From her experiences behind the hospital room curtain, Lorde wrote The Cancer Journals, a collection of diary entries narrating her struggles with breast cancer, including the racism, sexism, and homophobia she experienced during these visits. As a strong advocate for justice and equality, Lorde realized that even in the medical field, racism, sexism, and homophobia/heterosexism were evident. In this blog post, I will describe some of the instances of racism, sexism, and homophobia Lorde experienced and suggest the ways that these discriminatory practices continue to this day.

Throughout her life, Lorde identified herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, and encouraged others, especially those in minority groups, to identify themselves and take pride in each identity, regardless of the discrimination from others. Lorde understood that being an advocate did not stop at supporting those who were being repressed; she also used her voice to teach others how to be more accepting and understanding. These messages were clear in everything Lorde did, from her written work like Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Sister Outsider, and The Cancer Journals, as well as how she brought those messages with her wherever she went, from NYC to Berlin, Germany.

While in the hospital, Lorde was repeatedly neglected and ridiculed by doctors and nurses, an experience that could likely be attributed to racism. In part two of The Cancer Journals, “Breast Cancer: A Black Lesbian Feminist Experience”, Lorde writes about the lack of quality in post-operation care that she received. While in her recovery room, Lorde recalls waking up after the biopsy, “colder than I can remember ever having been in my life”, and further on states “all I could focus upon was getting out of that room and getting warm. I yelled and screamed and complained about the cold and begged for extra blankets, but none came” (27). While there is no way to fully know, it could be inferred that racism may play a role into the lack of care and attention Lorde got as a patient, though she was told that the hospital simply “had no spare blankets” (28).

Racial and ethnic minority groups have dealt with and continue to deal with the effects of discrimination regardless of where they go, including in the medical field. In “The spectrum of ‘new racism’ and discrimination in hospital contexts: A reappraisal,” Doctors Megan-Jane Johnstone and Olga Kanitsaki write “the problem of racism needs to be unmasked and managed so that those most at risk of being discriminated against on racialised grounds can rest assured that when in need, they will receive the equitable, safe and quality care they are entitled to receive” (Johnstone and Kanitsaki, 2009). While many doctors including Johnstone and Kanitsaki are on the same page as Lorde, there are a vast amount of medical staff that are not. Monique Tello, MD, MPH, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, recounts a story from a patient of hers in the article “Racism and discrimination in health care: Providers and patients”. Tello writes “A patient of mine recently shared a story about her visit to an area emergency room a few years ago. She had a painful medical condition. The emergency room staff did not treat her pain. She is convinced that she was treated poorly by that emergency room because she was black” (Tello, 2017). Tello’s patient was denied treatment, and staff treated her as if she was “just trying to get pain meds out of them”, though “there was nothing in her history to suggest that she was pain medication seeking” (Tello, 2017). This is an example of racial profiling, as Tello’s patient, as well as so many other black people, if not all, experience daily, in and out of the emergency room. Both Lorde and Tello’s patient experienced lack of care and blatant ignorance from the staff at their individual hospitals, nearly 40 years apart. While Lorde focuses on her need to survive, rather than being a victim, the hospital staff makes that goal difficult to achieve, as they ignored her and continue to ignore patients in minority groups in present time.

Sexism in healthcare is a prominent issue, but is also normalized and practiced regularly. Throughout The Cancer Journals, Lorde emphasizes the expectations that the medical industry and society place on women and their bodies. After going through a mastectomy, to remove a body part that seems to hold high value in patriarchal society, the focus was not on Lorde’s comfortability and recovery. Instead, she is encouraged to wear a prosthetic breast. When Lorde refused to wear a prosthesis, she is questioned and ridiculed. Lorde writes in the final part of The Cancer Journals, “Breast Cancer: Power vs Prosthesis”, about visits she had with a woman from Reach for Recovery, an organization still around that helps women cope with their breast cancer, and a nurse after her operation. Lorde was first introduced to a lambswool prosthesis during a meeting with a woman from Reach for Recovery, who brought it for her, as well as a soft sleep-bra. She insisted “You’ll never know the difference!”, though Lorde states “I knew sure as hell I’d know the difference” (42). The more important issue seemed to be if it would feel comfortable during intimate times with a partner, and how it would look to them, than how it would feel to Lorde. Later, on a day that Lorde was feeling pleased with herself, a feeling that she did not express during her treatments and operations, her mood quickly changed as the focus shifted to the topic of why Lorde was not wearing her prosthesis. Lorde leans into this idea that breast prostheses are truly for cosmetic purposes only, as they do not have a function aside from making a woman look “normal”. Lorde writes, “in other amputations and with other prosthetic devices, function is the main point of their existence. Artificial limbs perform specific tasks, allowing us to manipulate or to walk. Dentures allow us to chew our food. Only false breasts are designed for appearance only, as if the only real function of women’s breasts were to appear in a certain shape and size and symmetry to onlookers, or to yield to external pressure” (64). While Lorde does not judge or ridicule women for their choices about their bodies, never shaming a woman for choosing to wear a prosthetic breast, she personally chose not to, though encouraged relentlessly. While many doctors do aim for ultimate comfort for their patients, and support those choices, that was not the experience that Lorde and so many other women experience. From a patriarchal perspective, women’s bodies are made to be looked at, while beauty is appreciated only if it fits certain guidelines; if not, society gets uncomfortable and puts their attention on what would make them more comfortable than the woman herself. Regardless of Lorde feeling uncomfortable with the lambs wool she was given, the idea that she could be “the same” as before surgery was pushed on her. While other people wanted Lorde to wear a prosthetic for their comfort and personal viewing, she was more comfortable without one.

Sexism continues to be a problem today, as women are still encouraged to wear breast prostheses after having a breast removed, as well as the conversations around topics such as birth control and pregnancy. The ongoing debate of “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” is such a popular discussion topic that it has split our world in half, though ultimately whether a woman chooses to complete a full pregnancy term is completely up to the woman, as it is her body. The conversation around birth control and whether men or women should be responsible for using that form of contraceptive is another popular topic. Studies from George Washington University go as far to show that in emergency situations, “more women than men are put in life-threatening situations during emergency healthcare treatment. The study found men were more likely than women to receive aspirin, be resuscitated, or be taken to the hospital in ambulances using lights and sirens” (Karlis, 2018). As Nicole Karlis writes, “New research reveals how sexism in healthcare can literally kill women.” It should be one of medical healthcare’s main focus to change how they are treating people, especially those who come seeking professional help.
Lorde’s conversation with the woman from Reach for Recovery also helps introduce homophobia and heterosexism in the medical industry. Much of the focus of the conversation around the breast prosthesis related to how a man would look at Lorde, as well as other women going through mastectomies. Lorde writes “my primary concerns two days after mastectomy were hardly about what man I could capture in the future, whether or not my old boyfriend would still find me attractive enough, and even less about whether my two children would be embarrassed by me around their friends,” and continues by expressing how her true concerns were in regards to her chances of surviving and how to stay healthy (56). Sean Cahill, author of “LGBT Experiences with Health Care”, an article written in 2017, recalls a story from Caitlin Crenshaw. Crenshaw writes about dealing with heterosexual assumptions from healthcare providers a they falsely assumed she was married to a man, and the woman accompanying her was her mother, though in reality the woman was her female partner, only five years older than Crenshaw. There are many instances where people included in the LGBTQ+ community are treated unfairly by those working in medicine; Harvey Makadon, MD discusses these instances in the article “Op-ed: How We Can Address Homophobia at the Doctor’s Office”. Makadon writes about situations where “a doctor or nurse refuses to use a transgender patient’s preferred name, to a reproductive health center declining to provide treatment to a lesbian couple” (Makadon, 2015). It has also been reported that “lesbians and bisexual women are far less likely to receive screenings for cervical cancer”, and “gay men are at least 44 times more likely than the general population to become infected with HIV, and transgender women are also highly vulnerable to HIV infection” (Makadon, 2015). While this report was written five years ago, and improvements have been made, there is still room for improvement.

While Lorde wrote The Cancer Journals to help tell her story and advocate for those who experienced similar situations, she also published it to help others understand, navigate and ultimately work towards overcoming racism, sexism and homophobia in hospitals. She continues through her work to urge people to ask questions, advocate for themselves and their health. The narrative around healthcare is an important one, and we should treat it as such, and help change the conversations to reflect inclusivity and improvement, which we work towards a little bit harder, everyday.

Works Cited

Cahill, Sean, et al. “LGBT Experiences With Health Care.” Health Affairs, 1 Apr. 2017, www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0277.

Johnstone, Megan-Jane, and Olga Kanitsaki. “The Spectrum of ‘New Racism’ and Discrimination in Hospital Contexts: A Reappraisal.” Collegian, Elsevier, 25 Apr. 2009, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1322769609000249.

Karlis, Nicole. “New Research Reveals How Sexism in Healthcare Can Literally Kill Women.” Salon, Salon.com, 15 Dec. 2018, www.salon.com/2018/12/14/new-research-reveals-how-sexism-in-healthcare-can-literally-kill-women/.

Makadon, Harvey. “Op-Ed: How We Can Address Homophobia at the Doctor’s Office.” ADVOCATE, Advocate.com, 27 July 2015, www.advocate.com/commentary/2015/07/27/op-ed-how-we-can-address-homophobia-doctors-office.

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Penguin Books, 2020.

Tello, Monique. “Racism and Discrimination in Health Care: Providers and Patients.” Harvard Health Blog, 12 Jan. 2017, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/racism-discrimination-health-care-providers-patients-2017011611015.

“Virus Mask Coronavirus Disease Outbreak Quarantine.” Pixabay, 4 Apr. 2020,

Difficult Dialogues and Emotional Expression in Audre Lorde’s Life and Work

Audre Lorde is such a breathtaking poet whose values reign on love, intimacy and power. Her works of literature exemplify her strong voice, and intimate encounters with the hardships she has experienced as a black lesbian warrior of injustice. In my college career, I took a class which explored Audre Lorde and her powerful literature and I personally learned a multitude of valuable lessons in this class, but the lesson that weighs heavily on my mind is the power that Audre Lorde encourages others to have difficult conversations about injustices in a healthy way. As a straight white cis man, learning about the injustices many minority cultures face is often a difficult subject to encounter being that I am aware of my privilege which leads to an overwhelming sense of guilt for my predecessors. After being in this class, I understand now that our society has not been taught how to have such vulnerable and intimate conversations, and I think plenty of Lorde’s works can be utilized to encourage people to speak their truths and engage in sensitive conversations in a healthy way. 

In Lorde’s text, “Poet As Teacher – Human As Poet – Teacher As Human” she delves into the idea that in order to encourage a healthy learning environment or exchange of thought between humans, she must be as authentic and true to herself with her students as possible in order for her students to feel comfortable. Lorde writes, “I hope I have not lost you nor frightened you merely because I am speaking of the intimate exchange that takes place when true learning — teaching –occurs, of feeling myself and the perception of and reaction to the feelings of other human beings.” This quote reveals a lot more than meets the eye. Firstly, Lorde understands that people are going to feel “frightened” by the “intimate exchange” of a teacher to student. Typically a classroom would not be referred to as an intimate exchange, Lorde constantly challenges preconceived notions, so it is no surprise she opens up the realm of idea within a classroom setting. I’d like to delve into this thought for a little bit. I often wonder, “how do some people live life so plainly and happily while there is so much negativity surrounding them?” I’ve made conclusions that these people are either shallow minded, and unable to process the reality that sometimes life isn’t going to be what they picture. I’ve also concluded that some people enjoy being oblivious to the emotions and feelings of others, whether it be merely because they don’t understand or can’t relate, or that they cannot express their emotions due to some sort of traumatic experience they’ve faced. With this in mind, I’ve learned that specific learning environments actually encourage people who are typically distant to engage in sensitive subjects such as race, gender, and sexuality. ENG430 at SUNY Cortland with Dr. Savonick was this learning environment that encouraged my thought. This is still a concept that I think about from time to time and Lorde alleviates my confusion with her work. 

To continue with the quote from above, Lorde writes, “Because of course we all must realize that it is this exchange which is the most strongly prohibited, or discouraged human exercise of our time.” That is such a powerful claim for her to make, yet I completely agree. This exchange of intimacy can make some people feel uncertain or uneasy. When some people hear the word intimacy, some may instantly think of it with sexual connotations, and while that is one factor of intimacy, it isn’t the end all, be all definition. The term “intimate” as defined by Merriam Webster is “marked by a warm friendship developing through long association” this definition of intimacy is empowering, for it isn’t just something that it made up on the spot; rather, it is something that must be developed or built upon. Our society today is built on lacking emotions and presenting a rather stoic forefront as an illusion to the thought inside our heads. Society has proven over and over again that the issue with race, gender, and a multitude of other identities is that harsh conversations make people uncomfortable, so they are ignored. Being uncomfortable is never something enjoyable, but people need to learn to embrace feeling uncomfortable in order to help combat injustices.

In the era of social media, there is a facade placed on most people’s identity. Platforms like Instagram were created to enable people to explore their identity, but in fact it actually forecloses people from self expression. People are often afraid to post a picture that won’t receive a high number of likes, or fear what others may think of them once making the post, so they’ll post pictures that are trendy or well favored. This causes people to fake their true identity and succumb to the views society holds. Society has ingrained into the minds of people that being uncomfortable is a bad feeling, and while sometimes it is, most times feeling uncomfortable is where the most personal growth can begin. It’s like that common cliche “life starts outside your comfort zone”. 

People today constantly feel like they can’t express their emotions or true self because feeling such strong emotions or not following the status quo is viewed as a trait of someone who is unstable or strange. Lorde disputes this in her work, “The Use of Anger”. While this text is discussing how to combat racism with anger, I think there is a broader theme she touches upon. Lorde writes, “ I speak out of a direct and particular anger at a particular academic conference , and a white woman comes up and says, ‘Tell me how you feel but don’t say it too harshly or I cannot hear you.’ But is it my manner that keeps her from hearing, or the message that her life may change?” This quote is super powerful, for Lorde has every right to be angry and use her emotions to combat injustice, yet society, or in this case, the white woman implies an angry tone to an inability to control her emotions. Audre Lorde should not have to control her emotions while coming face to face with injustice! She is literally teaching her students and readers all throughout the world that their feelings are validated and that their circumstances could alter the society and change the notion that emotions are a sign of weakness. 

Lorde is very powerful. She is unapologetically herself, and wants each and every person to feel comfortable enough to express what they feel. Society has created social constructs that Lorde constantly tries to break down. Especially when it comes to injustice, every single person should raise their voices and combat the racist, sexist, homophobic society we live in. While speaking out, people should recall their privileges and remember that even though some cases are more difficult to discuss, they are still important to speak about. While she speaks on how to interpret injustices, we as a society can learn how to discuss our feelings in a time like today. We as people can grow and encourage others to speak their truths even if it’s uncomfortable.

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. “Poet As Teacher – Human As Poet – Teacher As Human.”

Lorde, Audre. The Uses of Anger. academicworks.cuny.edu.

Isolation and Intimacy in Audre Lorde’s Teaching

Audre Lorde, a strong woman of color, feminist, activist, member of the LGBTQ community, influential poet, teacher, and much more, has left this world with so much wisdom for everyone to share. The intelligence she offers is not only limited to her civil rights and feminist activism but lessons through her teaching as well. Since my major is Inclusive Childhood Education, I was very intrigued by Lorde’s work with her students at institutions like Hunter College and The Free University of Berlin. Inclusive Education revolves around allowing students with disabilities to join general education classes, so all students have the most appropriate learning methods and receive the best possible education. As an educator, Lorde drew on her own experiences of isolation and vulnerability to create an atmosphere where her students were encouraged to speak out about their interests that they felt connected to. She wanted her classroom to be a space of intimacy to achieve greater human connection and raise consciousness about issues of discrimination and inequality. From Lorde’s approach to teaching, contemporary educators can learn how to make their students feel important, comfortable, and safe in the environment they learn in, so these classes can help increase students’ awareness of themselves, others, and the world. 

Lorde’s experience with loneliness in school had a big influence on how she chose to teach and how she wanted her students to feel. Loneliness “causes people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact” (Cherry). This resonates with Lorde immensely because she always treasured human touch. In her early school experience, she had a sense of “loneliness” bottled up inside her. She didn’t feel as though she fit in with the children around her or impressed her teachers. One incident that was explained in the book, Zami, was how her teacher kept Lorde inside to work on vocabulary while the other students were released from school. Lorde states, “I came to loathe Wednesday afternoons, sitting by myself in the classroom trying to memorize the singular and plural of a long list of latin nouns” (60). As she sat alone after school, her teacher would come and go as he pleased, and she would sometimes spend hours there forced to try and fix her mistakes. Lorde didn’t have a connection with her teachers or classmates which made her feel like she had no one but herself. Even her mother didn’t understand the importance of relationships at school and told her school is a place for learning, not having friends. This was hard on Lorde because she was the only one who knew exactly how she felt: alone and unwelcomed, which is what she didn’t want her own students to endure. Loneliness also came from cultural differences, as there were less than nine black students in her class (Zami, 24). One of her poems says, “We are/ Enclosed by the walls between us/ by the chemistry of the dead/ spaces we share” (The Classrooms). Lorde’s poem emphasizes her lonely experience in her classrooms which she described as “dead spaces.” With this separation, she felt detached from the people around her, but it made her realize she didn’t want her future classroom to be represented with this same feeling of rejection.

Lorde took the loneliness she felt from her school and wanted to guarantee none of her future students would feel this isolation. To achieve this, she began to teach college students the importance of Black Women’s Poetry, Afro-American Literature, and much more during the 1980s when oppression was still very infamous. She strived to help her students better understand their own individual lives and connect their experiences to things that were going on worldwide. This was done by incorporating lessons about White and Black American racism and sexism. Her syllabus includes, “Defining Racism,” “Mechanics of Oppression,” and readings about “White Majority,” and “Notes of a Native Son” (18-20). These topics may be intense, but Lorde wanted her students to be aware of racism and possibly make a difference in society. Lorde made her classroom a safe place to express sensitivity and vulnerability so the effect of the lessons would be more beneficial.

Lorde created a classroom where students could be vulnerable so they could embrace fragility with personal or societal matters. Vulnerability is “the state of being open to injury, or appearing as if you are. It might be emotional, […]or it can be literal” (Vocabulary).  Lorde wanted her students to allow unspoken emotions to be heard through their voices. She incorporated personal assignments into her lessons that were related to real-world issues. Lorde asked her students to answer, “In your daily living give 3 examples of actual ways in which you yourself can function to positively counteract racism. Be specific” (Lorde Archive, Spelman College, Box 82). For Lorde, it was necessary for her students to dive into the vulnerable state when discussing harder topics such as Racism and American Women. Vulnerability allows her students to open up, move into their deep thoughts, and share what they have experienced and felt. In “I Teach Myself in Outline,” Atkin and Brown write, “Lorde’s classroom was a place of open wounds, where vulnerability was visible and the learning process entailed acts of mutual care as well as expressions of tension” (7). This quote describes how emotion was important in Lorde’s life and her teaching style. Lorde strives to be the best listener, mentor, friend, and educator she can be to her students. One of Lorde’s key points is to speak out and break the silence: break the walls separating our emotions from our words. Breaking the silence will lead to the break of this loneliness inside her and others. Lorde uses her sense of emotion and motivation for change through her teaching methods and hopes her students will begin to share the uncomfortable with her, each other, and eventually the world. 

Intimacy is a key component in Lorde’s work as a teacher. Intimacy is “the state of being intimate. A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group” (Dictionary). In “Poet as Teacher- Human as Poet- Teacher as Human,” Lorde describes this intimacy as a kind of relationship that connects us with our real feelings. This intimacy is metaphorical, but also not restricted from being physical. Lorde touched her students’ hearts by providing the comfort and breathing room they needed to express themselves. One of her students said,  “She made you feel, when you were talking to her, that there was no place she’d rather be” (4). Her students appreciated her attentiveness and the insight she brought to the class. This is also what we as students desire in our own teachers. We need teachers who, like Lorde, present trust and dependability. Educators can achieve this by trying to try to get to know their students on a more personal and intimate level, knowing when they are struggling with something or having the perfect day. Lorde allowed and encouraged her students to express their thoughts and opinions so they could understand themselves and be understood by others. 

While Lorde had felt lonely and isolated as a student, she sought to create an intimate and vulnerable classroom that brought students together to share related and relative emotions. It was important to Lorde to take care of her students both educationally and passionately because this was not evident in her own experiences in school. She didn’t want her students’ opinions to be ignored, especially in her lessons about injustice. As Lorde said, relating to her school experience, “Caring for was not always caring about” (Zami, 27). She does much more than “care for” her students, she treats them like people with real emotions who should trust the classroom environment enough to share them. Understanding her students’ experiences and feelings, as well as making them aware of problems in society was a goal she had for her classroom, and also a goal for us as educators to follow. Lorde wanted to create a connection between her and her students to make them feel more comfortable when expressing ideas. Teaching is a lifetime duty. We teach ourselves and others new things from everything we do. Lorde’s style of teaching has a big influence on myself, as well as current teachers, and encourages us to be open to a connected, vulnerable, and intimate classroom so we can incorporate these methods in our own classrooms.

Works Cited

AZ Quotes. “Audre Lorde Quote.” AZ Quotes, 2004, www.azquotes.com/quote/1169190. Accessed 8 May 2020.

Cherry, Kendra. “The Health Consequences of Loneliness.” Very Well Mind, 23 Mar. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/loneliness-causes-effects-and-treatments-2795749. Accessed 29 Apr. 2020.

“Intimacy.” Dictionary.com, 2020, www.dictionary.com/browse/intimacy. Accessed 29 Apr. 2020.

Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Crossing Press.

Lorde, Audre. “The Classrooms.” “I Teach Myself in Outline,” Notes, Journals, Syllabi, & an Excerpt from Deotha. 2017.

Lorde, Audre. Lorde Archive, Spelman College, Box 82

Lorde, Audre. Poet as Teacher- Human as Poet- Teacher as Human. 2009. Oxford University Press

Lorde, Audre. “I Teach Myself in Outline,” Notes, Journals, Syllabi, & an Excerpt from Deotha. Edited by Iemanja Brown and Miriam Atkin, CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative, 2017.

“Vulnerability.” Vocabulary.com, www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/vulnerability. Accessed 29 Apr. 2020.

Audre Lorde: Breast Cancer Through a Feminist Perspective

Audre Lorde: Breast Cancer Through a Feminist Perspective 

         The Cancer Journals, written by Audre Lorde, describes her intense struggles while battling breast cancer. This traumatic experience ends up leading to a series of feminist insights as to how breast cancer can be contracted by all women, no matter their race or status, as Lorde stated that, “Any woman who has had a breast removed because of cancer knows she does not feel the same” (Lorde 104). In this blog, I show how The Cancer Journals critiques the patriarchal emphasis on breast cancer as a cosmetic problem that can be solved by a post-mastectomy patient wearing a prosthetic breast. By contrast, Lorde depicts breast cancer as a bonding experience with the women around her as well as an exploitation of the patriarchy within the medical field.

In Lorde’s experiences, the unity she expected was often negated as her fellow female nurses overly emboldened her to obtain a prosthetic breast. However, Lorde took offense to this notion, as she found she was far more desperate to mend her inner thoughts and apprehensions exponentially more than her outward appearance. By addressing cancer treatment as something that primarily focuses on “cosmetics,” Lorde insinuated that the patriarchy is much more concerned with how she would remain feminine and outwardly appealing to the male eye. Lorde continued to combat this with her need to express her inner thoughts and desires that rely on the comforting of her fellow females. This distinct feminism is prominent throughout the text, as Lorde continued to critically focus on inner acceptance rather than a shallow shift in her outward appearance.

         In order to fully grasp the feminist approach of The Cancer Journals, it is imperative to understand who Audre Lorde is and what she stood for. Lorde is a self-proclaimed black, lesbian, feminist, warrior, and mother who dedicated her life to addressing injustices. She was profoundly inspirational, as she advocated for feminist theory, critical race studies, and queer theory, and her work ultimately launched her into the political world where she also generated quite an impact. Not only was Lorde a well-renowned writer, but she also involved herself in teaching and politics, normally focusing on topics of protest as she believes that it is her obligation to voice the truth as she perceives it. Lorde wrote works such as, “Sexism: An American Disease in Blacke-face”, “Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminists’s Response”, and “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” She undoubtedly has an intense drive to communicate injustices of the world, and must expel her fury out through her work. The injustices that Lorde focuses on are primarily social and racial— she advocates for revolution and change within society.  A consistent theme throughout her work is the differences in race or class must serve as a reason for celebration and growth.

  Even though women experiencing breast cancer face extremely harsh treatment and the potential of not progressing positively, they unfortunately must still face the male expectation to remain feminine and outwardly pleasing. Lorde, naturally, is quite disturbed by the patriarchy and its unwillingness to let women grieve over their lost breast or breasts when it comes to mastectomies. Although this is an unsettling fact, Lorde was actually the first person to truly make the claim that the options presented to women after a mastectomy reflect a patriarchal perspective. She stated that, “This regressive tie to the past is emphasized by the concentration upon breast cancer as a cosmetic problem, one which can be solved by a prosthetic pretense” (Lorde 101). The overall concern for women to disregard their disturbed emotional and medical states and focus on their appearance is appalling for Lorde— especially because it is a woman who attempts to convince her that enhancement surgery will remedy all of her tribulations.Lorde spoke about the nurse and stated that, “Usually supportive and understanding, the nurse now looked at me urgently and disapprovingly as she told me that even if it didn’t look exactly right it was ‘better than nothing,’” (Lorde 108). 

Despite the pressure placed on her by medical professionals, Lorde chose not to wear a prosthetic breast, which I interpret as an act of feminist refusal. Her strength and willpower to continue to express her feminist ideals as she rejects the notion that a breast implant will heal her is evidently proof of her disapproval of the prominent patriarchy. She is irate that the male-driven medical industry assumes her first priority after battling cancer would be, “what man I could capture in the future, whether or not my old boyfriend would still find me attractive enough,” (Lorde 102) indicating that patriarchal perspectives dominate  the world of medicine. Undoubtedly, Lorde’s experiences regarding her mastectomy express the intense role feminism has in her life, as she rejects the idea that she must enhance her body simply for a male’s gaze.

Perhaps the most essential aspect of this feminist text is the intense female bond that Lorde relies  on throughout her journey regarding breast cancer. She reveals the brutal obstacles she was forced to endure and exposes her inner turmoil as she struggled to cope with losing a breast. Even though Lorde is incredibly resilient, breast cancer evidently has the ability to break even the strongest woman. Considering this, she shares that there were various positives in her journey. The palpable bond of feminine strength among her fellow females strengthened Audre, and aided her in her realization that she was not alone in this:

“I remember their faces as we shared the knowledge and the promise of shared strength in the trial days to come. In some way it was as if each of the people I love most dearly came one by one to my bedside where we made a silent pledge of strength and sisterhood no less sacred than if it had been pledged in blood rather than love” (Lorde 44)

Enjoying the presence of her friends enabled Lorde to manage her dread that she was “on [her] own” (Lorde 44). Her sisters and friends displayed love and affection that touched Lorde so deeply she insists that she still felt those efforts far beyond the hospital bed. Without the copious amounts of “woman love and strong wishes of faith” (Lorde 46) Lorde would have inevitably been stuck in her thoughts of loneliness in this journey. The feminism in this particular aspect of the text revolves around the love and support from females that guided Lorde through this painful journey. 

Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, embraces feminist ideals and depicts  feminine unity as a prominent support system in regard to breast cancer. Lorde’s ability to remain intact during such a dire time was evidently held together by the women in her life, and ultimately reflects the feminism that exudes from the female love she experienced during her tribulations. Although her experience with women was predominantly positive during this time, she undoubtedly felt the heat of the patriarchy as female nurses urged her to embrace cosmetic treatment. Breast cancer, in Lorde’s understanding, was full of feminist insights as she was exposed to the kindness of women and shortcomings of the patriarchy. Lorde states that, “A lifetime of loving women had taught me that when women love each other, physical change does not alter that love” (102). This particular quote seems to encompass much of her story as it introduces the intense love and female bonding she sensed, without her giving in to the pressure of focusing on her outward appearance and wearing  a prosthetic. Lorde’s act of writing The Cancer Journals shares these feminine insights that she has been a part of and critiqued as she overcomes breast cancer. The writing of this book serves the purpose to share these positive and negative aspects. Assuredly, the text inspires females to reassess the patriarchy and embrace female sodality as breast cancer impacts all women— doting on Audre Lorde’s primary theme in her work that differences should promote connections and celebration. 

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals: Special Edition. S.n., 2006.Bagnarelli, Bianca. “Illustration.” The New Yorker, 8 Apr. 2019,


The Uses of the Erotic in the Professional Setting

Typically, when we graduate high-school and begin our college career we are faced with a plethora of existential questions.Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What values are important to me? College is a time of experimentation, where kids become adults and develop political opinions, a professional voice, and express and evaluate their own sexual desires. College is a public space as opposed to a private space, where social taboos are less prevalent, and the student is expected to try new things and pursue what they consider to be their individual passion. So how does this process of self-discovery correlate with our passions and desires? In Audre Lorde’s essay, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”, she makes the claim that through the pursuit of the erotic, we can discover who we are, and what will be fulfilling to us in our professional, social, and individual lives, Which is why, college students should pursue the erotic as a means of happiness as opposed to the suppression of the erotic in exchange for professionality. 

When we think of the erotic in relation to perverse sensual or sexual pleasure such as pornography, however, Lorde defines the erotic as, “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. (Lorde, 94)”This means that the discovery of the erotic is essential in discovering who we are, what we value,  and understanding our emotions. Lorde urges us all to evaluate our emotions as opposed to suppressing them in order to answer the existential question of who am I? the term erotic is derived from the Greek word eros.  Lorde states that the term “eros” is a concept which emerges out of chaos and eventually initiates, “creative power and harmony (Lorde, 96)”. The erotic is interconnected to our sense of intuition.The erotic transcends the physical, sexual boundaries men in power have placed on us and informs us of what stimulates us intellectually and emotionally.It is necessary to understand ourselves intrinsically before we can begin to choose our future pursuits in employment, which is why we should focus on our individual passions as opposed to achieving professionality.  Lorde claims that we should never settle in any aspect of our lives for anything less than extraordinary when she states, “To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society, But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies. (Lorde, 94)”

We live in a culture which forces us to choose between an economically fulfilling job and a job which is derived from our individual passions. Yet, is there a way to have both?  Lorde urges college studetns nearing the end of their journey to evaluate ways to achieve both professionality and the fulfillment of the erotic and urges us not to suppress the erotic in exchange for professionality, since it is a vital aspect of ourselves. Professionality and the erotic should  be forces that work together as opposed to the binary oppositionwe commonly see between the two in contemporary society. This is why it is necessary to embrace both professionalism and the erotic as you approach the next steps in the beginning of your career. 

In our society, the erotic and professionality are viewed as oppositional forces. Anyone, particularly black women, who display emotion in a professional setting are perceived as weak and illogical. Yet, Lorde claims, “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough. (Lorde, 93)” Lorde’s belief is that men in power have distorted the denotation of the erotic in order to have mainstream society believe that it is a source of weakness and delinquency. However, the erotic is useful and necessary in our life and serves to provide power, strength, and passion.

Lorde explores the implications of male privilege on the erotic and urges all of us to dig deeper in deciphering what the purpose of the erotic truly is. The erotic can help us to explore our own passion and career. The pursuit of the erotic can help us to lead aesthetically and morally fulfilling lives. Lorde claims that the emotional and rational aspects of the mind should be used in cooperation, rather than conflict, in order to lead fulfilling and promising lives. Our society sees empowered women as dangerous which results in the encouragement of erotic suppression. Lorde states, “the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment…It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel. (Lorde, 95-96)”

In contemporary society, it is becoming increasingly easier to become desensitized to the world around us. Yet, through the pursuit of the erotic, and the fulfillment of professionality,  we will not lose passion nor interest in our careers. Yet, we will strive for change in order to make the world a better and more suitable place for the erotic. Lorde claims that by, “Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama. (Lorde, 103)”

In her essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”, Lorde urges all of us, men and women, to redefine our denotations and connotations of the erotic. The erotic has been tragically misconstrued due to patriarchal misconceptions towards emotions, passion, and professionality.  The erotic can and must be used as a means towards achieving happiness, as well as,  answering the question of “who am I?”. In choosing a career and making the painstaking decision as to passion or professionality, Lorde urges us to embrace both the erotic and professionality. In doing so, we will achieve power, tranquility, and self-fulfillment.

Work Cited

–   Audre Lorde. “Sister Outsider.” iBooks. https://books.apple.com/us/book/sister-outsider/id488573027

Audre Lorde’s Experience of Surviving as an inspiration

BAM | A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde + Me ...

Throughout the semester, we have been learning about Audre Lorde and her many accomplishments. She is a black lesbian feminist; she dedicated her life and creative talent to confronting and bringing attention to the injustices of classism, racism, homophobia, and sexism. Lorde is a keystone for many women and helped them find who they are in their core. An example of how she inspires through her poetry from her time in Berlin is A Woman Speaks. Within the poem, there are many expressions that as her affirmations of worth and power, one of them being “my sisters/witches in Dahomey”. (20-21) Lorde is likening herself as a fierce woman warrior, which she is, but using a part of her history to identify as such. Lorde also sets herself apart without apology, “I am/ woman/ and not white” this is who she is, and she confidently knows this about herself. (32-4)

Lorde’s poem “A Litany for Survival,” depicts a world in which she was “never meant to survive.” As the poem suggests, she learns through the experience of fear and is able to speak out because “ it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive.” (42-44) Lorde continuously discovered lessons. In Zami a New Spelling of My Name, she learned to create a tribe “At the time, suffering was clearly what we did best. We became the branded because we learned how to make a virtue out of it”, in order to help each other. (82)The connections she makes with people help her grow and be able to never give up on herself through tough situations, the things that threatened her survival. In order to survive as a woman, Lorde faces an impasse after her mastectomy in The Cancer Journals when “The emphasis on wearing a prosthesis is a way of avoiding having women come to terms with their own pain and loss, and therapy, with their own strength”, to take the prosthetic and not come to terms of what happened or not take it and be able to move on in her life stronger for it. (49)

I choose to the creative option of our assignment and wrote a poem with Lorde’s lessons in mind:

Within this three-stanza poem, I express the lessons I have learned this semester with Audre Lorde. The first stanza, not giving up and keep fighting through the bleak situations you may find yourself in. All through The Cancer Journals, Lorde has to find the things that will help her instead of impeding her. Being confronted with a woman trying to convince Lorde that she will be more whole with a prosthetic, she knows that it will not give back what has been taken from her. She knows that in order to heal she needs to accept what has happened and be able to live without her missing breast, as she is a new person without it and this experience has brought new insight into her life and brought new wisdom.

In the second stanza, the lesson is connecting with others in order to learn about yourself. In Zami a New Spelling of My Name, This is a lesson that Lorde learned at a young age, “I met girls with whom I could share feelings and dreams and ideas without fear. I found adults who tolerated my feelings and ideas without punishment for insolence, and even a few who respected and admired them”, and even later in life when she created a tribe of women who supported her, it is these connections that let us differentiate whom we are compared to others. (82) As no two people are the same, it is important that we see this and find the people that we want in our lives and the ones we do not.

The final stanza is a lesson that I find to be the most important. As much as Lorde is a poet and essayist, she is also a fantastic teacher. In her essay Poet as Teacher, there is no difference between a poet and a teacher, “A writer by definition is a teacher. Whether or not I ever teach another class, every poem I create is an attempt at a piece of truth formed from the images of my experience shared with as many people as can or will hear me”, as you learn more about yourself you are able to teach others through your experiences. As a poet Lorde is able to connect with so many people teach the lessons she learned through her experiences to help whoever reads her writings.

Works Cited


Lorde, Audre. “A Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/147275/a-litany-for-survival.

Lorde, Audre. “A Woman Speaks by Audre Lorde.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42583/a-woman-speaks.

Lorde, Audre. Zami, a New Spelling of My Name: a Biomythography. Crossing Press, 1996.“Lorde_Poet As Teacher (1).Pdf.” Google Drive, Google, drive.google.com/file/d/141MluaBpTmvmmRT4vLzFzDIdMvsS_YXP/view.

Speak UP & Speak OUT


There is a quote that says “those who know, don’t speak” but the quote should read “Everyone who knows, should speak”. Not speaking and speaking are both humane ways of interacting with the world but from a very young age, black children are taught that being silent is expected of them. The act of being silent was reinforced every day in the family structure, schools, and churches. However, American poet, feminist, lesbian icon, civil rights, and human rights activist Audre Lorde challenges us to deviate from this notion that has been embedded into our existence to break free of racial silence and become develop a sense of empowerment. 

Audre Lorde was one of the most influential people of her time and she still is today. Lorde uses brilliant writings and speeches to address different issues affecting Blacks, women, lesbians, and other minorities in America and by extension the world. Lorde’s work is unapologetic as she defined and inspired the American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and Women of Color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. (Poetry Foundation). In this blog post, I will be analyzing her essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from her book “Sister Outsider” and how it relates to black people in America. Lorde argued throughout this essay that although racial silence is often seen as a positive thing, it often creates pathways towards racial and self-oppression. 

 Lorde urges black people to become self-advocates. For example, when she wrote that black people have to stop sitting around waiting for others to speak on our behalf rather we should advocate for ourselves(Lorde, 41). For a lot of us, this might be easier said than done because we are sometimes fearful of what others might think or do to us when we advocate for ourselves and other black people but the danger is around the corner and we simply cannot sit in our corners mute forever according to Lorde, while our brother, sister, children and even ourselves are suffering from racial oppressions in American whether it be in our workplace, the community is school systems. If we allow ourselves to become complacent and don’t speak up because of fear we will be destroyed. Lorde also talks about when we advocate for ourselves, we gain access to an inner source of power and confidence. The power can then be used to evoke change and transformation with or self or within society.

Lorde tells how that breaking our racial silence is our moral responsibility no matter what the outcome is. For example when she said “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. That the speaking benefits me, beyond any other effect”(Lorde, 40).Lorde believes that she has a moral right to speak up through verbal language as well as written. She expresses that words and thoughts need to be shared openly and freely because being silent is one of the ways systems of oppression are grown and maintained. In this quote, she also showed the gravity that is speaking and how making thoughts known aloud is very powerful because it begins to break down the oppressive forces around us. When we begin to speak up, we also inspire others to speak up. 

As racial silence increases, fear also increases but we should be persistent in not letting this fear stop us from speaking up and breaking the racial silence in America. Lorde expressed that we often remain silent because we are fearful of breaking the racial silence and we think that others will pass judgment or annihilate them. For example when she said “I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live. Within this country where racial difference creates a constant, if unspoken, distortion of vision, Black women have on one hand always been highly visible, and so, on the other hand, have been rendered invisible through the depersonalization of racism”(Lorde, 42). In this quote, Lorde states that black women think they fear judgment the most, but what we truly fear is being invisible because of our blackness. But to thrive in a country that we were not meant to survive in, we shouldn’t be afraid to break our racial silence because when we do so we are rock the very barriers of oppression and racism. We lose a part of our essence when we allow fear and racial silence to control us and this is where one loses hope. 

Lorde highlighted that our racial silence doesn’t protect us from racism and oppression but rather it promotes it. For example when she said “ My racial silence had not protected me. Your racial 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. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength and enabled me to scrutinize the essentials of my living” (Lorde, 41). We have nothing to gain from being silent, and it negatively affects our mental health. I think Lorde made a very strong point here. She reinforces the idea that racial silence will never protect you, will never bridge those connections between people, and can never fix nor heal. To speak up is to reach out, grasping at anything and anyone who is willing to help and feels the same way, and eventually, someone will always reach back. She also expresses that racial silence is different when chosen rather than inflicted. 

We need to learn to turn our racial silence into language because with language comes transformation. Lorde states that “We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in racial silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that racial silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that racial silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but racial silence. And there are so many racial silences to be broken”(Lorde, 44). This passage shows that change must be made and black people, need to keep “breaking their silences” to become better thinkers, speakers, and most of all better initiators of change. The only way to unite people of all different backgrounds and experiences is by breaking the racial silence. By doing so we are enabling ourselves to learn about the experiences of others and that our differences can be used to strengthen our platforms.

Lorde believes that we fear the visibility without which we live with, but she suggests that the visibility which makes us vulnerable is the source of our strength (Lorde, 42). She urges us to embrace our fears and become resilient in breaking the racial silence because in doing so we free ourselves and others. Martin Luther King is an amazing example of how we should not fear speaking up and because he broke his silence, his words are remembered throughout the world even to this day.

In conclusion, black people are affected by the invisible enemy we call racial silence and by breaking that racial silence and speaking out against our racial silencers, we can transform it into self-confidence and power. Lorde believes that this destructive racial silence creates and fosters a lot of negative results, in particular, the racial silence that is imposed upon underrepresented groups in society like women and minorities. In “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, Lorde shows us the negative impact that racial silence can have on us both internally and externally. These acts of silencing are often committed by systems of racism, oppression, and individuals who believe in inequality. 

Work Cited 

Lorde, A. (2016). The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. In Sister outsider essays and speeches (pp. 40-44). Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Audre Lorde. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/audre-lorde

Image source: https://opmed.doximity.com/articles/we-need-to-speak-up-to-avoid-death-by-silence?_csrf_attempted=yes

Surviving Together: Lessons from Audre Lorde

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected hundreds of thousands of humans across the world. These historic months have terrified all of mankind in such a short period of time. People’s physical and mental health are at serious risk. As humans, we have been told to isolate ourselves and do our best to stay inside. While self-isolation remains crucial, now that we are a few months deep into social distancing, it has begun to severely affect people’s mental health. As positively effective as social distancing has been, it can also induce feelings of stress, loneliness and isolation, which will ultimately lead to increased issues for those who already suffer from mental illnesses (McIntyre,“Coronavirus and Mental Health: How COVID-19 Is Affecting Millions of Americans.”). Fortunately, there are many ways to maintain stability in your mental health during these trying times. The American Psychological association recommends engaging in self care, turning to those you trust and seeking help from a mental health professional to preserve your mental state during a time of crisis. In addition, the work of Audre Lorde, a self-identified black lesbian feminist poet, can help us think about the importance of community in these times of social isolation. 

Obtaining help from those around you can make you feel a sense of community, something Lorde advocated for throughout her life. It is crucial that in a traumatic time like now, we come together as a community and make each other feel safe and loved. Lorde stood up for those who didn’t feel a sense of community in their lives. She gave a voice to those without one, so they can come together as one. In a time of trauma like the present, Lorde’s work can be beneficial in helping us to understand how important community can be for those in isolation. Lorde dedicated her life to living as her true self, advocating for women’s movements and civil rights. She began writing poetry at the age of twelve and went on to be the first black student at Hunter High School. After high school, she went on to attend Hunter College where she began to surround herself with other poets and lesbians. She started to realize the racial inequalities around her. Lorde felt as though she was isolated because of her sexual preferences and skin color. Her motivation to keep going was to imagine a community she would one day fit into. In a biography written about her called Warrior Poet, Lorde said “it was only the consciousness, the vision, of a community somewhere, someday, it was only my vision of the existence and possibility of what it is…” (Lorde qtd. in DeVeaux, 255). This quote directly connects to how those who are self-isolating feel during these hectic times. We imagine the day this pandemic is under control and we can all come together as a community and feel the love we haven’t felt in months. Having a sense of community can make us feel like we belong to something that is bigger than just ourselves. It can allow us to feel comfortable enough to reach out to those we feel safe with. Lorde’s idea of imagining what we one day will have can be a helpful tool in maintaining our sanity during these difficult times. Although we all had certain expectations for this year, we must take a step back and practice isolation in order to thrive once again.

Lorde’s experiences with Breast Cancer emphasize the importance of having a sense of community in order to make it through traumatic times. Her world was turned upside down when she located lumps in her breast. When Lorde discovered she had breast cancer, she began to embrace the idea of mortality. This experience prompted Lorde to ask questions: “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?” (Lorde, The Cancer Journals). She chose to tackle the fear of death head on and prepare for her future. She did not allow her fearfulness to take control of her. Instead, she became educated on her cancer and chose to take it day by day. Lorde, having become a strong part of the black lesbian community, was now creating a community of her own, one that spoke to those who are also fighting a deadly diease. Lorde never stopped advocating or teaching others during her time with cancer. She chose to share her experiences and hardships during her time with cancer and create The Cancer Journals. Lorde once shared “I wanted to write in my journal but couldn’t bring myself to. There are so many shades to what passed through me in those days. And I would shrink from committing myself to paper because the light would change before the word was out, the ink was dry” (Lorde, The Cancer Journals). This statement is truly devastating, but also inspiring. Although she couldn’t write down her feelings in that moment, she eventually gained the strength to relive those harsh days and document them, so others could learn from her experiences. While a breast cancer diagnosis and a global pandemic are hardly identical experiences, Lorde’s words urge us not to succumb to the fear invoked by our current crisis. We must use Lorde’s battle as a lesson in how to manage our panic and worry. When Lorde decided to get a mastectomy, she had the encouragement of her new community, which she claimed was a vital part of her recovery. We can take this sense of community and support and apply it to those suffering from the pandemic that has overtaken our world. We can act as each other’s support systems and help our communities during these unpredictable times. It is crucial that we are there for one another and help those in need who cannot advocate for themselves, like Lorde did for much of her life.

Lorde’s feelings of isolation are similar to how many people have felt across the world, especially during these hectic times. She always fought hard to make sure that others did not have to experience the feelings of isolation, as well. She spent much of her time in Berlin, Germany sharing her teachings with “Afro-German” (Opitz, Showing Our Colors) women. These women grew up very isolated from one another in a primarily white Berlin. They weren’t considered to be German by the white Germans, even though they spoke the language and were born there. They were often called derogatory terms such as “half-breed” (Opitz, Showing Our Colors). They were left to feel like they were different and unwanted. Although Berlin was their home, they felt extremely unwelcomed. Lorde preached that the Afro-German women must “identify [them]selves, recognize each other and to listen carefully to each other’s stories”  (Lorde qtd. in Michaels, 28). She encouraged these women to embrace who they really are and take control of their identity, before the world does. This kind of isolation takes a heavy toll on a person’s heart and mind. Similarly today, xenophobic actions have taken place towards Asian Americans. Because the first case of Covid-19 occurred in Wuhan, China, many Americans believe all Chinese people are to blame. In New York, specifically, there have been countless racist acts towards Chinese people. It is unfair to discriminate against people just because of their heritage. Whitney Wu, a New York city council candidate, stated “You come to a place like New York City, and you assume you’re free from all the bullying because it’s multicultural, but then you realize that the solidarity isn’t there and how quickly people isolate themselves when a crisis like this comes up.” Similar to how the Afro-German women in Berlin felt constantly judged, Asian Americans are being exposed to daily racism. Although the premise of these racist behaviors are different, both the Afro-Germans and Asian American people feel isolated in their own homes. This negativity brings out the need for a sense of community that Lorde so strongly encouraged. The Afro-German women found a community within one another because of Lorde’s teachings. As a nation, we need to come together and instead of pointing blame, we must face this difficult time as one and listen to Lorde’s ideas.

Lorde’s work influenced many different types of people all around the world. Her inspiring teachings made so many people gain a sense of community and togetherness, something they’ve never felt before. In a time like now, reaching out to those you love and trust can be a vital part in coping with isolation and trauma. We can utilize Lorde’s experiences creating communities to maintain our mental well beings during this pandemic. Lorde once said “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, Conversations with Audre Lorde, p.86). It is important for us to see that, although we are all unique individuals, we are all a part of one united community right now that is fighting for a common purpose, which is to end the virus and be able to reunite together again.

Works Cited 

“Audre Lorde Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2020. 29 April 2020. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/audre_lorde_357272

DeVeaux, Alexis De. Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde. Norton, 2006.

Lorde, Audre, and Joan Wylie. Hall. Conversations with Audre Lorde. University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. San Francisco :Aunt Lute Books, 1997.

McIntyre, Megan. “Coronavirus and Mental Health: How COVID-19 Is Affecting Millions of Americans.” Psycom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/coronavirus-mental-health.

Michaels, Jennifer. “The Impact of Audre Lorde’s Politics and Poetics on Afro-German Women Writers.” German Studies Review, vol. 29, no. 1, 2006, pp. 21–40. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27667952. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020.

Opitz, May, et al. “Showing Our Colors”: Afro-German Women Speak Out. Univ. of Mass. Press, 1992.

Ramirez, Rachel. “How a Chinese Immigrant Neighborhood Is Struggling amid Coronavirus-Related Xenophobia.” Vox, Vox, 14 Mar. 2020, www.vox.com/identities/2020/3/14/21179019/xenophophia-chinese-community-sunset-park

“The Great Unknown: 10 Tips for Dealing With the Stress of Uncertainty .” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-uncertainty

Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Truth

Audre Lorde *Almost Sold-Out* - The Art of Molly Crabapple
Art by Molly Crabapple
IBEYI – “River”

The entire world could take a lesson from Audre Lorde right about now. As a self- proclaimed, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, Lorde’s work has always reflected the fluctuating stages of her life. So when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer, she did the unimaginable. She confronted the possibility of her impending death head-on and turned her silence into her salvation. As our society faces what will be known as the COVID-19 era, we are met with unsettling fear. Our lives don’t feel like they belong to us anymore rather we are just spectators witnessing a reality that is not within our control. Suddenly, our lives have not become about living anymore but rather surviving. In this post, I will draw insight from Audre Lorde’s interpretation of survival in her poems and essays to demonstrate that surviving a pandemic is not merely about existing in silence.

“We were never meant to survive”. This is the memorable ending line to Audre Lorde’s poem, “A Litany for Survival”. The survival that Lodre speaks of throughout the poem is not merely the persistence of one’s tangible body. For Lorde, survival is the act of treading the thin line between life and death. The poem opens with the lines,

“For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice” (Lorde, lines 1-5)

Lorde conveys that for those living within marginalized bodies, safety is a luxury. “The passing dreams of choice” signifies that having the choice to exist beyond the constraints of an oppressive society is a mere illusion. When our very existence becomes something that was never meant to happen, every day becomes a day of impending death as Lorde states,

“For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk” (Lorde, lines 15-18).

How we are “imprinted with fear” as children have everything to do with the ways we view our oppression as something that we are born into. Fear becomes our primal source of pedagogy and our lives become the persistence of that fear. Though Lorde’s poem exudes a sense of solidarity amongst those whose marginalized bodies were never meant to survive, it is not a poem of triumph. Towards the end of the poem, Lorde shifts her attention from the constant threat of fear and death to the significance of “speaking” and “remembering”. She reveals that whether we choose to speak or not, we will still die. Therefore, she challenges us to speak up as a necessary means of overcoming our fear.

The most remarkable aspect of this pandemic is that no person will make it through this unaffected. And as a result, most people are in a state of fear and anxiety as we anticipate the grief that is to come. Anticipatory grief is the feeling we get when we are uncertain about what the future holds. During this pandemic, I have been self-reflecting on how I can practice self-preservation while attempting to create tangible change. I’ve thought of how to navigate these difficult feelings of anxiety and anticipatory grief in hopes of turning them into active language. In her essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, Lorde writes “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.” (Sister Outsider, 41). Sometimes expressing our angst and anxiety in a society that seeks to silence us becomes just as powerful as it is daunting. Rather than just existing through our current life situation, we must find a way to turn our silence into healing; not only for ourselves but for others going through the same struggle. The exhausted phrase of “We Are All In This Together” can no longer just remain a trivial slogan for the coronavirus pandemic. We must use this universal experience to transcend our perspectives.

As a young black woman of color, I never truly felt that my voice held any jurisdiction in today’s society. But where I have fallen silent, poetry has always been my voice. In her essay, “Poetry Is Not A Luxury”, Lorde speaks of the importance of authorship as well as naming one’s experience. She conceptualizes poetry as a series of “births” where dreams, feelings, and knowledge conceive concepts, ideas, and understanding (Sister Outsider, 36). Though the mind can only communicate what it understands, Lorde depicts poetry as the unification of our abstract feelings with our concrete experiences. Lorde goes on to state, “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought” (Sister Outsider, 37). Therefore, poetry only seems like a luxury to those whose voices are always heard and whose survival is always guaranteed. During these times of fear and uncertainty, we cannot remain silent— especially those that dwell within marginalized bodies. We must find a way to transcribe our thoughts and feelings; either we must speak them, draw them, sing them, dance them, or even scream them. I choose to write them:

“blessings on blessings”
by Alice Luo

Where do you find the blessings
When the ends refuse to meet
Like two magnets resisting the law of attraction
When the roof over your head
Clothes on your back
Food on your table
Are all borrowed
And the only thing you reap is debt and sorrow
Where do you find the blessings
When death is a mere lover
Whose presences entices you
Cold kind touch soothes
Cradles you into a deep sleep
That lasts longer than a gentle kiss
Where do you find the blessings
When struggle is your primal language
Yet your tongue refuse to utter its name
You fight its vowels
Its syllables feel like kitchen knives in throats
You try to swallow
But all you can is choke
On its truth
I’ve always seen the beauty in the struggle
The strength in the single mother
The rage in abandoned brothers
Sisterhoods tighter than any belt could
The next ghetto boy or girl to be misunderstood
Where do I find the blessings?
Concentrate on this…
The smell of concrete roses
The sound of melting ice cream
On warm summer nights
The touch of your lips pressed against mine
At this very moment in time
Nothing even matters…
  Nothing even matters... 
Nothing even matters,

Works Cited:

Lorde, Audre. “Sister Outsider Essays and Speeches.” Ten Speed Press, 2016.

Lorde, Auder. “A Litany For Survival.” 1978. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/147275/a-litany-for-survival. Accessed April 2020.

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