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.

Week 13 (4/27-5/1) Instructions

For week 13, you have three primary tasks.

  1. Complete peer review of the two drafts *BELOW* yours in this document by 4 pm on Monday, April 27. It’s important that everyone reviews the two below theirs so that you each receive feedback from two of your peers. To leave feedback for your classmate, simply open the google doc in the right-hand column under “Peer Review Doc.” There you will find the instructions for peer review. Please make sure to add your name so I can give you credit for completing the peer review assignment. 
  2. Attend your small group conference, if you haven’t already. 
  3. Use the feedback you got from peer review to revise your draft. Send me a complete draft for feedback by 4 pm on Wednesday, April 29. Please send either a Word Doc or a link to a Google Doc set to “Anyone with the Link can Comment.” If you’d like to submit your draft earlier, that’s fine too. I’m going to try and do a quick turnaround and get those drafts back to you ASAP so you have time to revise.

Week 12 (4/20-4/24) Instructions

For week 12 (4/20-4/24) you have one major task (and some smaller ones that will help you with that)… 

  1. Week 12 is primarily a writing week. A complete rough draft of your final project is due by 4 pm on Friday, April 24. All information about the assignment is in this post, including lecture #1 explaining the project. 
  2. Watch lecture #2 reviewing the writing skills you will be expected to demonstrate in your final project (title, thesis, evidence, analysis, etc.). I tried so hard not to make it 47 minutes, but at least there are subway rats in there? (Slides from lecture #2)
  3. Sign up for and attend your small group conference. Please come prepared to discuss your draft (especially your argument) and with any questions you have about the assignment. Conferences will take place via Google Hangout
  4. (Optional): send me your thesis (and outline, if you wish) for feedback. You can also make additional one-on-one office hours appointments to chat about your final projects.  

A Struggling Berlin

Audre Lorde was one of the most influential figures of her time and still today. Lorde’s powerful and prominent, sometimes angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and Women of Color movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Lorde expanded her influence in 1984 when she traveled to Berlin. From 1984 to 1992 Lorde made several trips to Berlin, teaching and sharing her stories and legacy to German society (Wilder 1). While in Berlin, Lorde helped Germans to discover the Afro-German identity movement.

Lorde documented her time spent in Berlin throughout her writing. In the poem, “Berlin Is Hard on Colored Girls”, we are able to read about her experiences in Berlin. Prior to Lorde’s time spent in Berlin, World War II had occurred. Upon arriving, Lorde had noted that she should feel the racial tension that haunted the streets of the city. Lorde stated, “The city itself is very different from what I’d expected. It is lively and beautiful, but its past is never very far away, at least not for me. The silence about Jews is absolutely deafening, chilling” (Wilder 1). With World War II and the Holocaust in the not so distant past, people were fearful, especially people of color. The reign of the Nazi’s was a mass racist hate crime that instilled fear into all races. Lorde however, saw their fear as a chance to spread her power and strength throughout Berlin. “Berlin Is Hard on Colored Girls” exemplifies the difficulties of finding a black woman’s love in the streets of West Berlin. It also embodies how she is able to connect and identify herself with Afro-Germans and women of color in Berlin. The poem begins with the line, “Perhaps a strange woman”(Lorde line 1). By starting the poem in this way, it is framed around this strange woman. Who is she? Why is she strange? Is she different? The poem suddenly becomes about identity and estrangement. But an important connection to make is that although the poem is about her observations of Berlin, it is also about Lorde herself. Throughout all of Lorde’s work, we have seen that Lorde is able to make connections to others by their differences and their struggles. She speaks out on her oppressions which allows others to feel that they are not alone. She became a voice for many different groups of people including: American feminists, lesbians, African-Americans, and Women of Color. None the less, in Berlin she was able to use her struggles to show Afro-Germans that they were not alone. Later in the first stanza, Lorde uses descriptive language such as “kittiwake birds, the lizard, gray whales” (Lorde lines 6,7,12). This is where we are able to make the connection of Lorde questioning her own identity along with Berlin’s. Berlin does not have kittiwake birds, the lizard, and gray whales, but Lorde’s non-U.S. home spaces in Grenada and Saint Croix do (Farber 152). It almost is as if Lorde is tracing back her roots, pondering herself and her past, where she’s from, where she’s been. Much like those in Berlin were doing at this time.

Moving onto the second stanza, Lorde begins with “I cross her borders at midnight” (Lorde line 16). Although Lorde never mentions the Berlin Wall specifically in this poem, she strategically divides her poem into two stanzas. Almost as the border she is referring to is the Berlin Wall which divides Berlin in two, and her poem into two stanzas. She does this in a way that highlights division, division of Berlin, division of the poem. She ends the poem with a reference of a nightingale, “A nightingale waits in the alley/next to the yellow phone booth”(Lorde lines 31-32). Nightingales when used in poetry such as “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats, have become a symbol for division: life or death, masculinity and femininity, silence and expression. The nightingale represents Berlin at this time (Farber 153). It was divided by the Berlin Wall and its people were also divided, as was Lorde. The people of Berlin were divided by race, fear, and gender. Lorde, who also struggled with these things, used it to connect to Afro-Germans. In doing so, she was able to help create the Afro-German identity movement. She was able to use her own struggles and connect with those around them. While studying Lorde throughout this course, I have been able to realize that Lorde takes her fears, insecurities, trauma, and oppressions and uses them to become powerful and strong. She created a voice for not only herself, but for those around her who needed someone such as Lorde to help right the injustices around them. Not only was she able to do this is America, she was able to help a struggling Berlin.

  1. As I stated in my post, Lorde finds the injustices, oppressions, and struggles around her to make connections with her audience. Do you feel that you share any injustices, oppressions, and struggles with Lorde?
  2. After reading “Berlin Is Hard on Colored Girls”, do you think that the “strange woman” is the Berlin Wall? Or an actual woman? (This is something I wondered while reading and thought hearing your comments would help me to understand!)

Work Cited:

Farber, Paul. “I Cross Her Borders at Midnight.” Audre Lorde’s Transitional Legacies, edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck, 2015, pp. 152-153.

Lorde, Audre. Berlin Is Hard on Colored Girls, 1986.

Wilder, Charly. Audre Lorde’s Berlin, The New York Times, 19 Jul. 2019, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dn36LUZan6GgZHbFpxJouSBZmhvTWEK0/view. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020.

Lorde’s time in Berlin

As we’ve been learning all semester, Audre Lorde impacted women in many ways. Her teaching strategies, writing techniques and ability to empower women traveled with her everywhere she went. Lorde’s impact in Berlin was monumental. Her influence on “Afro-German” (Opitz, Showing Our Colors) women sparked inspiration for many organizations, such as the Initiative of Black People in Germany. While teaching a course on African women poets in Berlin, Lorde noticed the oppression faced by African diaspora and women of color. She pondered the questions “where do our paths intersect as women of color?” and “where do they diverge?”(Lorde, Showing Our Colors). Lorde set out to give these Afro-German women a name and to have their stories heard. She encouraged these women to raise their voices and share their stories through writing and publishing. During her time at the Free University in Berlin, Lorde’s effect on these women was astonishing. She had a way of making women want to stand up for their rights and fight for what they believe in. Lorde’s influence on colored women in Germany led to inspire many Black activists, such as May Ayim Opitz, Helga Emde and Katharina Oguntoye. These women went on to be strong influences in the Afro-German movement. 

In Lorde’s time in Berlin, she created many influential works, such as Berlin is Hard on Colored Girls. This poem’s acknowledgment of the dangers women of color faced in a xenophobic Germany was chilling. The breaking of the first stanza into the second can symbolize the divide that was taking place in Berlin at the time. By Lorde breaking the poem into two stanzas, she is describing the split between West and East Berlin, without actually speaking of the Berlin Wall (Farber, 153). Instead, she uses words such as “borders” and “guards” (Farber, 153) to represent the division. Lorde specifically uses the word “perhaps” several times, six to be exact. Her use of this word seems to be insinuating her own uncertainty about living in Berlin. It is said that the placement of each “perhaps” is used to portray the exact crooked structure the wall was built in. Her use of nighttime in the poem was included to undermine the authority of the Berlin border guards because people from West Berlin were told to be out of East Berlin by midnight (Farber, 153-155). She wrote this poem to show the discrimination faced by women of color in Berlin. 

Through her teachings, Lorde encouraged her students to break the silence and join together to overcome their prolonged isolation. She wanted these women to find their true selves. Many of these Afro-German women did not know their African fathers well and were disconnected from this part of their roots. They were often called derogatory terms such as “half-breed”(Opitz, Showing Our Colors). Lorde asked these women “What does it mean to be defined negatively from birth in one’s own country because of a father whom one may never see or know?” (Lorde, Showing Our Colors) Lorde believed every person deserves to know themselves and give themselves a name. She said that if you do not name yourself, the world will name you. Instead of being given a name, Lorde encouraged these women to find a name for themselves. This is where Lorde helped coin the term “Afro-German”. Lorde said “It is very, very difficult to survive and to create as a Black person in a situation where you are not only discriminated against but wiped out in terms of your message and your identity and your consciousness.”(Lorde, Showing Our Colors) Lorde said this statement to the Afro-German women in the hopes to invoke a sense of empowerment in them. She was successful in her encouragement because this led to the writing of Farbe bekennen, which May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye were a part of. Being that this was the first published work by Afro-Germans, Lorde’s influence on these women sparked the start of the Afro-German movement. 

  1. Were there any parts of the poem, Berlin is Hard on Colored Girls, that stood out to you that I didn’t touch upon? Did you face any confusion on the meaning or logic behind her words?
  2. Did you see any connections between Berlin is Hard on Colored Girls and the other readings about Lorde’s time in Berlin?


Farber, Paul. “I Cross Her Borders At Midnight.” Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies, edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck, 1984, pp. 151-155.

Lorde, Audre. “Berlin is Hard On Colored Girls.” The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

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

Follow up Comment about Audre Lorde and her Teaching Materials

Thank you all for your blog post comments! Many of the comments I received touched on the idea of how intimacy has more than a sexual or physical meaning and that Lorde turned it into an emotional and passionate connection. Lorde wanted to incorporate being touched emotionally by the ideas and conversations brought up in class, but she is not completely disregarding the physical touch either. Professor Savonick showed during our virtual class a photo of Lorde surrounded by her students. They were close together showing the welcoming, accepting, and safe space Lorde brings into her classroom. Her students looked happy to be where they were in that moment. To them, Lorde was probably more than just their teacher. She’s their mentor, friend, and escape room to let out the feelings that may not be able to be expressed elsewhere. I think the main reason she was so successful in her classroom and life was because she was so honest and real with everyone she encountered. In her “Poet as Teacher” essay, she describes her full self, leaving nothing out. She doesn’t want to create an “injustice” to her students (183). This carries over into her course material as she relates her assignments and class discussions about real life situations and how they can connect with each other and also her students’ lives. 

I also wanted to touch on the idea of this uncomfortableness she also wants students in the class to feel. Not everything that is talked about is something people like to share or comment on. In a room full of different cultures, genders, and sexuality, there will be tension. But this is what she encourages. The unspoken words that need a place to roam free without judgement. She wants to make her classroom this place, but also continue to be strong and dedicated to the topic they are discussing. In her poem, “Blackstudies,” she writes, “I am afraid of speaking/ the truth.” This stood out to me because she was once afraid of saying what was on her mind and now she encourages her students to do what she couldn’t. This is very powerful because she knows people won’t always share what needs to be said. She is taking initiative to not only help her students learn and grow, but so they can take what they learn and incorporate these ideas in their lives and be able to and want to take action.

Week 11 (4/13-4/17) Instructions

Congratulations on making it through week 10! For those of you who were unable to attend our discussion, here are the recording and the slides.

For week 11 (4/13-4/17) you have five primary tasks

  1. Read through the assignment sheet and rubric and watch 30 min lecture on the final assignment. All info regarding the final project is in this post. A complete rough draft will be due on Friday, April 24.
  2. Watch the film Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years (available through MyRedDragon library tab) and respond to the discussion prompt by 4 pm on Monday, April 13. This post includes instructions for accessing the film and the discussion prompt.
  3. Complete the readings on the syllabus about Lorde’s time in Berlin. One is an interactive website, so just play around. Another is an excerpt of a book written by Lorde’s students in Germany, translated into English by SUNY Cortland Professor Anne Adams! This text will allow us to connect our conversations about Lorde’s teaching to her experiences in Berlin. 
  4. Keira and Hailie will post blogs by 4 pm on Wednesday, April 15. Everyone else, please read their posts and leave a comment by 4 pm on Friday, April 17
  5. As per your request, we will have another virtual class discussion next Friday, April 17, 12:40-1:30 via this WebEx link. Please come prepared with topics you’d like to discuss re: Lorde’s time in Berlin and any questions about the final assignment. For those of you who are unable to attend, this will not count as an absence.

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years

2012 Documentary 
Dir. Dagmar Schultz 
Approx. 1 hr 20 mins

I think you will like it! Access via myRedDragon library tab:

Please leave a comment with your response to the following prompt by 4 pm on Monday, April 13.

Describe one moment, idea, or scene from the film that struck you as particularly interesting or important. Why did you feel this way? Be as specific as possible.

Final Assignment Instructions

Hi all. Here are the assignment sheet and rubric for your final project.

Rough Drafts

A complete rough draft of your final project is due by 4 pm on Friday, April 24. Please paste a link to a Google Doc next to your name in this document. The document should be set to “Anyone with the link can comment.” 

Group Conferences

For this assignment, you will sign up to meet with me in small group conferences via Google Hangout. Each conference is 45 minutes. You may sign up with whoever you like. Please come prepared to discuss your essay and with any questions you have regarding the assignment. When you are ready to attend your conference, the Google Hangout link is here.

Peer Review

For this assignment, you will give feedback on two of your classmates’ drafts by 4 pm on Monday, April 27.

You will be reviewing the two drafts BELOW yours in this document. Instructions for reviewing your peers’ drafts are in the Google Doc in the righthand column “Peer Review Doc.”

Feedback from Prof. 

Please email me a link to a revised draft of your post by 4 pm on Wednesday, April 29. This should be as polished and close to a final draft as possible. Students who would like feedback earlier (especially those in group one!) are welcome to submit drafts earlier. 

Final Drafts

Your final drafts will be posted to our course website as blogs. The class has been divided into three groups, each with a different due date. 

  • Group One (Kianna, Hailie, Claudia, Sam B., Gabriele, Gabby, Katie): post to website by 4 pm on Monday, May 4
  • Group Two (Marian, Noel, Alaina, Alice, Mikey, Megan, Kelly): post to website by 4 pm on Wednesday, May 6
  • Group Three (Sam O., Savannah, Emily, Brooke, Keira, Roshawna, Kara, Cody): post to website by 4 pm on Friday, May 8  

Audre Lorde’s Pivotal Philosophy in the Classroom

As we keep diving into the depths of Audre Lorde’s powerful works, we learn how she chose to utilize her life experiences within the education community through emotional connection. Lorde’s bold, but different teaching techniques become pivotal for her students, helping them to become increasingly open-minded about the world in which they live in, both inside and outside their classroom environment. Audre Lorde begins her article, “Poet As Teacher—Human As Poet—Teacher As Human,” speaking about how her teaching style may sound “basic” to many, but effective as her lessons vary based on the events and emotions she and her students experience on that specific day. She expresses the importance of human connection and how it assists her to convey specific societal issues to her students. Lorde strongly believes that it’s important to put forth true emotion in the classroom, as she chose to use it as a tool to emotionally touch each of her students so, they are able to receive a well-rounded/full learning experience. She expresses this as she states: “There is something to be learned from the sharing of true feeling between two or more people; co-communicating id teaching—touching—really touching another human being is teaching—writing real poems is teaching—digging good ditches is teaching—living is teaching” (182). Here, she really shares the significance of human connection and how touching the world, both physically and emotionally, can help an individual to get to know themselves and the world around them, through their own internal and external feelings. 

Audre Lorde also expresses how this individual power and knowledge can be found through one’s poetry. Although she says she can’t teach her students how to write their emotions through their poetry, she states: “…I can show a student how to improve what is already written—…specifically how to bring the poem closer to that feeling the poet wishes to evoke. And I can encourage a student to recognize, cherish, and set down those feelings and experiences out of which poetry is forged. But the only way I can teach another human being anything else about creating poetry is to teach that person about myself, about feeling herself or himself.” Here, she projects that poetry is indeed an experience of intimacy and “is neither easy not casual, but is real.” She shows that a student’s true learning occurs when they first allow themself to explore their own emotional identity, letting go of the mold that society had created, influencing them to think, feel, and look a certain way towards the rest of the world to “fit in.” Lorde even states that this emotional and intimate “exchange…is the most strongly prohibited, or discouraged, human exercise of our time” because society’s norms hide this exploration of life, body, identity, and knowledge which prevents people to flourish and express themselves properly, such as Lorde herself (183). Although Lorde’s generation keeps pushes this new educational movement away, she hopes her teaching helps to pass these frowned upon, but powerful concepts along to her students. As her students learn to become more open minded to creating positive change, she hopes they can take these concepts along with them into their futures, helping to transform future societies for the better. 

“I Teach Myself In Outline Notes, Journals, Syllabi & An Excerpt From Deotha” speaks about how Audre Lorde utilized her own notes and journals as a tool to guide her through the role of being an educator. As Lorde constantly expresses the importance of recognizing individual life experiences and applying them to one’s learning experience, she makes sure to personally connect with each and every one of her students. For example, one of Lorde’s past students, Sarah Schulman, recalls how Lorde organized the students’ desks in a circle and chose to stand and teach in the middle of the circle, stating: “By the second class, [Lorde] had learned all the students’ names as she taught, she would make eye contact with specific students, referencing an idea from their papers or from a pervious class discussion” (4). Being that one of her students remembered this specific moment, it clearly shows how Lorde made it a necessity to have a strong connection with each and every one her students. This seemingly small detail about the class actually created a positively strong impact on Sarah and the other students, which helped Lorde and her students to build a close and comfortable community within the classroom. As I read this, I automatically made a connection to our own class. I strongly appreciate how Professor Savonick chose to organize the class in a circle because I believe it helps us to get to know one another on a different, more emotional level. We sit in a circle to gather as a community, coming together to discuss our own perspectives, feelings and experiences on societal topics that may seem hard to speak about in different environments. The circle helps us to build connection with one another and especially helps to create a better understanding through our individual experiences that we have the opportunity to openly share within the circle. I feel as if the circle pushes away the separation we may feel in society on a daily basis. It brings us together as a whole, but also as different individuals with the same motive of changing the world for the better and helping each other to learn about tough topics that may not have come up throughout all our years of learning. 

As Lorde projects the significance in the power of transformation through the connection with human experience and emotion, she especially “urges her students to identify their own struggles within larger political and economic structures and sets them up to find ways in their everyday lives to move toward action” (4-5). This quote automatically reminded me of the part in Zami where Lorde openly shares about her negative experience in school as a child herself. In this part of the book, the idea of meritocracy is brought up, which refers to certain system of principles that reward hard work. Lorde was actually a very bright student and was usually ahead of her other classmates, but she seemed to get in trouble for things that weren’t necessarily bad. She shares an experience of the time her teacher asked the class to write the first letter of their names, but she wrote out her whole name instead, leading to her teachers to treat her like she was some sort of trouble maker who couldn’t follow the rules. In this situation, Lorde actually should have been praised for this high level of accomplishment. As Lorde entered her teenage years, her view of school suddenly shifts from a negative environment, into a positive one. Lorde started to view her school setting of Hunter High School as an escape from her home life, seeing it asa place where she can socially and mentally express herself. She began to think of her home life as a negative space, where she felt misunderstood by her immigrant parents and trapped under their strict rules. This is when Lorde actually discovered her identity through the erotic, stating that “It was high school that I came to believe that I was different from my white classmates, not because I was black, but because I was me” (82). Here, Lorde really expresses how she found herself through her individual creativity. By sharing these memories of school, she shows how high school was something in her life that helped her to grow into the woman she was today, in both positive and negative situations. Lorde’s past experiences in school helped her to mold herself into the teacher figure she strived to be and help to create the impact she wanted to leave on her students. By sharing her life experiences, Lorde was able to strongly grasp each one, eventually learning to take control of her own future. Finding herself and moving past certain experiences let her transform the future ahead of her, building a new path for herself, as well as for each and every person that comes across her powerful work, which barely depicts the strong and beautiful philosophy she left behind for us. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Imagine you were one of Audre Lorde’s students, sitting through one of her classes. If you had to change anything about her teaching style/techniques, what would it be and why? If not, explain why you wouldn’t change anything.
  2. Do you think it’s effective to express high levels of emotion within the classroom setting? Why or why not?
  3. If you were to ask Audre Lorde a question based on her experience of being a teacher, what would you like to ask her and why? What do you think her response would be?
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