Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992

Audre Lorde in Berlin

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Audre Lorde grew up in New York as the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, studied at Columbia University, worked as a librarian and finally became a professor of English Literature at Hunter College. In the ‘80s the Caribbean island St. Croix became her new center of life. Audre Lorde published 15 volumes of poetry, one novel ZAMI. A biomythography, and several volumes of essays, of which The Cancer Journals and Sister Outsider received worldwide attention. In 1991 Audre Lorde received the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which named her as Poet of the State of New York from 1991 to 1993. Audre Lorde died at the age of 58, in her house in St. Croix in 1992, after 14 years of struggle with cancer. Despite her illness she was writing and politically active until the very end of her life.

Audre Lorde’s incisive, often angry, and always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and women of color movements of the 70s and 80s. Her searing honesty and incisive analysis challenged all of those emerging communities to examine issues that heretofore had gone unseen and un-named. One of the most celebrated icons of the second feminist movement, Lorde inspired several generations with her gripping poetry and prose which served as a catalyst for change and united the communities she belonged to: Black artists and Black liberation, women’s and gay liberation. She continues to be read and discussed as part of the literary, feminist, social justice and human rights canons.

A delicious paradox about Audre Lorde’s life is that she was impossible to label or to categorize, and yet at every turn and with every utterance, she stood up and defined herself, made it clear to all whose lives she touched when she was introducing herself as “African-American. Feminist. Lesbian,” continuing, “I speak to you today as Warrior. Poet. Black activist,” and then filling in, “I come to you today as Professor. Mother of two children. Cancer survivor.” As the Ghanaian-German poet May Aim, who appears in the film, says in the film “Hope in my Heart. The Story of May Ayim”: “The way she stood there in saying who she was impressed me a lot, because normally people hide behind their words.” With these multiple identities Lorde asked people to acknowledge differences, to build bridges, to become conscious of one’s own power and to use it.

Orlanda Press published parts of Lorde’s work in German, Edition Mamamélis in Geneva in French. From 1984 to 1992 Audre Lorde spent weeks and months at a time in Berlin giving readings and at the same time seeking naturopathic treatment for her cancer illness.

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