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Audre Lorde Quotes

Audre Lorde Quotes

Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. She was born in New York City to parents of Caribbean heritage and grew up in Harlem.

Lorde attended Hunter College and Columbia University and received a master’s degree in library science from Columbia. Her early poetry was published in various literary magazines, and in 1968, she published her first book of poetry, “The First Cities.” She went on to publish several more books of poetry, including “Cables to Rage” and “Coal.”

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In addition to her poetry, Lorde was a prolific essayist and wrote extensively on issues of race, gender, sexuality, and social justice. Her essay collection, “Sister Outsider,” is considered a seminal work of feminist literature.

Lorde was also a committed activist and worked with a number of civil rights organizations, including the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was a co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which published the work of women of color.

Lorde was openly lesbian and wrote about her experiences as a Black lesbian in her work. She was a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was instrumental in the development of Black feminist theory.

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Lorde died of breast cancer in 1992, but her work continues to be influential today. She is remembered as a powerful voice for social justice and a pioneer in the fields of feminist and queer theory.

Audre Lorde’s wisdom shines a light on the interconnected struggles of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Here are some profound quotes that delve into the depths of these societal issues and ignite a fire within our souls.

Famous Audre Lorde Quotes

1. “Your silence will not protect you.”

2. “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

3. “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

4. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

5. “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. - Audre Lorde

6.“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.”

7. “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

8. “and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive”

9. “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

10. “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

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11. “Revolution is not a one time event.”

12. “I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my nose holes–everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!”

13. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”

14. “Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it.”

15. “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”

16. “Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”

17.“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.”

18. “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”

19. “African tradition deals with life as an experience to be lived. In many respects, it is much like the Eastern philosophies in that we see ourselves as a part of a life force; we are joined, for instance, to the air, to the earth. We are part of the whole-life process. We live in accordance with, in a kind of correspondence with the rest of the world as a whole. And therefore living becomes an experience, rather than a problem, no matter how bad or how painful it may be.”

20. “Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.”

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21.“I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.”

22. “Without community, there is no liberation.”

23. “I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk throught the rain.”

24. “But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.”

But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women. - Audre Lorde

25. “I am my best work – a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.”

26. “Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.”

27. “Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me.”

28. “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”

29. “We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.”

30. “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill…For the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house. They will never allow us to bring about genuine change.”

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31. “The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”

32. “The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling. The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.”

33. “The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. ”

34. “…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”

35. “Men who are afraid to feel must keep women around to do their feeling for them while dismissing us for the same supposedly “inferior” capacity to feel deeply. But in this way also, men deny themselves their own essential humanity, becoming trapped in dependency and fear.”

36. “The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black goddess within each of us – the poet – whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.”

37. “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence.”

38. “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”

39. “… poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

40. “I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I’ll be sending messages on a Ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side”

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41. “Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

42. “Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

43. “I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.”

44. “Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people.”

45. “Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.”

Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. - Audre Lorde

46. “Some women wait for themselves around the next corner and call the empty spot peace but the opposite of living is only not living and the stars do not care.”

47. “We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.”

48. “Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.”

49. “You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.”

50. “…oppression is as American as apple pie… ”

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51. “You cannot, you cannot use someone else’s fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.”

52. “If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they probably will not survive.”

53. “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

54. “Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.”

55. “I soon discovered that if you keep your mouth shut, people are apt to believe you know everything, and they begin to feel freer and freer to tell you anything, anxious to show that they know something, too.”

56. “Oppressors always expect the oppressed to extend to them the understanding so lacking in themselves.”

57. “We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way.”

58. “There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.”

59. “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

60. “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

61. “There is nothing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

62. “Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lends the best of ourselves to it, and with joy.”

63. “We are all in the process of becoming.”

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64. “Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.”

Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever. - Audre Lorde

65. “The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.”

66. “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

67. “It is not the destiny of Black America to repeat white America’s mistakes. But we will if we mistake the trappings of success in a sick society for the signs of a meaningful life.”

68. “Divide and conquer must become define and empower.”

69. “To face the realities of our lives is not a reason for despair-despair is a tool of your enemies. Facing the realities of our lives gives us motivation for action. For you are not powerless… You know why the hard questions must be asked. It is not altruism, it is self-preservation-survival.”

70. “It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those other identified as outside the structures, in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make the strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

71. “The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

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72. “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”

73. “… it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.”

74. “The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.”

75. “[Speaking] is never without fear; of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death. But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death. And I remind myself all the time now, that if I were to have been born mute, and had maintained an oath of silence my whole life for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die.”

76. “It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. 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.”

77. “For we have built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response, old structures of oppression and these must be altered at the same time that we alter the living condition which are the result of those structures. For the master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house.”

78. “Anger, used, does not destroy. Hatred does.”

79. “Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded.”

80. “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill…For the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house. They will never allow us to bring about genuine change.”

81. “I am my best work – a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.”

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82. “Institutionalized rejection of differences is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate.”

83. “Well, I do not want to be tolerated, nor misnamed. I want to be recognized.”

84. “I am on the cusp of change and the curve is shifting fast.”

85. “If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest.”

If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That’s the beginning of social protest. - Audre Lorde

86. “You are the one that you are looking for.”

87. “Revolution is not a one-time event.”

88. “Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it. … pain will always either change or stop. Always. … The confidence that it will change is what makes bearing it possible. So pain is fluid. It is only when you conceive of it as something static that it is unbearable.”

89. “Our visions begin with our desires.”

90. “If you can’t change reality, change your perceptions of it.”

91. “My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restriction of externally imposed definition.”

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92.“‎Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.”

93. “Whenever a conscious Black woman raises her voice on issues central to her existence, somebody is going to call her strident, because they don’t want to hear about it, nor us. I refuse to be silenced and I refuse to be trivialized, even if I do not say what I have to say perfectly.”

94. “I am still learning – how to take joy in all the people I am, how to use all my selves in the service of what I believe, how to accept when I fail and rejoice when I succeed.”

95. “…my experience with people who tried to label me was that they usually did it to either dismiss me or use me.”

96. “I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do.”

97. “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 profits me, beyond any other effect….what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? …Death on the other hand, is the final silence…my silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.”

98. “When you reach out and touch other human beings, it doesn’t matter whether you call it therapy or teaching or poetry.”

99. “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”

100. “I am a bleak heroism of words that refuse to be buried alive with the liars.”

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