Sunday, 15 April 2012

Audre Lorde-Why are so many youth unaware?

Audre Lorde

I went along to see the UK premiere of Audre Lorde-The Berlin Years. The film was shown as part of the Fringe Film Fest. It was a deeply personal affair depicting her years in Berlin and her efforts to unite the Afro-German community giving them an identity and a voice. There were very moving tributes from her loving friends as well as plenty of footage of the women herself, dancing, speaking about her activism, being a lesbian and her her 14 year battle with cancer
   The first I ever heard of Audre Lorde was when I attended a talk at the Gay Icons exhibtion (truly accidental-me and some friends snuck in the back door) where film maker Campbell Ex was speaking. I found it interesting though I never thought of the name again till I checked the programme schedule for the Gay Fringe Film Fest and decided to have a look. It was a revelatory experience for I got to see the profile of not only a strong black lesbian I could admire but one with whom I could closely identify. This got me thinking about how many other young black women on the scene could benefit from such a legacy. The thing is, if you say the name Audre Lorde to black women under the age of 35 most will have little to no awareness of this remarkable women! For many women over 35, her iconic status meant her books, poetry and teachings were explored as a right of passage if you were young, female and gay.
    In her own words Audre was a "African American, feminist, lesbian, warrior, poet, mother, black activist". She was also a promoter of black unity, something that is still lacking in our communities worldwide. In her feminist role she put the struggle of the black woman on the agenda much to the disapproval of white feminists and many others. Her poem "Martha" depicts her love for the woman whose name it bears along with the trials and tribulations dealing with that love and the inherant homophobia in society at that time. Audre was empowered, educated, insuppressable and angry though she used her anger in the most creative and positive ways. Many (especially women of colour) would greatly benefit from her lessons, actions and examples today so the question is why is her name not instantly recognisable just one generation later?
    Though I'm sure the young realise their rights did not come overnight many have grown up reaping the benefits of the blood, sweat and tears of others before us. Now, there is a big club scene where we can meet each other. For some, just the recognition that being both black and gay isn't the anomaly it is often thought to be is enough and few refuse to step out of their comfort zones to explore queer history and black feminist icons. But is it enough? Clubs where we cannot hear ourselves speak unless we freeze our arses off in the smoking area where I often overhear conversations about, fighting prowess, sexual dominance, garments, other club nights and other people. Something seems to be lacking such as; direction, identitiy and above all else, unity. It's everyone for themselves and mindless gossip has replaced the thought provoking discussions that unify rather than divide. Maybe there isn't enough promotion of alternative events in the places young black lesbians look. But then again, you cannot find what you're not looking for and I wish more were a little more open to trying. They may find the activist within which can only lead to more positive change for the next generation. By turning a blind eye to feminist trailblazers like Audre Lorde not only do we betray her memory. We betray ourselves.

Sirena Reynolds.

For future showings of the documentary Check below. Will update this page further if I hear of any more.

University of Kent: Audre Lorde Cultural Festival
WhenThu, 3 May, 10:00 – 19:00
WhereThe Women's Library, London (map)
DescriptionThis one-day film and cultural festival organised by the University of Kent celebrates the legacy of Audre Lorde. Lorde’s brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and women of color movements of the 70s and 80s. On occasion of the 20-year anniversary of her passing, four powerful tribute films will be screened, including a new documentary by scholar, activist and feminist publisher Dagmar Schultz which has been accepted for the world premiere at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February. In addition to the films, Ika Hügel-Marshall, close friend of Lorde and recipient of the Audre Lorde Literary Award, will read from Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany (2001), and there will be a Q&A with Schultz. For more details, please see programme below and attached flyer. 
Programme (Screenings and readings/Q&A take place in the Clore Seminar Room) 
10-10.30 Registration & coffee and biscuits (Mezzanine) 
10.30-11 Welcome and opening remarks 
11-12.30 Screening of A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde 
12.30-1.30 Lunch (Mezzanine) 
1.30-2.35 Screening of The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde 
2.35-3.15 Screening of Hope in My Heart: The May Ayim Story 
 3.15-3.45 Coffee/tea and biscuits break (Mezannine) 
3.45-4.45 Reading and Q&A with Ika Hügel-Marshall from Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany 
4.45-5 Short break 
5-6.10 Screening of Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 
6.10-7 Q&A with Dagmar Schultz and general discussion 
7-8 Wine reception (Mezzanine) All welcome! 
The festival is co-organised by the School of English and the Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent. 
Registration fee is £10 (to be paid in cash on the day) and includes coffee/tea, lunch and a wine reception. 
As the venue capacity is limited, to reserve a place please email 150 For directions, see 

The festival is supported by the Faculty of Humanities, the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing, the Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, the Centre for Modern Poetry, and the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Film and the Moving Image, at the University of Kent.

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