Happy Birthday to Two Black Queens: Audre & Toni
February 18th is a blessed day! Why?!
Two black feminist literary legends—Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison—were born on this day!
Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934. She described herself as a “Black lesbian mother warrior poet”. I mean, doesn’t that just sound iconic?! She was best known as a leader in Black feminist thought and for her analyses of the way intersectionality is weaved into all oppression. Some of the themes defined in her work are violence, hunger, dishonest silences, struggle for voice, faith in the capacity to love, painful birthing, growth through dreams, and desperate hope and defiance. Allison Kimmich, who is the executive director of the National Women’s Studies Association wrote, “Throughout all of Audre Lorde’s writing, both nonfiction and fiction, a single theme surfaces repeatedly. The black lesbian feminist poet activist reminds her readers that they ignore differences among people at their peril…Instead, Lorde suggests, differences in race or class must sere as a ‘reason for celebration and growth.’” Audre Lorde passed away from liver cancer at the age of 58 on November 17, 1992. Before she died, she took the name Gamba Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.” I don’t know about you, but that name alone lights a fire in me!
Toni Morrison is 88 years old today (born in 1931) and is one of the most highly celebrated and iconic writers of black literature and thought. She is the Nobel Prize winning author of ten novels, and has also written seven non-fiction books, two plays, and three children’s books. Some of her most popular books are Song of Solomon, Beloved, Tar Baby, Sula, The Bluest Eye, and Jazz. Her book Beloved actually won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Oh, AND she was a professor at Princeton University from 1989-2006. Some of the themes and topics she included in her writing were black identity, racism, feminism, self-love, and in each of her works, she managed to find a new way to look at blackness and American life. If you haven’t read any of her writings, you should do yourself the honor. Maybe start with Beloved!
“Mourning for Whiteness”. That’s the title of a piece Toni Morrison wrote for The New Yorker in 2016 after Trump was elected president. Read it. Read it. Read IT! Click here to read this piece that I tell everyone about. It’s so good! She goes in on white America….but in an eloquent and symbolic type of way. It’s not very long. I’m actually thinking about posting it on my blog in general.
Of course I'm going to include a few of my favorite quotes by both of these black women:
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
“What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Still smart? Do you still like yourself? ...If you can only be tall because someone’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”
“…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. it is learning how tot are our differences and make them strengths. for the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. they may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. and this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”
“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.”
“If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
“You are your best thing.”
“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”
Read something one of these women wrote and see why they are still referred to constantly!