Audre Gets a Doodle
by BAIA Staff
On Thursday, February 18, in celebration of what would have been her 87th birthday, Google devoted its Black History Month Doodle to acclaimed poet, feminist, and civil rights champion, Audre Lorde. Lorde, who famously described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and passed in 1992, was internationally recognized for her writings and social critiques of racial hatred and sexual prejudice. The Doodle, a colorfully crafted slideshow illustrated by Los Angeles-based artist, Monica Ahanonu, incorporates an excerpt from a 1982 Lorde speech delivered at a Malcolm X celebration at Harvard University.
The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Lorde was born in Harlem in 1934 and taught to read and write by neighborhood librarian, Augusta Baker. The avid young learner found poetry early, and was actively writing and reciting poems well before she became the first Black student at Hunter High School, a New York public school for gifted girls. There, at age 15, Lorde published her first poem, “Spring,” which appeared in Seventeen magazine. Reflecting Baker’s influence, she earned a Master of Library Science from Columbia University in 1961 before becoming a librarian and English teacher in the New York public school system.
The poetry never stopped. Her first collection, ”The First Cities,” published in 1968, presented themes that Lorde would explore throughout her career, namely identity, sexuality, and her associated demands for social and racial justice both domestically and abroad. A citizen of the world, Lorde taught poetry at the Free University in Berlin, West Germany in the 1980s while organizing a local feminist movement; mentoring Black German women on issues of identity; and lecturing and conducting workshops on racism, feminism, classism, and homophobia. Her undeniable influence would play a significant role in the Afro-German movement of the 1980s.
In 1984, Lorde published “Sister Outsider,” a compelling literary collection of her essays and speeches pushing for change while deconstructing sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class. Throughout her career, she promoted the intersectionality of humanity, how personal identity isn’t shaped by a single factor, but by an array of aspects and experiences.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle,
because we do not lead single-issue lives.
Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.
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.”
– Audre Lorde
For her literary achievements, Lorde received the American Book Award and was honored as the poet laureate of New York State in 1991.
Happy Birthday Sister Outsider! More on Lorde, artist Monica Ahanonu, and the making of the Doodle can be found here.
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