Audre was born in New York City of West Indian parents in 1934.
At the time of her death, she was New York State Poet for 1991-
1993 (Walt Whitman Citation). She was Professor of English at
Hunter College and was a founding member of Kitchen Table: Women
of Color Press as well as Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in
South Africa (SISA). My girl lectured in Russia, Australia, Africa,
(among other countries) and taught frequently in Berlin (where there
are black German sisters and brothers and Africans, too). It
was there in Germany she received alternative cancer treatments for
I first met Audre during her first and only residency at San Jose
State University in 1977. At that time, 23 years old and just
out of San Jose State (and wondering whether I should do a
masters degree), I volunteered my home for a mid-residency bash
in her honor. I had never seen a black lesbian woman in my life-
-in fact, I had not seen a more perceptive, receptive,
forthright, strong, and vital black woman in years and years.
Folks should know that even as feminists, black women are
sometimes pressed upon to song and dance an audience of white
people. Not Audre. She resisted that stamp. She refused to
front off that bullshit. I remember what she said to those white
girls, "Look. This is not a performance. This is work, work
that YOU should be doing."
And Audre worked hard. She expected one to do the same,in whatever
activist way. "Are you doing your work?" she would say in her
writing and in her speeches. She worked hard to bridge gaps between
black straight women and black lesbian women and to organize and
encourage black gay people. And she fought racism, especially
racism in the women's movement.
I saw Audre several more times in the last years of her life when
she was on tour or doing conferences. I danced with her, I
laughed, and ate and talked with her. And even laid my head in
her arms. She was a warm, loving human being, who knew when to
fight and when to love.
I last saw her at Stanford a couple of years ago, reading her
poems and then surrounded by dozens of wellwishers and other
friends. There was only enough time to take her hand, receive
each other's smile and say hello, a few words and then good-by.
I have been quite moved these past few days in remembering Audre.
When I heard she had moved to the Caribbean, that she had just
published a new edition of her poems, I thought she had finally
beat the big C, that she was alright. I think of her like
another loss: Lorraine Hansberry, a black lesbian sister
playwright who was closeted until her death at 34. Both were
brilliant. Fifty-eight is simply too young to go out in this
I think of Audre like I think of other historical people I have
met or seen: James Baldwin doing a standing room only appearance
at State; Harvey Milk on Castro Street just outside his camera
shop campaigning for San Francisco supervisor; Nelson and Winnie
Mandela at the Oakland Coliseum during his tour. But she was a
living movie in my life. She touched me. I will miss her very
Audre is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth Lorde Rollins; her
son Jonathan F.A. Rollins; her sisters Phyllis Blackwell and
Helen Lorde; her half-sisters Marjorie and Mavis Jones; her lover
and companion of several years Gloria I. Joseph (who co-wrote a
book about the socialization of black women as opposed to white
women [the other writer's subject], which included a chapter
called "Styling, Profiling, and Pretending: The Games Before The
Fall" about sex and love issues between black women and men);
"cousins, nieces, nephews and loved ones--friends, colleagues, and
students on several continents."
Bay Area residents who are seriously interested in attending a
local memorial service for Audre Lorde sponsored by members of
the Ache black women's magazine collective should come to Modern
Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA on
Sunday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m. Call 415-282-9246 for further
If you wanna check out Audre's work, read "The Black Unicorn" (the
best of her poetry collection); "Sister Outsider" (her essays and
speeches); and "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name," her autobiography.