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Power - Audre Lorde

“black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” That is how Audre Lorde described herself. Not a life, but a series of identities worn like a magazine of bullets. That is what the time demands. The blatant audacity of white privilege, convulsing in a carnival of fascist laughter douses America today. Amidst cocooned tut-tuts about violence and law and order, and righteous white condemnation of the protests that have rocked the nation it is important to discover the roots of black anger, the audacity and impuntiy of white terror. Audre Lorde turned her life into a weapon. Every word she uttered was tainted with the whiplash of poetic justice. Her poems carved out the wound of Black America, dipped their assonance and angry alliteration in blood, painting rhythm into defiance. Do not talk about a world that is burning, ask where the fire started and how. Do not cast the protestors as lawless and primitive, ask why they are on the streets today. Do not splay your ignorance on those who have lived their lives at the edge of a tremor, scared that their sweat might fall on sanitised floors, their shadow taint the bleach of white pavements, or their souls become a recalcitrant stain on the godhead of the American wet dream. Sometimes I like to think wistfully that we are all together in this, that the stains of resistance, the shackles of power are thrown asunder, andwe unite - “our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe”. Of course, we are not, truly. But we can dream of a comradeship of shared rage, can we not? There are differences in our movements, there are holes to dig yet, consciences to be scooped out, priveleges to be peeled, but let that never stop us from speaking. It was Lorde who professed -

So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.

and elsewhere Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.

Explaining the genesis of “Power,” a poem about the police shooting of a ten-year-old black child, Lorde discussed her feelings when she learned that the officer involved had been acquitted: “A kind of fury rose up in me; the sky turned red. I felt so sick. I felt as if I would drive this car into a wall, into the next person I saw. So I pulled over. I took out my journal just to air some of my fury, to get it out of my fingertips. Those expressed feelings are that poem.”


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