Teach Me How to SPEAK

Reading anything authored by Audre Lorde means learning, and echoing, a sacred truth we (somehow) already know, hiding within deep chambers we haven’t realized yet. Even Lorde’s Cancer Journals covers a pretty specific topic: a Black, Lesbian Warrior Poet who experiences and survives through the trauma of breast cancer and a mastectomy. But any great author can universalize anything. I don’t have breast cancer, and I am not a Black Woman. But reading her struggle to speak and speaking to survive is the most healing piece of work I can swallow right now. Every word she ever wrote deserves to be mantra-fied. So after narrowing it down, here are three that I need to start living by:


1. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid. […] As women we were raised to fear.”

2. “But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change, or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into perspective gave me great strength. […] My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” 

3. What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself- a Black woman warrior poet doing my work- come to ask you, are you doing yours? […] We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we can work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

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