A Moving Letter to Race and Gender Activist Audre Lorde

Award-winning poet Sonia Sanchez writes a new foreword to the re-release of her Lorde's essay collection, A Burst of Light.

More From Books
20 articles
The Best Books We Read This Year
This Young Woman Escaped the ISIS Slave Trade
How to Battle Chronic Illness With Humor

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

My Dear Sister Audre,

It is today. Not yesterday. Hoy ha llegado — today has arrived. Sometimes I have gotten lost in this journey called today, where nothing moved, when I gathered up the country's hysteria, when I looked at the world's delirium, when I saw America try to disagree with its blood. But I always remembered your voice, feasting on love and intellect, across telephone wires as you talked, your voice a prayer in exile, pushing past the debris of human sacrifice.

More From Books
20 articles
The Best Books We Read This Year
This Young Woman Escaped the ISIS Slave Trade
How to Battle Chronic Illness With Humor
The Evolution of Title IX
How to Go Out to Eat Alone

A new century appeared my dear Sister — a fragile bird caught in its past wing flow. This new century arrived and we saw death, generational death, peeling our skins down to our blood plasma. And I asked you question after question, distracted by the scandal of billionaires accessorizing their flesh with newly minted coins. Where are we on this food chain of life to be eaten so easily century after century, decade after decade? Are these meditations of insane men and women from a take-out menu, imperializing our tastebuds til we sweat, crouched junkies of an American dream, vomiting into the ears of our unborn fetuses? Are we like our ancestors fated to end hanging from a morning sky of death?

I return to A Burst of Light for light. Communion. I need to remember the solitary earthquake of your breath, making us remember our blood.

Lo Purísimo: Your words explaining this American apartheid of 1986, still resounding in our 2017 ears. You remind us again how slow the economic process has been for the majority of African-Americans in America and Africans on the continent. You remind us again how fast Black blood has been shed on both continents. We remember names we had forgotten: Eleanor Bumpers, a 66 year old black grandmother killed by two shotgun blasts from the NYPD during eviction proceedings; Allene Richardson, 64 years old, gunned down by a Detroit policeman; 10 year old Clifford Glover shot in Queens by a policeman in front of his stepfather; 15 year old Randy Evans' brains blown out while he sat on a stoop talking to a friend. We see that Black lives have never mattered to America, to Africa.

Lo Profundo: Sister Maya Angelou wrote about the privilege of being a black woman. She said it was not a passive exercise, it required work that at times could be painful. Pain often accompanies privilege, she added. And your privilege of being a Black lesbian came with pain dancing in the eye of your pores. In your clarity about Black women uniting in spite of their pain, in spite of their sexual differences, we see the logic and power of all Black women, all queer women, all women, organizing, coming together in order to live. Survive. Be. Remember our humanity. Indeed: "Make God finally break the habit of being man."

Lo Purísimo: We hear you questioning your life. Days. Hours. The questions and answers you discovered as you began your journey with liver cancer. We hear the sound of bravery in your teeth. And we store in our blood the memory of your voice. Your genius, your words linking continents, making us broaden our minds.

Lo Profundo:Sister Grace Boggs said: "My revolution is to share my/our love, beauty and our history [herstory], experiences, successes and failures — of exits and entrances, to make space for our souls."

In Japan it's said that the words of the soul reside in a spirit called kotodama, or the spirit of words, and that the act of speaking words has the power to change the world. Your words, my dear Sister, helped us to change the world. You rescued us from the tyranny of racism, sexism, homophobia, class and economic poverty . . . You. Prodigious singer. Of life and actions. And words . . .

finally . . . to

remember . . . you gave

light to our eyes . . . . .

In love/struggle/peace – Sister Sonia Sanchez

June 8, 2017

Reprinted with permission from Ixia Press, an imprint of Dover Publications. A Burst of Light © 2017, 1988 by Audre Lorde. All rights reserved.

More from Lenny Letter: