Audre Lorde was a bad-ass poet, a feminist and a woman ahead of her time. She was born on Feb. 18, 1934, in Harlem to parents from Barbados and Carriacou. At an early age, Lorde knew her calling. She started reading at the age of 4 and was writing poems by the time she was 5.
Throughout her career, Lorde referred to herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her words didn’t just resonate at the time she wrote them; take a look at any of Lorde’s poetry, and they still resonate today. From her first love poem, posted in Seventeen magazine when she was a teenager, to her last, Lorde’s work is filled with every emotion a person can muster.
Lorde is constantly quoted but rarely celebrated, and yet she defined intersectionality before people even knew what it was. If you need any reason to get to know Lorde and her work, here are five simple ones:
1. Who else could be a black feminist, lesbian, mother and poet and actually live up to that? Your leader, Audre Lorde.
2. You could never ask Lorde what was wrong when she was a kid, unless you were willing to get a poem as a response. Even before the hashtag—she was #BlackGirlMagic.
3. Lorde, whose first name was originally spelled “Audrey,” dropped the ‘y’ at the end because at age 4, she didn’t like the way the ‘y’ descender hung below the line. This proves that Lorde, even as a child, not only connected with words but also realized how something as simple as a letter could make them more powerful.
4. Who else writes damn good poetry about anger, fear, racial and sexual oppression, urban neglect, and personal survival? She didn’t let being born “tongue-tied” and diagnosed as legally blind stop her.
5. Before she died, she changed her name to “Gambda Adisa,” which means, “She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.” Yes, and that’s exactly how she lived her life.