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by Sappho Fulton and Ness white
This conversation was one part of my and Sappho’s joint multilayered and interdisciplinary performance assigned for Aishah Shahidah Simmons’s Audre Lorde: The Life and Work of a Silence Breaker graduate and undergraduate seminar at Temple University at the end of our spring 2013 semester. In this conversation, we each share snippets of memories we have of our mothers, particularly how our mothers have helped [mis]shape our identities—relating our experiences to Audre Lorde’s experience of becoming herself without her mother’s full support. As a substitute for our mothers’ love, we—like Audre—have learned, are learning to embrace community, mothering ourselves as we mother each other. ~ Ness white
Without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression.. Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals
Together: Without community there is no liberation, without community there is no liberation. Without community, there is no liberation. Without community, there is no liberation.
Sappho: Audre Lorde’s white passing mother did not wish for Audre to be a dark, different acting, little girl. She, Audre, inspired me to look beyond the green clouds…I, too, can see the strength in me. Mama, take a seat, and first forgive me. Why does a mother’s love need to be the connection? What is it that we believe is the key point in our total self-acceptance? Does our mother love connect the many facets of us? I am a Black…lesbian…feminist…warrior…mother…poet…
But mothers aren’t always able to understand us, it is sometimes in community that we find our greatest freedom. Like the freedom to speak truth to others – reminding me of Audre’s courage to own the many facets of a self-identified lesbian.
Ness: My mom did not, does not want me to identify as lesbian. You know, she told me they were going to hell every time I’d tell her I was one of them. I learned to cast off the very community I needed. I remember the first time I told her and the next and the next. Each time it was the same…her assurance that I would grow out of it, like, it was a stage… as if I was acting. The last time I was 12 and I lied. I said it was the other girls and I was innocent. They were expelled and I was still hidden. I had given up my possible community for a temporary armistice with my oppression, my oppressor.
Sappho: My very first time was cool. My mother knew about my sexuality, but my black mother would say stuff like just make sure you keep your business in the house. I was closeted for at least for about a month. Then, one day, I burst out one bright day with a beautiful woman—holding hands—. I looked at my neighbor and said, “Meet my girlfriend.” Do you know that feeling of your first love? Oh My God, I wanted everybody to know…everybody.
Ness: I’m finding her, too…that Black mother, poet in all of us. In my search, I’m also building, gaining community, connecting with they who I was ashamed to associate with. Now, if I can only hold her hand, kiss her in front of mama…declare my love for the Black mother within to the Black mother I feel so without.
Together: Why does a mother’s love need to be the connection? What is it that we believe is the key point in our total self-acceptance? Does our mother love connect the many facets of life? Audre would say: I am a Black…lesbian…feminist…warrior…mother…poet…Audre knew something.
Without community there is no liberation, without community there is no liberation. Without community there is no liberation, without community there is no liberation. Without community there is no liberation, without community there is no liberation.
Sappho Fulton is completing her studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies and LGBT Studies at Temple University. During her tenure at Temple, she studied abroad in Rome, Italy. Sappho is also the author of Sappho’s Remix, a noted book of poetry, which focuses on her life’s journey. She is the founder and co-founder of several grassroots organizations, which include, but are not limited to the Annual Student Drag Show, the Lesbian Sisterhood Club, The Annual Lesbian Family Day Picnic, and Elements LGBTQ Womyn of Color Conference Outreach Team. From 2009 through 2012, she served as a member of the Board of Directors of Elements LGBTQ Womyn of Color conference. She is currently the programming chairperson for Elements’ annual conference. Sappho is on a team of young leaders who are originally from Philadelphia. They strive to sustain their community by organizing and promoting LGBTQ events throughout the Eastern Region. Prior to receiving her Associates degree at Community College of Philadelphia, she assisted in organizing many diverse programs, including: The Reentry Support program, The Reentry Support program, the L.G.B.T.Q. Resource Center; proposed a need for Safe Space Training for College Staff.
Ness white is a graduate student at Temple University, studying for her/his Master of Liberal Arts degree. Ness is also one of the co-editors of TFW’s Audre Lorde forum.