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Re-Membering Audre Lorde and Celebrating Toni Cade Bambara - The Feminist Wire

Re-Membering Audre Lorde and Celebrating Toni Cade Bambara

Toni Cade Bambara credit/copyright: Harvey Finkle

Toni Cade Bambara
credit/copyright: Harvey Finkle

I wish I could write that my sister-comrade-friend Heidi R. Lewis and I always envisioned the Lorde-Bambara connection for The Feminist Wire‘s (TFW) two-week forum in honor of “Toni Cade Bambara‘s 75th Birthday Anniversary Year.” We did not. We chose the November 17, 2014 – November 30, 2014 dates in early June 2014, because they are the last two weeks in November. TFW goes on break for the entire month of December; and we wanted to end TFW’s 2014 year with all things Bambara.

Was it coincidence or karmic symmetry that the first day of our celebration in honor of Bambara falls on the twenty-second anniversary on Lorde’s transcendence into the ancestral world? We do not know. What we know is that our sister ancestral spirits are communing with us.

Audre Lorde photo/copyright: Dagmar Schultz

Audre Lorde
photo/copyright: Dagmar Schultz

Lorde and Bambara were sisters-comrades-friends. They were among many notable Black women writers/activists/organizers who taught in the SEEK Program at City College in New York. Lorde was one of the featured authors in The Black Woman, Bambara’s ground breaking and timeless anthology that was first published in 1970. Bambara, Lorde, Adrienne Rich and Michelle Cliff, traveled to St. Croix to participate in the first Women’s Writers Conference held on the Island. This herstoric conference was organized by scholar and activist Dr. Gloria I. Joseph. The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix (WCSC) was a direct outgrowth of the conference. Now in its 33rd year, the WCSC is the primary organization in St. Croix that deals with domestic and sexual violence.  Lorde’s and Bambara’s radical and revolutionary lives were cut too short because of cancer. In spite of this, they left rich and powerful legacies from which we are forever learning and building upon. Audre Lorde‘s and Toni Cade Bambara’s papers, along with Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole‘s papers, are housed in the  Spelman College Archives.

TFW hosted a global forum in honor of “Audre Lorde’s 80th Birthday Anniversary Year” from February 18, 2014 through March 1, 2014. If you missed part or even all of it, we invite you to read and, when applicable, view the “Lordean” offerings.

In closing, we offer an extended excerpt from Audre Lorde’s poem to Toni Cade Bambara. We celebrate Lorde and Bambara’s  powerful Black feminist sisterhood-camaraderie-friendship that continues well into the spirit realm.

Dear Toni Instead of a Letter of Congratulation Upon Your Book and Your Daughter Whom You Say Your Raising To Be A Correct Little Sister[1]

 

[…] I first saw you behind a caseworker’s notebook

defying upper Madison Avenue and my roommate’s concern

The ghost of Maine lobsterpots trailing behind you

And I followed you into east fourth street and out

Through Bellevue’s side entrance one night

Into the respectable vineyards of Yeshivas intellectual gloom

And there I lost you between the books and the games

until I rose again out of Jackson Mississippi

to find you in an office down the hall form mine

calmly studying term papers like maps

marking off stations

on our trip through the heights of Convent Avenue

teaching English our children citycollege

softer and tougher and more direct

and putting your feet up on a desk you say Hi

I’m going to have a baby so now I can really indulge myself

Through that slim appraisal of your world

I felt you

Grinning and plucky and a little bit scared

Perhaps of the madness past that had relieved you

Through your brittle young will of iron

Into the fire of whip steel.

I have a daughter also

Who does not remind me of you

But she too has deep aquatic eyes that are burning and curious.

As she moves through taboos

Whirling myths like gay hoops over her head

I know beyond fear and history

That our teaching means keeping trust

With less and less correctness

Only with ourselves

History may alter

Old pretenses and victories

But not the pain my sister never the pain.

In my daughter’s name

I bless your child with the mother she has

with a future of warriors and growing fire.

But with tenderness also,

for we are landscapes, Toni,

printed upon them

as water etches feather on stone.

Our girls will grow into their own

Black Women

Finding their own contradictions

That they will come to love

as I love you.

[September 1971]

On November 17, 2014, we Re-Member Audre Lorde’s transcendence while we simultaneously begin our two-week praise song in honor of Toni Cade Bambara.

In honor of our Sister Ancestral Spirits, Ase’.


[1] Audre Lorde. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (New York, NY.: W.W. Norton, 1997) : 93.


Aishah Shahidah Simmons Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, cultural worker, and international lecturer. An incest and rape survivor, she is the Creator of the Ford Foundation-funded internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary.  Presently, she is an adjunct professor in the Women’s and LGBT Studies Program at Temple University. Previously, she was an O’Brien Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College and a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Committed to archiving, documenting, and telling Black women’s herstories and contemporary realities, Aishah was the Curator and Lead Editor of  The Feminist Wire‘s (TFW), “Global Forum on Audre Lorde.” She is also the Co-Curator and Co-Editor, with Heidi R. Lewis, of TFW’s “Toni Cade Bambara 75th Birthday Anniversary Forum.”  Aishah is the author of several essays  including the Foreword to the recently released Dear Sister: Letters to Survivors of Sexual Violence. She has screened her work, guest lectured, and facilitated workshops and dialogues about ending all forms of sexual violence; queer identity from an AfroLez®femcentric perspective; the grassroots process of making social change documentaries; and non-Christocentric spirituality at colleges and universities, high schools, conferences, international film festivals, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, community centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and government sponsored events across the United States and Canada, throughout Italy, in South Africa, France, England, Croatia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, and India. You can follow Aishah on twitter at @AfroLez and connect via her public Facebook page. For more information, please visit: http://NOtheRapeDocumentary.org

3 Comments

  1. Linda Tauhid

    November 18, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Beautifully done. The words of Audre Lourde are magic!

    • Aishah Shahidah Simmons

      November 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Thank you, very much.

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