Dear Audre: – The Feminist Wire

Dear Audre:

By J. Bob Alotta

Astraea Foundation's Audre Lorde & Adrienne Rich Benefit Poster

Astraea Foundation’s Audre Lorde & Adrienne Rich Benefit Poster


There is a framed poster of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich in my office.

It is a poster for a fundraiser they headlined in 1981.  Tickets were $6.50, sliding scale for students, the unemployed and those on fixed income.  I am only the second Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

 I have taken a seat inside of an institution their fire helped create/demand/architect.

Astraea was born in 1977 out of the radical belief that self-determination deserved to be resourced/funded/fueled.

Today, Astraea is one of the largest funders of LGBTQI activism in the world.  We still raise all of the money we reinvest.  We still fund nascent and emerging groups.   Standing strongly on our lesbian feminist roots, we understand this to be a present-tense ethos demanding, still, the most radical possibility for us all.

No matter where I stand in my office, Audre’s gaze follows.  I’m often in conversation, look up and wonder what she would say or do in the same circumstance.   Likewise, I project myself back and wonder who I would have been then as an adult.   I think I foolishly have not properly held the value of desire as impetus to politically act.  The love required to believe so purposefully in your own self, in your own people, in your chosen tribe, astounds me.  I can barely fathom what it must have meant to take the first steps toward each other.

Dear. Audre.

Why I haven’t written sooner.

 This is the thing.  I have been stuck.  I have been stuck on reverence and presupposition and need.  Because I need to talk all the big things thru w you, I need to know you’re watching/guiding/believing in the direction course risk-path we (I) I am taking.  That it’s worthy and righteous and possible even if goddess knows it may not be probable.  I think of you holding court w all the new arrivals and wonder how “new” gets qualified there.  Octavia.  I wanna know if she talks to you about what she knew was coming.  Are you the ones letting us believe fiction speculated can in fact urge the arrival of possibilities not probable but fantastic?   Stuart.  Jose.  Pete.  That’s just this month.  Are y’all taking about how there goes the neighborhood or were you steady ready making room bc we needed more push there for here?  Are you and A.B. getting along, spinning webs of verse, or is there a huffy period?   We. I. am feeling older.  Feeling frontline-ish.  Feeling clear the tide is turning and we are supposed to be taking our lessons and leading.   Purpose.   I have been stuck.  You have surely already known.  I have not asked you what I want to know.

Swagger.  I want to talk to you about love.  I want to know how the Transformation of Silence into Language and Action results in a woman putting her hand on my face. Letting me know something about myself I otherwise would simply never have known.  I want to talk about that hand.  I want to talk about that woman.  I want to remain silent when there are no words, I want to traverse place when Language is but one alchemic conduit for meaning/planes of existence/all-time, I want to understand body as [that. traversable.] place.  One of many agreements we make so we can function on the day to day, so we can bask in history and culture and people invoking our particular beautific so we can say we  so when we stand we are known, so we can in fact call forth the power of somethings someones some the sum of us.   I want to talk about us.  So that demands can be placed.  So we can in fact have that human experience so it begets no bargaining.  So that it is all.  Whole.   I do in fact want to talk about the ground. I want to talk about standing.  I want to talk about children I want to talk about the big stuff for sure I want to be clear and serious.  I want to fight the good fight.  But.  AND.  And.  Exactly.  The sums again.  I want to talk about the tenderness.  The breath.  The rest.  Audre.  Who said your name so you could hear it?  I want to ask you that.   I have never called you anything but Mother and I do feel quite shy bringing this into the room.  However.  I was on a plane. And I turned one of your pages and there, in verse, you turned me the hell out.  And I thought.  Swagger.  Goddamn she had some old school get down swagger and How I wish I could talk to her about that.   But I never tried.   Before now.


J. Bob Alotta photo/copyright: desdemona burgin

J. Bob Alotta
photo/copyright: desdemona burgin

J. Bob Alotta is a  Filmmaker, media-activist and technologist turned Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.  Astraea was founded in 1977 in order to address the lack of funding for lesbians and women of color.  Today, Astraea is one of the most imperative LGBTQI rights foundations working for social, racial, gender, and economic justice around the globe. Through film, food (!) and at Astraea, Bob engages everyone as if liberation, pleasure and profound happiness is not only possible but probable. She was named The Feminist Wire’s “Feminist We Love” on Friday, June 27, 2014, which was the 44th anniversary weekend of the her/historic Stonewall Rebellion in New York City.