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Aishah Shahidah Simmons — my sister and comrade across miles and years, and the visionary behind the historic forum you’ve been reading for the last two weeks — has broken new ground here. I honor her work behind and in front of the scenes and I share openly my love for her with all of her, my, and our complexities. Ours is the kind of love that Audre Lorde teaches — “each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever” — and I feel as if I have loved Aishah for many evers. We have difficult conversations, we take silence and give each other space, we listen, we learn, we cry, we laugh, we embrace, we break bread, we promise, we envision, we conspire, we let each other down, we hold each other up. She is one of my people and I love her deeply. I love her as The Lorde taught us to love. With complexity and depth.
I begin this as a letter of love to Aishah because I want to honor her work, yes, but I also want to imagine the many ways she and I will continue the celebration underway here, as a way to imagine the ways we will all continue to share in the life and legacy of Audre Lorde.
Our sister/mother/warrior Audre Lorde embraced, rejected, and negotiated many labels to understand and convey her complexities. She taught us about the value of showing up in many places and being present for the gifts of life, love, and celebration. (She also showed up for a great deal of pain, which is also part of her legacy and what we honor through this marvelous forum.) Feminist Studies, the first scholarly journal in the field of women’s studies, continues the celebration of Audre Lorde’s life and legacy in the forthcoming spring 2014 issue.
Within the pages, the editorial collective will publish four original pieces by authors whose words have been shared here. Two of them were generated by the 2012 forum hosted by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Hunter College on the 20th anniversary of Lorde’s death — one of several celebrations that have and will take up the legacies of Lorde’s work. Simmons will publish the transcript of her talk at the Hunter College event; Feminist Studies will also publish the video of this talk at our website. Lyndon K. Gill will publish a tender and moving recollection of Lorde’s impact as a queer, intersectional theorist long before queer theory and intersectional analysis were invoked as terminology. Dagmar Schultz will also share a new reflection on the making of her film, a piece that honors the complexities of her friendship with Audre Lorde. Alexis Pauline Gumbs closes the celebration of Lorde’s life with soul-enriching poetry that helps us imagine a NEW language — part of her concordance — befitting Audre Lorde’s legacy.
If it were not for a conversation — one of many, but this one as she was en route to New York for the Hunter College forum — Aishah and I had, Feminist Studies (full disclosure: I am a member of its editorial collective) may not be publishing these poems and reflections. But my colleagues and dear friends there saw the power and potential of the work we will publish there; collectively and enthusiastically, we created the opportunity to give over valuable (in academic circles) print space to the legacy of Audre Lorde. Lorde’s oeuvre invites us as readers to consider mortality, gender, sex, love, family, life, and the power of the erotic as overlapping sites of personal and political empowerment. It also reflects poignantly on the reality that she — like all of us — would transition out of our physical bodies, as she did just over 20 years ago. But her legacy lives on here, at Feminist Studies, and around the world. It lives on through the life and work of Aishah, my TFW family, and so many people I do not know but whose work I see. Feminist Studies will continue the celebration in our own way. It is my hope that we all continue the celebration in all of the complexities befitting The Lorde.