Happy birthday to Audre Lorde.
She's one of the reasons I managed to go from painfully shy to a handle-my-business fairly assertive adult. One of my favorite quotes: "When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." Thank you, Ms. Audre Lorde.
"I see protest as a genuine means of encouraging someone to feel the inconsistencies, the horror of the lives we are living. Social protest is saying that we do not have to live this way. If we feel deeply, and we encourage ourselves and others to feel deeply, we will find the germ of our answers to bring about change. Because once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy. And when they do not, we will ask, "Why don't they?" And it is the asking that will lead us inevitably toward change.
So the question of social protest and art is inseparable for me. I can't say it is an either-or proposition. Art for art's sake doesn't really exist for me. What I saw was wrong, and I had to speak up. I loved poetry, and I loved words. But what was beautiful had to serve the purpose of changing my life, or I would have died. If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That's the beginning of social protest.
"Audre Lorde." Black Women Writers at Work. Ed. Claudia Tate. NY: Continuum, 1983. 100-16.