Audre Lorde was a Carribean born feminist, activist, poet, writer, and lesbian who died of cancer in 1992, at the same time I was just discovering her work. She is perhaps best known for saying “The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” The original essay that quote came from can be found in her collection of essays and speeches, Sister Outsider (or online). The essential idea behind that quote, often heard but not as often understood, was that we cannot affect change playing by the rules that we had no voice in creating. These structures that surround us are designed to maintain oppression, not give us voice to rise up. The questions, then, become: How do we begin to get our voice back? and How do we learn to speak our truth with safety?
1. What are the words you do not have yet?
What experiences have you had for which there is no words to properly describe what has happened?
2.What do you need to say?
What are the things you have not yet shared? Maybe not even to yourself. Maybe because the words have not been available. List as many things as you need to list.
3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?
What do you take on that is not yours, no matter how often you are told that it is? What is imposed upon you that you suffer through in order to put food on the table? To remain connected to others? To survive? This list is ever growing and ever changing. Change the list as often as need be.
4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?”
What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best? What is the most likely? Is it worth speaking up right now? If not, what would need to change to make it worth it?