At a time when it’s perceived to be progressive to broadcast your ability to ‘look beyond’ race, gender, sexuality and other markers of difference, it’s useful for us to remember the words of Audre Lorde. It is not ‘those differences between us that are separating us,’ she explained, ‘rather [it is] our refusal to recognise those differences and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behaviour and expectation’. Audre Lorde was born in New York City in 1934, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants from Granada, and 2012 – the release date of Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years – marked the 20th anniversary of her death. Up until she died at the age of 58, and throughout her long illness, Audre Lorde published fifteen volumes of poetry, a novel, and many collections of essays, of which The Cancer Journals and Sister Outsider received worldwide attention. Her legacy of anger and (sometimes uncomfortable) honesty, but also of warmth and kindness, remains an important part of literary, feminist and anti-racist University and activist curricula.
This year, just like every year, is a time when we need to see difference due to the hatred and injustice which still persist. When Mike Brown, an 18 year-old unarmed black man visiting his Grandmother, is killed by police in Ferguson for no other reason than the perceived threat of the black body. When, in response, one black protester holds a placard which reads ‘truth is, we are all one bullet away from being a hashtag’. And when, after this horrific incident and nationwide protests which followed, some Black feminists highlight the disparity between the media attention granted to the murders of black men and the lesser visibility given to the murders of black women, and especially black trans women. In the words of Jessica Pierce, national co-chair of the Black Youth Project 100, ‘we need justice that recognizes that Black lives actually matter. Not just Black heterosexual male lives but all Black lives’.
Then, when Django Unchained actress, Daniele Watts, is assumed to be a sex worker by American police simply because she is ‘caught’ kissing her white boyfriend. Reni Eddo-Lodge calls our attention to the story’s ‘ugly intersection’ in which the stigmatisation of sex workers and the scrutiny of black women converge. She asks why it is that black women are ‘still not deemed good enough for white men’. And lastly, when a black trans woman is verbally abused and violently attacked in a New York Subway and the Youtube video goes viral, but for all the wrong reasons.
In Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years, we witness Lorde’s lasting contributions to the German political and cultural scene before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. She works to engender the empowerment of Afro-German women, just as she challenges white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. This special screening of the documentary, a first of its kind in Sheffield, provides a rare opportunity to catch Lorde on film, and encourages us to reflect on why these conversations still matter and how we can learn from her words today. If you’re not already familiar with Lorde’s powerful prose and verse, now is your chance to become acquainted.
This collaboration between the Showroom, the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Gender Research and LaDIYfest Sheffield is illustrative of the scope and reach of Audre Lorde’s work and our shared belief in its continuing value.
LaDIYfest Sheffield and Centre for Gender Research
[You can watch Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years on Monday 6th October, 6.30pm at the Showroom Cinema. A short introduction to the film will be provided by Azeezat Johnson, a Black feminist and PhD student at the University of Sheffield, working with Black British Muslim Women. Please join us in the bar afterwards for a drink and further discussion. For more information on the screening, please click here. A Facebook event can be found here, and Showroom ticketing information is here.]