Letter to Audre Lorde
ESSEX HEMPHILL

 

       
   

Dear Audre:

Your powerful, sky-soaring, heart-piercing, soul-stirring words will forever resonate with commitment, integrity, and responsibility. Thank you for your poetry and essays, woven as they were of courage and precision, love and bravery. You gave us living, fire-breathing words capable of healing, tearing down, building up, braving the long nights and languishing days. You gave us words we could use wisely. Words we could depend on. You gave us, simply, your life as a lesson to guide our own lives through this maze of destitution and despair that some would call a country, a nation, a home. You gave us words to counteract the myths that would seduce us to our deaths. You gave us words to bridge our differences and point us to a collective power instead of a singular, selfish glory. You gave us words to teach us how to define ourselves and love the persons we defined. Words cast like life ropes, like spells, like mirrors for us all to face and name what we see reflected back.

 
       

 

 
 
 

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You once said to me, "Essex, no one comes from their consciousness fully developed." In that statement you summed up, for me, the daily task of being accountable to ourselves and to one another, truthful and honest, and of course open to change. Committed to change. Determined, in our willful ways to make change a reality, to replace the cages and the rooms of disempowerment where we might choose to dwell without mirrors, without reflection, without courage. You said, "Look within," you said, "Don't be afraid," you said, "I support you," you said, "I love you," you said, "Man," you said, "Brother." You welcomed your brothers to come into the circle you were creating. You never barred us from participating in envisioning a new world. You only asked that we be brave, we be strong, we be committed to working for a joint liberation for the oppressed, a joint liberation for us all. You reminded us that new worlds do not come delivered on silver platters. New worlds, new ways of living do require getting the hands dirty. New worlds require more than lip-service and appearances.

I will continue to return to your words when I am not sure of my own way, when I do not trust my hand, when I cannot hear my voice within. I will forever know, through your work, especially your poetry, Audre, that there is a way to make a meaningful difference. There is a way to build a bridge, forge a bond, help one another. God bless your soul for showing us this and many, many other things.

Love,

 
     
 

 ©1993, 1995 by Essex Hemphill
 

 

     
   ESSEX HEMPHILL is the editor of the award-winning Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry. His work is featured in Looking for Langston and Tongues Untied, award-winning film and video documents about Black gay experiences. Hemphill has been a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, in California. He is currently working on his forthcoming novel Standing in the Gap, while completing an anthology of short fiction by Black gay men, entitled Beside Companions. Some of Hemphill's early works, now out of print, will be featured in the next issue of STANDARDS.  
     

 


     
 

 Original Graphic Images © 1995 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal

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