Tag Archives: Jesse Helms

Black History Month 2014: Audre Lorde

18 Feb

audre-lorde-500x250I would like to honor and pay tribute to Audre Lorde.  Today would have been her 80th birthday.  Lorde was a native New Yorker who grew up in Harlem. Her parents both immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean. Among her many career moves, Lorde was a librarian and a social worker. In fact, she received her Master’s in Library Science from Columbia University.

Although she was married to a man, Edwin Rollins and had two children, Lorde identified as a lesbian. The self-described “black-lesbian feminist mother lover warrior poet,” became a well recognized voice for women, lesbians, blacks, mothers, and poets; let us not forget her anti-war activism. Her fight for equality and peace was rather inclusive, as she was able to see the connections and ties amongst them all. Lorde was one of the first to acknowledge and point to how connected racism, sexism, and homophobia are — what I would call the intersections of oppression. Lorde addressed this intersectionality and how her work at that time dealt with oppression from the dominant discourse:

My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds. . . . [White, arch-conservative senator] Jesse Helms’s objection to my work is not about obscenity . . .or even about sex. It is about revolution and change. . . . Helms represents. . . . white patriarchal power. . . .[and he] knows that my writing is aimed at his destruction, and the destruction of every single thing he stands for.”

What is lovely about this quote is that Lorde was not only inspiring and was practicing good social work, but her legacy is on the right side of history, unlike Helms who left a legacy of hate and racism. It seems odd to me that anyone could not see how connected racism, misogyny, and homophobia are.  Our silence about any of these forms of bigotry will not protect or help us.  Happy Birthday, Audre Lorde!

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month: June 2, Roberta Achtenberg

2 Jun

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Roberta Achtenberg. While many of you may recognize Achtenberg’s name as the co-founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, she made an amazing impact as the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the Senate for a major political post.  In 1993, Achtenberg became the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton.

In 1993, her Senate confirmation was not without stress.  Remember that lovely racist bigot, Jesse Helms, from North Carolina?  Helms referred to Achtenberg as, “that damn lesbian.”  I remember being particularly happy about Achtenberg standing up to the Boy Scouts and denying them funding because of their anti-gay discrimination–something not seen in the Girl Scouts.  Unfortunately, despite Achtenberg’s censure of the Boy Scouts and Steven Spielberg’s protest of the discriminatory policies, the Boy Scouts still practice the good old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” stay in the closet policy.  Kudos to our Achtenberg for making the world a better place for all.

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