“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"

Read the entire speech at this link:
"The Transformation Of Silence into Language and Action" was originally a speech given by Audre Lorde at the Lesbian and Literature Panel of the MLA in December 1977.  After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lorde became more aware of her own limited amount of time on earth. 

"I was going to die, if not sooner than later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself."

Lorde urges those of us who tend to be taciturn to share our important truths with others now, because we are all in this existence for a finite period of time.  We need to take advantage of our opportunity.  Mind you, this is not about spouting mindless babble just to fill up empty space or please another.  This is about converting unexpressed verbal energy into something practical that is beautiful. It will be beautiful because it touches another person's life and heart. 

Lorde shared her need to speak even if she had no listeners.  I do not know about you, but there have been times when I wanted to say something, and for whatever reason talked myself out of it, because the last time I spoke up someone implied I did have enough understanding of the subject of which I was speaking.  When this happens to you or me should we stop airing our knowledge and opinions?  One thing is sure; lack of knowledge has not stopped certain other people from talking.

"And, of course, I am afraid-you can hear it in my voice-because the transformation of silence into laungage and action is an act of self revelation and that always seems fraught with danger." 

One of most pervasive fears that people have is speaking in public.  Personally, I have embarrassed myself stuttering, my stomach churning behind a lectern, feeling as if I was going to faint or throw up.  One might think a poet like Lorde would have been used to speaking in public, but it can be scary to stand exposed in front of an audience, especially if you are sharing hard earned knowledge and experience that others might not want to hear.

"What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence?"

It could be that we need to hear our own individual voices out loud in order to remember who we are. It also may be that the speaking of truths by one person might encourage others to speak their truths too. A domino effect will be created and those who were alone will not be anymore.

I, Judaye, am a proud middle-aged woman who knows brown skin is pretty and nappy hair a beautiful gift from God.  Some people are frightened of me because they don't know what category I fit into, and the truth is I span many categories.  And I believe you do too.  As I write these words, I am far from perfect and I know it, but that does not mean I should never speak. 

Ouotes taken from The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde.  Published in 1980 by Aunt Lute Books, San Francisco.

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