Remember your activism, back when the world was young?
I am publishing this epilogue first: It is the ending to next week’s piece, where I talk to my niece and nephew without revealing my own youthful involvement.
In London last month, on the embankment, (Bankside) at the free Tate museum of modern art, I paid to see a special exhibit of US Black political art. Outside the entrance, in the broad hall, were videos of Blacks speaking on camera: the assassinated and the dead. Of them, only Angela Davis, now out of prison, was still alive. From boyhood, I remembered James Baldwin, with great tender love, telling Ms Davis, “If they come for you in the morning, they will come for me in the evening.” I wanted to say so to the ticket taker, but my tongue faltered— I was too sad to talk to any Englishman too young to remember. I don’t regret my youthful days. The art included a door shot up by police killing a Black man as he lay sleeping. (Not the Black panther headquarters door, a different door)
At the exhibit gift shop—some shelves and counters by a cafe—I picked up a collection called Sister Outsider, essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, the U.S. Black poet and university teacher. About a decade before the taking down of the iron curtain, she went to Uzbekistan, a Soviet Socialist Republic. She wrote on page 29:
But she talked most movingly of the history of the women of Uzbekistan, a history which deserves more writing about than I can give it here. The ways in which the women of this area, from 1924 on, fought to come out from behind complete veiling, from Moslem cloister to the twentieth century. How they gave their lives to go bare-faced, to be able to read. Many of them fought and many of them died very terrible deaths in this battle, killed by their own fathers and brothers. It is a story of genuine female heroism and persistence. I thought of the South African women in 1956 who demonstrated and died rather than carry pass books. For the Uzbeki women, revolution meant being able to show their faces and go to school, and they died for it. A bronze statue stands in a square of Samarkand, monument to the fallen women and their bravery. Madam went on to discuss equality between the sexes. How many women now headed collective farms, how many women Ministers. She said there were a great many ways in which women governed; there was no difference between men and women now in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics…
From Lorde’s edited journal entries from her trip in 1976 as the invited American observer to the African-Asian Writers Conference sponsored by the Union of Soviet Writers.
Sister Outsider, copyright Audre Lorde 1984, 2007, Crossing Press, Berkeley
With lots of memories pouring in today,
Je ne regret rien,