The key to bring the crowds back to the meetings comes from an unlikely source.
By Valeria Di Bisceglie
The covid pandemic that began in 2019 put a strain on the CIS student community, which suddenly stopped actively participating in university life by limiting itself to attending classes, often online, and taking exams. Meetings that usually saw a large turnout of interested students in various fields turned into a wasted desert of learning opportunities. The celebration of poet Audre Lorde that took place last October represented a restart.
Present at the meeting were professors from the English department, Members of the LGBTQ+ community, members of the Black community of CSI, and family members of the poet who discussed the great importance of her figure to all, her social commitment and her role that is still a great inspiration today.
English poetry professor Cate Marvin read an excerpt from the poem “Movement Song.” The professor explained what Audre Lord’s genius lay in: her ability to talk about different themes made her revolutionary and innovative, especially considering the historical period in which she lived.
“When I teach, I have always leaned on one of Lord’s poems, Coal,” Marvin said. “There is something she does with language that makes it so revolutionary and there is so much feeling in it.”
Lorde lived much of her life on the island. In the New Dorp neighborhood she settled with her lover Frances Clayton. Here she continued her career before falling ill and dying in November 1992. Many of those in attendance, friends and family, recalled the house as a harmonious and welcoming environment that conveyed Lorde’s energy and ideals. A video showed the poet’s beloved places on Staten Island, where she actively participated in community life especially by attending the island’s few but crowded homosexual clubs.
Students in the English department also recalled her importance in the field of literature. What made the poet a prominent personality who still engages a large audience was above all her solidarity and cohesion toward the minorities to which she herself belonged. That is why her presence also remains alive in LGBTQ+ and Black Student Unions even 30 years after her death. Indeed, these student communities have embraced Lorde’s message, spreading the importance of disarming racism and homophobia, recognizing the beauty and courage of being different, actively fighting for something different from the discrimination we still experience today.
The winning key to this meeting was to focus on a multifaceted personality. In Audre Lorde the community mirrored itself by finding a point of reference that opened the doors for a dialogue that touched on various social issues. In fact, the meeting was not limited to the exaltation of Lord’s life but dealt with issues that engaged the audience, pushing them to an active debate.
Professor Matt Brim reminded those present how important and successful it was in Audre Lorde’s life to stand up for her ideals by fighting for what she believed in and motivated those present to turn personal struggles into communal discussion.
“She was fierce and strong,“ said Brim. “ She fought and insisted until everyone saw her and that is why we remember her.”