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Litany for Survival: The Life & Work of Audre Lorde

1994  |  16mm film  |  color  |  90 min
Ada Griffen & Michelle Parker
Holly Fisher

1995, Premiered at Sundance Film Festival
“Best Biography Award” Golden Gate Film Festival
1996, selected for POV


An epic portrait of the eloquent, award-winning Black, lesbian, poet, mother, teacher and activist, Audre Lorde, whose writings — spanning five decades — articulated some of the most important social and political visions of the century. From Lorde’s childhood roots in NYC’s Harlem to her battle with breast cancer, this moving film explores a life and a body of work that embodied the connections between the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, and the struggle for lesbian and gay rights. At the heart of this documentary is Lorde’s own challenge to envision what has not been and work with every fiber of who we are to make the reality and pursuit of that vision irresistible.

A Litany for Survival features interviews with many of Lorde’s fellow poets and activists, including Adrienne Rich, Sapphire, and Sonia Sanchez—all of whom pay tribute to Lorde’s impact as a mentor and inspirational force. Lorde had many children—two biologically and many metaphorically, from colleagues and students to people she met only fleetingly. “I remember meeting Audre when I was in college,” says Griffin. “She remembered me 20 years later when I called her about making the film.”

“There are some of us who think of Audre as a mother,” says Jewelle Gomez, who studied poetry with Lorde at Hunter College in New York. As a professor, Lorde encouraged her students to find their own voice. “You don’t need me,” she told the class as the term was ending. “The ‘me’ that you’re talking about you carry around inside yourselves. I’m trying to show you how to find that piece in yourselves because it exists. It is you. You have got to be able to touch that, to say the things, to invite, to court yourself. . . . Don’t mythologize me.”