As aggressive acts of white racist violence intensify around us, aimed primarily but not exclusively at Black males (remember Eleanor Bumpers and Yvonne Smallwood)*, violence against Black women, both reported and unreported, intensifies within our communities. It is time to pump up the volume again around this wasteful secret and not hide from it under a cloak of false unity, not turn away from it, believe it will be solved by somebody else.
Black women will no longer accept being slaughtered like sheep on the alters of Black male frustration. On the other hand, we do not want to have to blow away Black men in our own self-defense. So Black women and men must devise ways of working together as a people to end this slaughter. We need each other too much to be destroying each other. We need each other too much, genuinely, as Black people unafraid of each other.
Each one of us can have some input into the lives of young Black boys who are part of our future. Each one of us has a voice than can be heard, and that voice must be used. Every Black person in this country is responsible in some way for teaching our sons that their manhood cannot lie within a pool of Black women’s blood.
And increasingly, there are Black male voices being raised with this lesson. In an extremely thorough and considered study of rape in Black communities, Kalamu ya Salaam noted, “[Black] women revolting and [Black] men made conscious of their responsibility to fight sexism will collectively stop rape.
We need to talk about what we do to each other, no matter what pain and anger may be mined within those conversations. This poem [Need] is as good a place as any to begin. We are too important to each other to waster ourselves in silence.
‘We CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT OUR LIVES’
August 31, 1989
Excerpt from: Preface To A New Edition of Need: A Chorale For Black Woman Voices by Audre Lorde
I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings by Audre Lorde, edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall (Oxford University Press, 2009)
1).Eleanor Bumbpurs, sixty-seven-years-old Black grandmother, [was] murdered in 1984 in her own apartment by New York City housing policemen with a shotgun, during eviction for being one month behind in her rent in public housing. Yvonne Smallwood [was] beaten to death by New York City policemen on a Manhattan street corner over a traffic ticket given to her boyfriend.
2). Kalamu ya Salaam, “Rape: A Radical Analysis from an African-American Perspective, “in Our Women Keep Our Skies from Falling (Nkombo, 1980), 25-41.