Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992

Audre Lorde’s incisive, often-angry, but always brilliant writings and speeches defined and inspired the American feminist, lesbian, African-American, and women of color movements of the 70s and 80s. Her contributions as an American social justice and literary icon have overshadowed an entire rich chapter in her life that has been called “The Berlin Years” (1984 to her death in 1992).  Feminist publisher and university professor, Dagmar Schultz, arranged to both publish the German translations of Audre’s works, and to organize an invitation from the Free University of Berlin for Lorde to come and teach there as a visiting professor in 1984.

The film explores the importance of Lorde’s legacy, as she encouraged Afro-Germans–who at that time had no name or space for themselves–to make themselves visible within a culture that until then had kept them isolated and silent. It chronicles Lorde’s empowerment of Afro-german women to write and to publish, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege.

Audre not only catalyzed an entire social movement, but in the eyes of most Afro-Germans at the time, she inspired them to reach out to each other, dialogue together, share the pain of their experiences, and in so doing to claim their own empowerment as allies to each other and as equals within German society.

Over the decade that Audre spent a part of each year in Germany her influence extended out throughout Europe and touched many other communities of color.  She formed alliances with international feminists and became a cornerstone of the emerging international human rights movement, and an important voice of support for South African women in their struggles against apartheid.

The relationship between Audre and Germany did not go only one way.   After having been diagnosed and treated for a deadly form of cancer that left her American doctors without much hope for her survival, Audre sought out homeopathic and other naturopathic treatment in Germany where these forms of healing were widely available and viewed with respect by the health community. As a result Audre lived eight years longer than had been predicted, and was able to continue working, writing, teaching and speaking long beyond what had been expected.

Fortunately, during much of this decade, Dagmar photographed, taped, and video-recorded Audre, without any plan whatsoever about what to do with this trove of material.  Now, 20 years after Audre Lorde’s death, never-before-seen archival video- and audio recordings reveal a significant part of the private Audre Lorde as well as her agenda – to awake the Afro-German movement.

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