To be named for the late poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, the first-ever chair of its kind at an historically black college or university will be part of the Comparative Women's Studies Program within the school's Women's Research and Resource Center. The college has announced that it is launching a fundraising campaign to raise the $2 million needed to match the gift.
The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Lorde became a leader in the early lesbian activist community while she was a student in New York City in the 1950s. She went on to write extensively about sexuality, race, gender, class, disease, the arts, parenting, and resistance; published nine volumes of poetry; and was named New York State's poet laureate in 1991. "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed," she wrote. "But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak."
Lorde spoke at Spelman College on several occasions and in 1995 donated her personal papers and other artifacts to the Spelman Archives. Since 2009, the Audre Lorde Papers have been available to students, faculty, and scholars from around the world as part of an effort funded by the Arcus Foundation.
"Spelman College has long been at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion and education among HBCUs," said Stryker. "By supporting this chair, the goal is to engage and empower the next generation of LGBTQ advocates to create a better world."
"A chaired professorship in Queer Studies enables the college to build on one of its strengths and that is Spelman's educational inclusiveness, spearheaded by the Women's Research and Resource Center under the stellar direction of Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall," said Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell. "Spelman's Women's Center has been and continues to be a pioneering leader in advancing scholarship in the area of Queer Studies. Jon Stryker's generous contribution to further his commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and education will allow Spelman students to deepen their understanding around the study of sexuality and gender. We are honored to name the chair after the literary luminary and fierce activist, Audre Lorde."