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Unghosting Apparitional (Lesbian) History

Erasures of Black Lesbian Feminism

Michelle Moravec, Author

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4 finding the tapes

While searching for information about The Second Sex Thirty Years Later Conference,  I came across the Lesbian Herstory Archives Herstories which holds many tapes of Audre Lorde speaking that have been digitized.

I listen to Lorde.  Her remarks would seem to indicate that she is responsbile for Bristow and Johnson’s inclusion

 “consider how Bonnie and Camille were even asked to do a paper at this conference. For instance why weren't other black women found to participate here?  Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names of black feminists in this country? And although Camille and Bonnie's paper ends on a very important and powerful connection that of love between women, what about inter-racial co-operation between feminists who do not love each other?” (0-0:42). 

Lorde’s final remark presumably referenced Johnson’s explanation in the interview of why she was willing to participate in the conference when Carol Ascher asked her to “let’s just call it women loving women."

But I also hear Bristow and Johnson, which frankly, is as thrilling as Audre Lorde's powerful words for me. Camille Bristow's remarks reflect the frustration she expressed in the interview with white women's desire to claim black women as "friends" while simultaneously tokenizing them and failing to recognize that black women "need to be with black women and find out who we are together." 

“I have the vision that when people start asking where are black and  brown and other women of color at a conference like
this we will all be around the corner or around the world or somewhere in the United States meeting ourselves"

Bristow emphasized that her comments came not only from her "daily experiences" as a black women, but also from the "more concentrated experience of this conference." (13:20-13:30)

Bonnie Johnson,  after expressing agreement with Bristow's comments, discussed her motivation for sharing their interview with the conference "Speaking for myself the reason that I decided it would be good for Camille and I to talk was to give the women at this conference an idea of the kind of questions we that we have about ourselves and our own black feminism not all the questions and none of the answers but we laid it out as it was"( 13:58-14:30)

I listen to all of the tapes, including Erhereich's denunciation of "radical feminism" and Linda Gordon's careful consideration of community. I listen to Italian feminist and psychoanalyst Manuela Fraire"Because the dependency [of women] is, as we say in Italy the black beast of our lives" (1830-1836), which Lorde objected to in her remarks and Fraire refused to see as racist.

I also listen to audience comments from women perhaps not on Lorde's side, as Benjamin recalled but willing to listen at least for a while, until the shouting starts and pleas come "to discuss" the papers, as though Lorde had committed some sort of academic faux pas.

During these audience remarks, Johnson thanks “Carol Ascher who sort of appears as a ghost” but served as the interviewer for their conversation. (15:30-15:50), as well as Susan McHenry apologizing for her own heterosexism during her remarks the first night (9:10-15:10).

The conference revolved around the goal of (and assumption of) a common agenda by the (white) organizers, but also, as one of the organizers admitted during comments from the floor "central issue was gay straight not women of color" and exhorted the audience to "get down to work stop testifying and recriminating."
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