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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 has digitized many tapes of Audre Lorde speaking, including the session at the Second Sex Conference . 

 I listen to Lorde (whose remarks are incomplete due to flipping of the tape).  Her remarks would seem to indicate that she is responsbile for Bristow and Johnson’s inclusion

 “consider how Bristow and Johnson were even asked to do their paper here. Why weren't other black women found to participate in this conference? Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names of black feminists? And although their paper ends on an important and powerful connection of love between women, what about inter-racial co-operation between feminists who don't love each other?”

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 hearing Audre Lorde's powerful words for me.  Camille speaks first and her frustrating at the exclusion of black women is clear “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" 1350    

Bonnie, after expressing agreement with Camille’s remarks, explained 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 1358-1430"

I listen to all of the tapes, including Erhereich's denunciation of "radical feminism" and Linda Gordon's careful consideration of community (both of which were punished Heresies & Gordon).   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 part of racism.  

I also hear, during audience comments, 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 to "discuss" the papers, as though Lorde had committed some sort of academic faux pas. 

I also hear, during these audience remarks, Johnson thank  “carol ascher who sort of appears as a ghost” but served as the interviewer for their conversation. (tape 1 side 2 15:30-15:50), as well as Susan McHenry apologizing for her own heterosexism during her remarks the first night.  And these two remarks, form a black women thanking a whie woman and a black straight woman apologizing to lesbian women, point to the more complicated issues at stake both at the conference and in Lorde's remarks, which were not merely about black and white feminists, but a meditation on the meaning and function of difference in perpetuating and maintaining oppressions. 

The conference revolved around the goal of (and assumption of) a common agenda by the (white) organizers

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