In January, 1993, I went to Audre’s memorial service at St. John the Divine. Because I’d moved to the East Coast not long before, and still had so many friends in the Midwest who could never have attended, I took along a Walkman and recorded what I could of the service, holding it in my lap. Technology being what it was, I had to keep flipping the tapes, and at one point change the batteries, so the recording wasn’t great, but it existed.
In 2020, as the anniversary of her death approached, I decided it was time to do something with these tapes. I had, a few years ago, digitized some of the speeches, which are linked below, but the tapes were just sitting. I felt a little guilty about having recorded it – who was I to do that? – and also sure that other people must have made some more official recording, although I’d never seen any mentions of such a thing. So I reached out to Julie Enzser, editor of Sinister Wisdom and lesbian herstorian, and she put me in touch with the Lorde archives at Spelman. They are SO excited to know these tapes exist, and I’ll be sending the original recordings to them soon so they can be digitized and archived.
So someday soon the amount of the service I managed to record will be available to all. Until then, you can listen to a few moments from that day. I wish there were video, to capture how the huge cathedral was packed wall to wall, front to back, with the most diverse gathering people I’ve ever seen – more than 5000. How the grief and love and loss and power were palpable. How the event started with Episcopal priests with a huge cross and robes and swinging incense and bells, followed by the women of the Ase drumming circle, swaying and playing and filling the huge space with Earth Mother rhythm, then calling the Orishas to attend and witness.
Lorde was 58 when she died in 1992 – how has it been that long?