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House of Lorde

by Philip Runia

Video by Alex Kramer

At the University of Iowa student organization fair on Jan. 24 a new group, House of Lorde, illuminated those feeling voiceless: queer black students.

House of Lorde asserts itself as the first all-inclusive organization for African American LGBTQ students. As an activist group, its meetings will hinge on policy change, social politics and events that intertwine the Afro House and LGBTQ Resource Center. The group is collaborative, but Brooke Kimbrough and Santos Rodriguez stand as its figureheads.

Rodriguez, a fourth-year student majoring in biomathematics and bioinformatics, explained the group’s purpose.

“House of Lorde serves a duplicitous role to impact change on campus, as well as in the community, in an aspect for us to be free and to be who we are and to have fun. Also, to learn about the errors of our history that contribute to what we are,” said Rodriguez.

Kimbrough, a fourth-year student majoring in African-American Studies and English & Creative Writing, expressed frustration at the lack of black voices heard in the queer community, and vice versa, on campus.

“It’s cute to say ‘recognizing diversity’ within blackness, but it’s a lot of work in producing a community that is conducive towards that,” said Kimbrough. “It’s recognizing that we must have programming that is informed by trauma. Black people have incurred an absurd amount of trauma that has made us have these very rigid understandings of gender and sexuality even though that’s not germane to the communities of which our ancestors were from prior to the Middle Passage . . . Our relationship to masculinity, femininity, and our sexualities are informed by the trauma of slavery. They were shaped on the plantation and onward.”

The muse of House of Lorde is mother, lesbian, African American, and visionary feminist Audre Lorde. A pillar at the intersection of the black and queer communities, she advocated for representation of African Americans in the LGBTQ community, and vice versa, through philosophy and poetry, i.e. her book The Black Unicorn (1978). Acknowledging the multiplicities in gender, race, and sexuality (as well as health, class, and age), Lorde was well ahead of her time in discovering a buzzword of 2018: intersectionality. Professing the value of visible and audible intersectionality and finding common ground between identities was her creed.

Related: Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde

Community and faculty members have reached out in support of the new group. Financially, House of Lorde has full support from the University of Iowa.

House of Lorde will hold its first interest meeting and event, titled “Black HERstory” at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the LGBTQ Resource Center. It will commemorate Audre Lorde’s birthday, Black History Month, and keynote speaker LaToya Green of Higher Definition Leadership and Empowerment Coaching.

Besides events, meetings are expected to be scheduled every three weeks.

“This is supposed to be some shit that makes you feel good, even be excited to come. Be like, ‘I need to come to this bitch cause I got to tell y’all some shit,’ and then we gotta do something about it,” Kimbrough said with a laugh.