A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde

A passionate visionary spoke to her deepest convictions — love and anger, civil rights and sexuality, family politics, and the glories of nature.

Premiere Date
June 18, 1996
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1995 San Francisco International Film Festival-Audience Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1995 Creteil International Film Festival-Prix du Public
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1995 OutFest: Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-OUTstanding Documentary Feature
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1995 San Francisco International Film Festival-Golden Gate Award, Best Documentary Feature
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1995 Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Best Feature Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1996 Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame -First Place, Documentary
  • Producer

    Ada Gay Griffin

    Ada Gay Griffin is an African American activist working in electronic media and film production. She has been executive director of Third World Newsreel since 1988 and works to ensure a flourishing future for producers of color in progressive media. She studied art, political science, and Black feminist writing at Hampshire College, where she studied the works of Audre Lorde. Griffin is also developing Black in a Small Town, a documentary series that will explore issues of race and class in semi-rural areas of the United States.


    Michelle Parkerson

    Michelle Parkerson is a writer and independent filmmaker from Washington D.C. She has served on the faculties of Temple University, the University of Delaware, Howard University, and Northwestern University. Her public television specials include But Then She’s Betty Carter and Urban Odyssey. In 1992, she received a Rockefeller Foundation Film/Video Fellowship. As a member of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women (8th Cycle), she wrote and directed Odds and Ends, a Black Amazon science-fiction short.

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    The Film

    “Audre Lorde has been a pioneer in making available her voice as a teacher, a survivor, an activist, and a crusader against bigotry,” says filmmaker Ada Gay Griffin, who made A Litany for Survival with co-director Michelle Parkerson. The two spent eight years collaborating with Lorde, weaving together a richly textured portrait of a gifted, strong-willed woman who embraced life’s moments and focused her energies to fight for civil justice, women’s equality, and lesbian and gay rights.

    A Litany for Survival features interviews with many of Lorde’s fellow poets and activists, including Adrienne Rich, Sapphire, and Sonia Sanchez, all of whom pay tribute to Lorde’s impact as a mentor and inspirational force.

    Raised in Harlem, the daughter of West Indian immigrants, Lorde started writing poetry to express bottled-up feelings. Though her advisor told her it was “a bad sonnet,” her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine while she attended Hunter High School. In 1968, amid escalating racial tensions, she accepted an invitation to become the poet in residence at Tugaloo College, a small black college in Jackson, Mississippi.

    Lorde published more than a dozen poetry collections and six books of prose from 1968 to 1993. In 1979, she addressed the first national march for lesbian and gay liberation in Washington, D.C.

    Once her cancer was diagnosed in 1978, Lorde became even more focused. For the next 14 years, Lorde battled the cancer as it metastasized through her body. In an unusually poignant creative exchange, she continued to collaborate with Griffin and Parkerson who were rushing to complete the film as Lorde neared the end of her life.