Audre Lorde’s 87th birthday would have been on Thursday and even in her physical absence, Google used its platform to remember the legacy of the Black queer poet.
“Black history is American history. It is a time for everyone to celebrate Black American progress and futures. As a creative team within a global company, we will continue to highlight Black voices not just in February and not just from the perspective of this country,” Angelica McKinley, Google Doodle art director, told Blavity. “We are all more connected today than ever before through technology and tools provided by companies like Google.”
Freelance illustrator Monica Ahanonu was the woman behind the art presented on Google’s homepage to give a nod to Lorde. And this is not the first time Ahanonu‘s work has been featured on a major platform. The Los Angeles-based artist also illustrated bell hooks for the Time magazine’s 100 Women of the Year project and she created the key art for John Legend’s Giving Voice Netflix series.
“I was contacted by an art director on the Google Doodle team, Angelica McKinley, and she gave me some insight into the project and what we would be up against in terms of the timeline we were working with and the vision,” Ahanonu told Blavity. “This Doodle is more than just a single slide or single image so making sure all the elements flowed together — the background colors, the text, the imagery throughout — as well as adequately represented her and helped those unfamiliar with her legacy fully feel what she stood for and what impact she made.”
Ahanonu said she was so excited to see her work on Google that she shared the news on social media to celebrate.
“I am SO beyond excited to share my #GoogleDoodle honoring Audre Lorde on what would have been her 87th birthday,” Ahanonu wrote on Instagram. “Thank you @AngelicaMcKinley for bringing me on to this project and guiding me through the creation of the piece.”
McKinley told Blavity about how Lorde’s impact in Black history influenced her decision to pay homage to the icon on her 87th birthday.
“Audre Lorde’s writings are just as relevant today as they were while she was alive. Events of last year exposed just how much racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and health issues are still at the forefront of our struggles. So, when designing this year’s Black History Month Doodle, Lorde’s words on intersectionality and speaking up were the first to come to mind,” McKinley said.
“Her deep insights into human behavior and identity show the power behind acknowledging someone’s differences, while also using those differences as a bridge toward our sameness as human beings,” she added. “Her work as a poet and essayist feels especially powerful at this moment when so many still do not feel heard or seen. There are so many different facets to being a Black person in this country (and around the world). We felt it was important for this Doodle to celebrate intersectionality through such an uplifting Black woman like Audre Lorde.”
Lorde’s impact through her work as a civil rights champion, feminist, professor and poet ranged far beyond her years per Google. As a key figure of the LGBTQ+ movements in the 20th century, Lorde used her poetry as not only a form of artistic and emotional expression but a medium of empathy and connectivity for all of her readers. She used her poetry to address racial and social injustices, discrimination, identity, sexuality and the power of the Black woman.
Born to Caribbean immigrant parents in 1934, the Harlem, New York City native was a naturally introverted child who learned to read and write from her neighborhood librarian Augusta Baker. Lorde’s passion for poetry began to grow so much that she would respond to questions with poetry verses and by the eighth grade she was writing her own poetry. Lorde earned a Master’s of Library Science from Columbia University in 1961 and pursued a career as an English teacher and librarian in public schools through the ‘60s. Lorde made her literary debut in 1968 with her first collection of poems, The First Cities, and continued to write critically acclaimed works through her collection of essays and speeches Sister Outsiders (1984) and Learning From The ‘60s.
Lorde was awarded the American Book Award in 1989 and honored as New York poet laureate with the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit in 1991. She died in 1992 of metastatic breast cancer, which she battled for 14 years.