A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color

Remembering Pat Parker

By Christine Adams Tripp, J.D.

I recently read an article on www.FemmeNoir.net and sent an email asking why there was no mention of Pat Parker. I realized that a lot of young lesbians have never heard of Pat Parker. I dedicate this note to everyone and ask you to remember a trailblazer, a pioneer in the fight for lesbian and gay rights.  But most of all, Pat Parker fought a fight with breast cancer.  She won her fight because she encouraged a lot of us to get a breast examinations.  She won her fight because she gave us strength to die with dignity and courage no matter what, and gave us the resilience to continue the work she started.

I had never heard of Pat until I went to Oakland in 1982 for a womenís conference, or maybe it was a music festival, no matter.  I was introduced to Sweet Honey in the Rock, Audre Lorde, and Pat Parker.  Pat Parker was participating in a poetry reading.  She was about 5í8íí, dark chocolate and a real dyke.  I had to read her works later, after the reading, because I couldnít take my eyes and mind off of her persona.  Her voice was strong and demanded attention.  Her words pierced my heart and gave my mind a working over.

Pat Parker was concerned and dealt with the issues of racism, classism, and economic exploitation.  She was frightenly honest and straight-forward in her writings and her encounters with people.  You didnít ask her a question unless you were ready for the answer.  The answer was never going to be flowery and/or colored to protect you.  The profound insightfulness found in her writings, still stand on their own today.

Pat Parker has always been described as a Black revolutionary, feminist, lesbian and poet.  To me, she was the mirror image of myself.  I am fighting on the same battlefields in my community to bring about social change.  I am involved with the arts and creative thought, and I have been both a wife and mother.  Oh, I will never measure up to the radical activism of Pat Parker, but at least I have something to work towards.

I remember when Pat ran for city council in Oakland or San Francisco.  Some of us went to the bay area to work on her campaign.  Just to watch her give directions and listen to her political speeches gave us the encouragement and fortitude to continue the struggle and to go forward upon our return to Los Angeles.

And then, Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I watched as she continued to be strong and fight on for our rights, even when it was known that she was losing her fight with breast cancer. Pat Parker died in 1989 and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990.  I had learned from Pat Parker not to crumble in the face of obstacles.  I sought out and found inner determination and strength in knowing that Pat Parker was a mentor, warrior, and leader that I could follow.

When I need to feed my soul, I read Pat Parker or Audre Lorde, who also died of breast cancer. Today, I have put everything into perspective.  I donít worry about the material things in life.  I donít get into silly arguments.  I appreciate what I have and donít take things for granted.  I am grateful for every morning, the flowers, and the birds singing.  Every sense is heightened.  Itís the small things that have brought me pleasure.  Every occasion is so special, and I have discovered the inner strength I never knew I had.

I encourage you to read Movement in Black to really get a flavor of Pat Parker at her best.  I leave you with a few words Pat Parker left us:

Take the strength that you may wage a long battle.
Take the pride that you can never stand small.
Take the rage that you can never settle for less.