Parker grew up working class poor in Third Ward, Houston, Texas, a mostly African-American part of the city. Her mother (born Marie Louise Anderson) was a domestic worker, and her father, Ernest Nathaniel Cooks retreated tires.
When she was four years old, her family moved to Sunnyside, Houston, Texas.
She left home at seventeen, moved to Los Angeles, California, earning an undergraduate degree there at Los Angeles City College, and a graduate degree at San Francisco State College. She got married (to playwright Ed Bullins) in 1962. Parker and Bullins separated after four years and she alluded to her ex-husband as physically violent, and said she was "scared to death of him".
She got married a second time, to Berkeley, California writer Robert F. Parker, but decided that the "idea of marriage... wasn't working" for her.
Parker began to identify as a lesbian in the late 1960s, and, in a 1975 interview with Anita Cornwell, stated that "after my first relationship with a woman, I knew where I was going."
Parker was involved in the Black Panther Movement, in 1979 she toured with the Varied Voices of Black Women, a group of poets and musicians which included Linda Tillery, Mary Watkins & Gwen Avery. She founded the Black Women's Revolutionary Council in 1980, and she also contributed to the formation of the Women's Press Collective, as well as being involved in wide-ranging activism in gay and lesbian organizing.
Parker worked from 1978-1987 as a medical coordinator at the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center.
Parker gave her first public poetry reading in 1963 in Oakland. In 1968, she began to read her poetry to women's groups at Women's bookstores, coffeehouses and feminist events.
Judy Grahn, a fellow poet and a personal friend, identifies Pat Parker's poetry as a part of the "continuing Black tradition of radical poetry".
Cheryl Clarke, another poet and peer, identifies her as a "lead voice and caller" in the world of lesbian poetry. Designed to confront both black and women's communities with, as Clarke notes, "the precariousness of being non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual in a racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperial culture." Clarke believes that Parker articulates, "a black lesbian-feminist perspective of love between women and the circumstances that prevent our intimacy and liberation."
Pat Parker and Audre Lorde first met in 1969 and continued to exchange letters and visits until Parker's death in 1989.
Parker's elder sister was murdered by her husband, and the autobiographical poem, Womanslaughter (1978) is based on this event.
In the poem, Parker notes that
Her things were hisThe perpetrator was convicted of "womanslaughter", not murder; because
including her life.
Men cannot kill their wives.He served a one-year sentence in a work-release program. Parker brought this crime to the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in 1976 in Brussels, vowing
They passion them to death.
I will come to my sistersParker died of Breast Cancer at age 45. She was survived by her long-time partner Marty Dunham and two daughters, Cassidy Brown and Anastasia Dunham.
I will come strong.
The The Pat Parker/Vito Russo Center Library in New York is named in honor of Parker and fellow writer, Vito Russo. The Pat Parker Poetry Award is awarded each year for a free verse, narrative poem or dramatic monologue by a black lesbian poet.
Parker's cycle of poems, Movement in Black, should not be read in a favorite armchair but shouted from a rooftop. Or at least a stage. With choreography. --David Pratt
Pat Parker, 1989, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123983)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978 by Pat Parker
Paperback: 157 pages
Publisher: Firebrand Books (May 1990)
Amazon: Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978
The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom by Barbara Smith
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (August 1, 2000)
Amazon: The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom
"The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom provides a universal message about struggle, resistance, and freedom, grounded within a black Lesbian feminist critique of America's culture and politics. The cogently written essays represent a cross-section of Smith's work over the past twenty years and the first book dedicated exclusively to her own writing. Focusing on race, feminism, and the politics of sexuality, Smith provides an alternative lens to view the world by making connections between systems of oppression and offering suggestions for social change."--The Washington Blade "Smith's book is an excellent example of powerful, introspective writing that challenges readers to reexamine their stance on complex issues concerning race and gender."--The Bloomsbury Review "Stretches of sublime prose translate [Smith's] crystalline intellect to the page, exciting both mind and senses."--Publishers Weekly As one of the first writers in the United States to claim black feminism for black women in the early seventies, Barbara Smith has done groundbreaking work in defining a black women's literary tradition; in examining the sexual politics of the lives of black and other women of color; in representing the lives of black lesbians and gay men; and in making connections between race, sexuality, and gender. Smith's essay "Toward a Black Feminist Criticism" is often cited as a major catalyst in opening the field of black women's literature. This essay also represented the first serious discussion of black lesbian writing. Essays about racism in the women's movement, black and Jewish relations, and homophobia in the black community have ignited dialogue about topics that few other writers address. The collection also brings together topical political commentaries that examine the 1968 Chicago convention demonstrations; attacks on the NEA; the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate hearings; and police brutality against Rodney King and Abner Louima. Barbara Smith is cofounder and publisher of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She has edited three major collections about black women, including Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, and is coeditor with Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Mink, Marysa Navarro, and Gloria Steinem of The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History.
Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn
Paperback: 341 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press; Updated & Expanded edition (October 31, 1990)
Amazon: Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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