Winning Essay by Anna R. from Indiana
Writing is integral to my life. A charter member of  Young Women Writing for (a) Change (YWW)  at 8, I sat in writing circles and experienced the life-changing words of diverse writers, both famous, and the lesser-known young women next to me. One such writer was Audre Lorde, whose work gave me an entirely new understanding and outlook on the world around me, and an entirely new understanding of being a writer—how writing is one of the most important things I could do, how it could save me and, beyond that, the world.
In “The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House,” Audre Lorde writes, “survival … is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.” Lorde faced more than her fair share of differences: black, lesbian, legally blind, and with difficulty communicating—but she used poetry and language to bridge the gap between herself and everyone around her. Lorde advocated for a black feminism, one that white feminism could not contain. And yet her words reach across races, and they found their way to me.
Reading “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” made a huge impression on me.  My YWW mentor has these words tattooed across her chest; for years, we who hadn’t yet read Lorde’s work were beyond curious what these words meant, why they must be inked on her body forever. The day we read “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” together is the day we finally understood. 
Writing is often regarded as a pastime, something emotional people do to release dark thoughts. Sometimes the stigma surrounding writers felt overwhelming to me, like I must hide my writer-identity. Lorde revolutionized the way I saw myself as a writer:  “As we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-European consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.” Lorde gives immense power to writing, telling us that poetry is a “vital necessity of our existence,” that our written words are significant, and it takes great strength to explore ourselves this way. 
Audre Lorde gave me a pride I now carry everywhere, the feeling that I do good in the world every time I pick up the pen. She told me I take care of myself by writing what I feel, that I am becoming a better, stronger woman with bottomless depths to be charted, that I, and every woman around me, are worth more than the past has told us.
Now more than ever, I feel at a loss for control, burdened and outraged at the political landscape I had no say in, yet seem powerless to change. I feel an urgency to combat the injustice I see. Audre Lorde gives me courage to fight inequity and spread my convictions through my words. It is my duty to bring light to the darkness I see. 

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