Sometimes you just need to open up about where you’ve been if you want to find where you belong, and Cherrie Moraga found her place as a source of support for women, Latinas and lesbians alike by doing just that. A feminist, poet, essayist, playwright and educator, Moraga is an influential voice for women in a world that still struggles with issues of sexuality, race and how women define themselves.
Moraga was born in Whittier, California on September 25, 1952 to a Mexican mother and an Anglo (Irish) father. She felt the impact of being biracial at a young age – her mother refused to teach her and her siblings Spanish to promote assimilation into white society and her machista brother treated her and her sisters as servants. In the Introduction to her book “Loving in the War Years,” Moraga wrote:
“I am the daughter of a Chicana and anglo. I think most days I am an embarrassment to both groups. I sometimes hate the white in me so viciously that I long to forget the commitment my skin has imposed upon my life. To speak two tongues. I must. But will not double-talk and I refuse to let anybody’s movement determine for me what is safe and fair to say” (vi).
Moraga earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles in 1974. It was after college that she came to grips with her own lesbianism and came out to close friends. Afterwards, her writing began to boldly address intense issues like lesbianism, feminism, ethnicity, identity and her personal relationship with her mother. Around this time Moraga wrote her first collection of lesbian love poems. Over the years, she has focused most of her writing on her experiences as a Chicana lesbian.
In 1980 Moraga earned a Master of Arts in Feminist Studies at San Francisco State University. However it was in 1981 that “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color,” an anthology she co-wrote with Gloria Anzaldúa, launched Moraga into the political spotlight. The book challenged the existing definition of feminism and is credited with helping to lay the foundation for third wave feminism. It focused on the need for diversity and change in a way that makes it one of the most important books in feminist theory.
Moraga serves as an Artist in Residence at Stanford University’s Department of Drama and shares a joint appointment with Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She is also a founding member of La Red Xicana Indígena, which is a network of Xicanas dedicated to social change through indigenous political education, spiritual practice, international exchange and grassroots organizing. Moraga has been recognized nationally both for her plays and her publications by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature and the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, among others.
The benefit of Moraga’s creative activism has been catharsis for her over the years, but also has the added impact of helping other women reclaim and redefine their identity. It is because of her continued dedication to education, drive for social change and commitment to nurturing a sisterhood of women that we honor Cherrie Moraga as one of Alpha Rho Lambda’s Mujeres Imprecindibles.