Women’s History Month: June Jordan

“Bisexuality means I am free and I am as likely to want to love a woman as I am likely to want to love a man, and what about that? Isn’t that what freedom implies?”~June Jordan

June Jordan was born in Harlem in 1936. Jordan credits her parents with inspiring her love of literature. She attended Barnard College and eventually went on to teach at UC Berkeley. Jordan published 27 books during her lifetime, one was published shortly after her death in 2002, and two have been published posthumously since then. Jordan died from breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 65.

Jordan’s writing explores the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and politics – and her work has had an incredible impact on my thinking about coalition building, and what it means to be an ally. As a Women’s Studies major, I read one of Jordan’s essays called “A New Politics of Sexuality,” which was adapted from a speech that Jordan gave to to the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Student Association at Stanford University in 1991. In it, she says:

Last spring, at Berkeley, some students asked me to speak at a rally against racism. And I did. There were 400 or 500 people massed on Sproul Plaza, standing together against that evil. And, on the next day, on that same Plaza, there was a rally for bisexual and gay and lesbian rights, and students asked me to speak at that rally. And I did. There were fewer than seventy-five people stranded, pitiful, on that public space. And I said then what I say today: That was disgraceful! There should have been just one rally. One rally: Freedom is indivisible.

One of my favorite books by June Jordan is Affirmative Acts, a collection of political essays.  This idea of freedom as indivisible is present throughout most of the essays.  Jordan makes the point that if the different minority groups started to think of themselves as one collective, rather than different groups, we would see that we are the overwhelming majority in the United States – and to think in that mindset has incredible power to change society for the better.  This argument has resonated with me – and it has definitely made me change the way that I think about political organizing.  And now that I’m writing this article, I think I need to go back and reread these essays to remind myself what grassroots organizing is all about.

For more info:
Check out the biography of June Jordan at the Poetry Foundation.

About Serena:
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.

Comments

  1. Fascinating post! Jordan’s argument that you mentioned, about what would/could happen if minority groups saw themselves as a collective, is particularly interesting – it seems to speak to the more positive side of the “big tent” approach that liberals often take. I’d like to see if Jordan continues that argument and explores exactly how she sees that coming about – so I’ll definitely be checking out her book.

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