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Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays by June Jordan (Basic Civitas Books: 2002)
When June Jordan passed away on June 14, 2002, the world lost a prolific poet and writer whose continual outrage at social injustices had always been tempered by her profound, compassionate insight into the human condition. Jordan gave everything she had to her writing, right up to the point when her body finally succumbed to the ravages of breast cancer.
Some of Us Did Not Die, published after Jordan passed away, brings her poems and essays from the civil rights era on through her post-September 11 thoughts on suffering, hope, and the true meaning of justice.
Born to West Indian immigrant parents in Harlem in 1936, Jordans writings on her life as an outspoken African American feminist were undoubtedly among her most powerful.
In an early essay, Notes Toward a Black Balancing of Love and Hatred, Jordan addressed the internal strife afflicting African Americans torn between Kings non-violence and Malcolm Xs militancy.
We should take care so that we will lose none of the jewels of our soul, she wrote. We must begin, now, to reject the white, either/or system of dividing the world into unnecessary conflict. For example, it is tragic and ridiculous to choose between Malcolm X and Dr. King: each of them hurled himself against a quite different aspect of our predicament, and both of them, literally, gave their lives to our ongoing struggle. We need everybody and all that we are.
In other older essays, including Notes of a Barnard Dropout, Jordans words are as alive and relevant as they were when she first wrote them in 1975.
It seems unreasonable that more than 400 million people, right now, struggle against hunger and starvation, even while there is arable earth aplenty to feed and nourish every one of us, Jordan wrote. It does not seem reasonable that the color of your skin should curse and condemn all of your days and the days of your children. It seems preposterous that gender, that being a woman, anywhere in the world, should elicit contempt, or fear, or ridicule, and serious deprivation of rights to be, to become, to embrace whatever you choose.
But Jordan, who was beaten by her father as a child and who later lost her mother to suicide, had the seemingly endless capacity to understand the suffering of people of all backgrounds.
In one of her more recent essays, Hunting for Jews?, Jordan was able to pick apart the layers of hatred that helped to create Buford O. Furrow, who attacked a community center in Los Angeles in 1999, wounding several Jewish children.
In Letter to My Friend, Jordan deftly tied the emotional impact of the execution of Jewish journalist (and Wall Street Journal correspondent) Daniel Pearl in Pakistan to the murder of an innocent 24-year-old Palestinian Issa Faraj, who was playing with his children in the West Bank when he was shot by Israeli soldiers.
Indeed, Jordans work in the area of Israeli-Palestinian relations never shied away from confronting the ugly realities and hard truths of one of the most complicated ethnic battles in the modern era. Yet her empathy for both groups came across, time after time, in a manner that reflected her innate drive to understand the seeds of hatred, discrimination, and distrust, whether between heterosexuals and homosexuals, men and women, or African Americans and Euro-Americans.
Through the decades that took her from a 1950s-era interracial marriage to an illustrious academic career at Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College, and UC Berkeley, Jordan wrote three plays, a novel, five childrens books, a memoir, and five volumes of political essays. She took herself seriously as a writer, poet, parent, lover, and teacher, but her true aim, as she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999, was to spawn as many poets as possible.
A self-declared radical for most of her adult life, Jordan never stopped agitating and writing on behalf of those who, in one way or another, had known what it meant to live on the margins of society. Yet Jordan did so with a lightness, brilliance, and sensitivity that marked her as one of the nations literary and intellectual greats.
Im with Emma Goldman, she concluded in the provocative essay, A Couple of Words on Behalf of Sex (Itself). If you cant dance, its not my kind of revolution.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.