June Jordan (1936-2002), a Caribbean-American essayist, writer, activist, teacher and poet. She was born in Harlem, but moved to Brooklyn at a young age, and became a monumental voice in change for generations of people.
She was an anti-war activist, a civil rights activist, and a huge voice for the LGBT+ rights movement. Her work is still relevant today, and she won many awards for her work, including, but not limited to, the achievement Award for International Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists, the PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award, and the Ground Breakers-Dream Makers Award from The Woman’s Foundation. She was also a very prolific writer, not confined to just one genre, writing poems, essays, and children’s books.
June was bisexual, and mentioned it in her own work, talking about the erasure bisexual people can face at the hands of everyone, including other members of the LGBT community. Her being a vocal bisexual black woman, made her an icon for other black bisexual girls in particular.
She wrote, “If I am not free and if I am not entitled equal to heterosexuals and homosexuals then homosexual men and women have joined with the dominant heterosexual culture in the tyrannical pursuit of E Pluribus Unum and I a bisexual woman committed to cultural pluralism and, therefore to sexual pluralism, can only say, you better watch your back”.
She’s a landmark figure in bisexual acceptance, and also an extremely important figure for discussing biphobia within the LGBT+ community. Biphobia is rampant, in both the heterosexual community, and also the LGBT+ community. People shaming bisexual people, and using the trope that they’re “greedy” or “need to pick a side”.
One of June’s most iconic quotes is, “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.“
June Jordan married a man she met while attending Barnard College, and they landed up having a son. In 1955 she took a break from Barnard College, and studied for a year at the University of Chicago, before having their child a couple years after. It was an interracial marriage, which was still illegal in some states, and when they divorced in 1965, she raised her son alone.
During the 60’s and the civil rights movement she was very active, using her time to assist in making a documentary about Harlem’s street kids, named “The Cool World”. Some of her other projects included working on housing projects for not overpriced, attractive, homes in Harlem. Her work during the 60’s included writing extensively about the Black Power movement, which landed up some of her poetry.
One of her most moving poems, about many things, including misogynoir, rape, ageism and western ideals of beauty is called, “Poem About my Rights”. Her work is immensely moving, and though, as a white person, I do not relate personally to her discussions about racism, I felt it was important to talk about how important she was, and still is. A quote from her “Poem About my Rights”;