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2002-06-17

Poet and Activist June Jordan Dies

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She was one of the most important American poets of the late 20th century. She was a powerful essayist. She was a teacher, community leader, and political activist. June Jordan died this weekend at her home in San Francisco. She had been battling breast cancer for nearly a decade.

Jordan burst onto the literary and political scene in the late 1960s, on the wings of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Poetry for her was a political act, and she used it to shine a fierce light on racism, sexism, homophobia, apartheid, poverty, and US foreign policy.

June Jordan is the most published African-American writer in history. She wrote more than twenty-five major works, including ten collections of poetry, five books of essays, two plays, a novel and eight children’s books. Author Toni Morrison once summed up her career as: "Forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art."

Jordan also taught writing and African American studies at universities across the country–most recently Berkeley. And in 1991, she founded "Poetry for the People," a popular undergraduate program at Berkeley that blends the study of poetry with political empowerment.

Tape:

  • June Jordan, reading her poem "To a Young Poet" from her collection Kissing God Goodbye

Tape:

  • June Jordan, interviewed by David Barsamian in August 2001 about Israel and Palestine

Tape:

  • June Jordan, reading her poem "Talking Back to Miss Valentine Jones, poem #1"

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