One of my favorite poets.
June Jordan (1936 – 2002) was a poet, activist, journalist, essayist and teacher. Prolific and passionate, she was an influential voice who lived and wrote on the frontlines of American poetry, international political vision and human moral witness. The author of many award-winning books, she traveled widely to read her poems and to proclaim a vision of liberation for all people. Dynamic, rebellious, and courageous, June Jordan was, and still is, a lyrical catalyst for change.
Born in Harlem in 1936, Jordan was the child of West Indian immigrant parents, who raised her in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where she began writing poetry at the age of seven. In her teens, she attended the Northfield School for Girls in Massachusetts, and in 1953 enrolled at Barnard College, where she would earn her B.A. She was married in 1955, and divorced after having one child.
Jordan was active in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar and gay and lesbian rights movements, even as she became known as a writer. In 1967, after running poetry workshops for children in Harlem, Jordan began her teaching career at the City College of New York. She taught at Yale University and Sarah Lawrence College, and became a professor of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she directed The Poetry Center. In 1988, she was appointed professor of African-American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded the influential poetry program Poetry For the People.
June Jordan was the author of more than twenty-five major works of poetry, fiction and essays, as well as numerous children’s books. Jordan wrote the librettos for the operas Bang Bang Uber Alles with music by Adrienne Torf, and I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, with music by John Adams; she wrote lyrics frequently for other musicians, as well as plays and musicals. Her journalism was published widely in magazines and newspapers around the world, and she was a regular columnist for The Progressive. An electrifying speaker, Jordan collected many of her most influential speeches and addresses in her books of essays.
Jordan earned numerous honors and awards, including a 1969-1970 Rockefeller grant for creative writing, a Yaddo residency (1979), a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1982) and the Achievement Award for International Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists (1984). Jordan also won the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award (1995-1998), the Ground Breakers-Dream Makers Award from The Woman’s Foundation (1994), the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lectureship from the University of California at Berkeley, the PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award (1991) and a congressional citation for her outstanding contributions to literature, the progressive movement and the civil rights movement.