NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 60

If nothing else, June Jordan wanted to redeem our language for the purpose of telling the truth. Her vision was a global one. Jordan wanted to know what was going on in Africa, the Middle East, as well as, the boardrooms of our major corporations. As an American writer living in one of the most powerful nations in the world, she vowed to become a s serious as her enemies. 58 Two hundred of June’s letters are housed in the Givens Collection at the University of Minnesota. Thanks to Adrienne Cassel, whom I met at the Bennington Writers Seminars in 2003, the letters have been transcribed, edited and bound. Cassel compiled the letters under the title Survival Letters: Correspondence from June Jordan to E. Ethelbert Miller 1975-1999. On April 21, 2005, I presented a lecture on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The title was “When Love Turns into Letters.” In her introduction to the letters, Cassel made this observation: The two hundred plus letters in the collection confirm what we already know about Jordan from her essays and poems, that she is a fighter, an incredibly compassionate, insightful, intelligent woman who takes the work of changing the world as the most important work of all, but the letters also reveal how working for major political and social reforms while raising a son and maintaining personal relationships can be taxing beyond endurance. And so, in addition to documenting her many and varied activist involvements, the challenges of teaching and the perils of writing for a living, Jordan’s letters to Miller record the mental and physical sacrifices she made in order to keep the work going. The letters reveal Miller’s role as witness to the aftershocks of rape, cancer, slander and personal loss. At the same time, the letters show that although Jordan struggled with health, money, personal safety, and relationship issues, these obstacles never prevented her from moving forward. Even in the worst of times, the work sustained the work. In order to cope with tragedy, sorrow or depression, June just worked harder. Maybe the work ethic of June Jordan can be traced back to her father, the man who in many ways shaped her into becoming a soldier. Yet, our struggle is not to be always at war. Jordan’s writings encourage everyone to do the heavy lifting that will ultimately change our lives. On January 21, 1997, June Jordan gave a speech at Emory University celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in which the future of hope was never in doubt: Is there reason for hope? Is there anywhere a trace, a phoenix of revolutionary spirit consistent with Dr. King’s preaching and true to the democratic, coexistent values of Beloved Community? I know there is. It may be small. It may be dim. But there is a fire transfiguring the muted, the daunted spirit of people everywhere. At the end of my memoir, I included a letter June wrote after reading about how I described our first encounter. I wanted to know, if I had gotten it right.