Ode to June Jordan’s ‘A Poem about My Rights’ – The Feminist Wire

Ode to June Jordan’s ‘A Poem about My Rights’

By Kai M. Green and tourmalines

junejordan_lyndakoolish1Inspired by the work of June Jordan we have both offered artistic, sonic, and poetic meditations on June Jordan’s, A Poem about My Rights. We give thanks for our ancestor, June Jordan, for her fierceness and for the model she has provided us with. We must become better teachers, listeners, and lovers. We have the ability to heal ourselves. We have the ability to transform ourselves which means that we no doubt have the ability to change the world. We commit ourselves to telling it like it is, until it no longer becomes necessary. We commit ourselves to Black love and Black joy. We commit ourselves to loving ourselves wholly and holistic because “[We are] not wrong: Wrong is not [our] name/ [Our] name is [our] own [our] own [our] own/ and [we] can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this/ but [we] can tell you that from now on [our] resistance/ [our] simple and daily and nightly self-determination/ may very well cost you your life” (311-12).

****Wrong [Do the Charleston] –tourmalines

Wrong is not my Name

For all those names we forget to remember
For all those last words
Last breaths—
For all those final utterances—unknown
We re—member


Final Utterances—Last Lines:

February 4th, 1999—“Mom, I want to go to College”—Amadou Diallo—22 years old.
November 26th, 2006—“I love you (too)”—Sean Bell—23 years old.
May 16th, 2010—“unknown”—Aiyana Stanley Jones—7 years old.
February 26th, 2012—[Scream]—Trayvon Martin—17 years old.
June 14th, 2012—“I don’t want to die”—Shantel Davis—23 years old.
November 2nd, 2013—“I want to go home”—Renisha McBride—19 years old.
July 17th, 2014—“I can’t breathe”—Eric Garner—43 years old.
August 9th, 2014—“Don’t Shoot”—Michael Brown—18 years old.
November 22nd, 2014—“unknown”—Tamir Rice—12 years old.
April 19th, 2015—“unknown”—Fredie Gray—25 years old.

I speak the names
You speak the names
We Speak the names
Wrong is not our name


How heavy a load the hashtag BlackLivesMatter carries
I mean how many names—
I mean how many names follow the hashtag justice for?
Justice for Mike Brown
Justice for Trayvon
Justice for Islan
Justice for Rekia
Justice for Eric
Oh and remember, Troy Davis?
Oh and remember, Emmet Till?
Member the names of the Black women who carried their babies’ bodies
Blood-staining dead—
Do you remember the names of the Black women, trans and cis, who are also a part of this list? 

There are so many names to remember
There are so many names to call
There are so many circles
Hands up, don’t shoot demonstrations

We have a scroll of names that could graffiti every city
And the world
If we used Black ink
Would be overcome by blackness
And if our names spilled on the walls of university halls—
And street corners—
And brick buildings—
And everywhere—
If we wrote the names of the people we have lost everywhere in Black ink
Our names be spilling over
Like the blood of so many passed on
Spilling over

And what if—
What if for every name, we stacked a body?
And how high would that structure be?
How wide would it reach?

How can we account for the unaccountable?
I mean how deep is the Atlantic?
As deep as it is Black?
As deep as it is queer?

For all those names we forget to remember
For all those lost words
Lost ones
We re—

              I speak the names
              You speak the names
              We Speak the names
              Wrong is not our name

On Jonquil Terrace

Woke up before the sun to the sound of war
Look out window to the west
And that part of the block
Don’t walk on that side of the street
After dark
Now squad SWAT military’s people surrounding the building
Next door to the school
Standing protecting something—
Not here and right here at the same time
Jump out of bed
Put on sweatshirt and pants cause Bae work early
I walk her to the train so she don’t have to walk alone
We take the alley as the sun comes up
It is safer back there now
With squad SWAT military’s people on the main road
Kiss goodbye and I’ll be there when she arrive later tonight
Squad willing—
God willing—
SWAT willing—
Now I walk back home
Sun up more
Now alone
And my blackness be showin’
It is unclear where I belong
I know what I look like in this hood—

Black Boi
Turn the corner
Pass the fire truck
I wonder if they gon’ put the fire out
Cause the cops definitely dropped a bomb
And sun getting bigger
Even through the chill and the stillness of the streets
This time of morning
At this hour
Bombs make space for white men and dogs to walk and play
They smiling to each-other
And walking through me
I am thinking—
I AM thinking—

Who was in that building right next to that school?
And who gon’ learn today? With that rumble echoing
I turn the corner to see
Man big white greasy hair puffed up chest vest on
Smiling smiling—
Looking looking—
Looking at me—
Looking at him—
Wanting a reason
Looking smiling—
Daring behind puffed up chest
Vest on
Surrounding the block
I see more
Not just cops but camouflage
War in these streets
He still smiling at me tauntingly
I know he wants me
But I am just outside the perimeter of what he is allowed to touch today
Bombs going off next to schools
It is important that we make room
This area must be made safe for the dogs
And their white men
They need to walk—

Children will learn all they need to know at home in war
The problem look like you
Black Girl
Enemy of the state

Of being
A whiteness supreme

And in just one hour
Sun real full now
All squad SWAT military’s people and fire trucks
They done disappeared
Somewhere with some bodies bodies’ somebody
Somewhere with some bodies bodies’ somebody—

For all those some bodies bodies’ somebody—
Spirit don’t die—
Spirit be live—

              I speak the names
              You speak the names
              We Speak the names
              Wrong is not our name


IMG_0547Kai M. Green is a writer, scholar, poet, filmmaker, abolitionist, feminist, and whatever else it takes to make a new and more just world. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in African American Studies and The Sexualities Project at Northwestern. He is part of the editorial collective at The Feminist Wire.




Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.26.38 PMtourmalines is a black queer magician who works, lives, and listens in the upper east of amerikkka. tourmalines likes to create sonic collages that are heavily influenced by the sounds and harmonies of black music, black people, plants, stones, and other noise makers.