Naming Our Destiny Essay - Critical Essays

June Jordan


Jordan’s dual emphasis on individual and collective self-determination enables her to synthesize private and public issues. By drawing connections between her personal experiences as a twentieth century bisexual U.S. woman of Jamaican descent and the collective experiences of women from all ethnic backgrounds, colonized nations, gay men, and other oppressed groups, Jordan establishes alliances among diverse peoples. In “Poem for Guatemala,” for example, she explores both the similarities and the differences between her own experiences as a young West Indian in New York City and those of Rigoberto Manchú, a Guatemalan Indian woman freedom fighter. By so doing, she simultaneously acknowledges her privileged social and economic position and reaffirms her commitment to revolutionary social action.

In “Poem About My Rights,” written in response to her experience of being raped, Jordan again combines individual and collective issues. As she alternates between personal, national, and international concerns, she illustrates how the violations she encountered during her rape intersect with South Africa’s invasion of Namibia and Angola, U.S. imperialism, sexual violence against women, and unjust rape laws. By developing analogies between her own rights and the rights of all women and colonized countries, Jordan’s declaration of personal and communal agency illustrates her belief that self-determination provides social actors with an empowering form of political resistance.

In other pieces, such as “Poem for South African Women,” “Famine,” “Moving Towards Home,” and “Poem for Buddy,” Jordan associates self-determination with individual and collective accountability. As in “Poem for Guatemala” and “Poem About My Rights,” she combines self-expression with political resistance and examines the interconnections between her experiences and those of apparently disparate groups; however, by implicating her readers as well as herself in the brutal murders, rapes, and other violations of human rights she describes, Jordan calls for collective political action. Thus, in “Poem for South African Women,” she attempts to develop cross-cultural coalitions among...

(The entire section is 900 words.)