“Poem About My Rights,” written in free verse, juxtaposes the personal odyssey of one black woman facing oppression in the United States with the political struggle of nations against oppression in southern Africa. The poem’s title is ironic, as the narrator chronicles the “wrongs” that exist within the person she is as well as the external conditions that impact her. Society’s edicts infringe upon and impede any rights that author June Jordan feels are hers. She is a product of her people’s heritage and, as such, must live according to contemporary cultural suppositions.
Using first person throughout, Jordan details the wrongs that she perceives in herself: wrong color, wrong sex, and living on the wrong continent. She is the potential victim of any man who would physically force himself on her. The rape victim becomes the wrongdoer because the law assumes implied consent in cases of rape and brutality. Burden of proof is also left to the victim in order for justice to be served. Personal, consensual rape is then transferred to the broader area of southern Africa: South Africa’s forced penetration into Namibia and Namibia’s subsequent penetration into Angola are detailed.
Jordan then shifts the scene of “Poem About My Rights” back to the United States and cites both national and personal wrongs. She highlights the use of power by the government and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the killing of black leaders, and...
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