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We Are The Ones
Reflections on June Jordan & Pride Celebrations by Daryn Coates
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
What a beautiful quote to kick off Pride month. It is easy to associate Pride with the rainbows and good wishes from corporations hungry for our colorful pennies and the parades which take place across the country. However, no matter how commercialized Pride has become, it will always be a time where we celebrate the Black and Brown queer folks who have paved the way for us to embrace something sacred: the reimagination of ourselves.
How do we define ourselves and preserve ourselves in such a violent nation? This is a question writer June Jordan has meditated on through her writings and teachings until her untimely death in 2002. Black queer femme writers must be celebrated in such reverence, for it is their language and passion which helps us all navigate a world that sees Black women and femmes as a danger to their unjust power.
It is hard to believe that one year ago -- we as Black people and people directly affected by the genocidal nature of these United States -- were in collective grief and rage. Rest in peace to George Floyd and Oluwatoyin Salau and Nina Pop and Monika Diamond and Dominique Fells and Ma’Khia Bryant and countless others. This quick rush to “normal” our capitalistic country bleeds for is just another mask attempting to get its people to forget a pandemic that has killed over half a million people and a year where we witnessed the military attacking Black and Brown people in the streets. It is hard to believe, yet here we are, still here.
A collective theme for 2021 has naturally been healing, restoring, picking up the pieces of what was lost and taken. Black queer femme writers know a lot about that particular type of healing. Through erasure and violence, their language articulates our pain, our anger, and our fear and vulnerability to love deeply, to love as an action and not a passive idea. Sexual fluidity is a language and an act of resistance. For you are truly denying all of the forcefully imposed categories, binaries, and limitations to what love can be and is. To live as a Black queer femme writer is to live as a storyteller positioned in the center of an intertwining history which all culminates into a refusal of being defined by whiteness, patriarchy, and suffocating gender roles.
June Jordan was a bisexual, Jamaican-American writer and her work spoke to the importance of demanding a safer, freer, community to be a part of and protect. Her work spoke within this fluidity as resistance. Jordan’s language confronted the necessity of loving yourself fluidly, through all of the different facets which hold grief, shame, and anger but also love softness, and curiosity. This fluid act of self-love is seen as dangerous for Black women but her work allows us to open the door and discover what it means to protect ourselves from the interior. Jordan wrote, “If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.”
As we begin to celebrate this Pride Month, we must hold true to what this month is truly about and who must be honored during this time. It is the Black femme queer storytellers who shape and make sense of the things that others find threatening. Let us honor their storytelling by living true to their promise and their dream.