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News & Ideas

June Jordan Reads "Poem about Police Violence"

June Jordan seated outdoors in grass
Portrait of June Jordan seated outdoors in grass. June Jordan Papers. Hollis #: 8001022089

Poet and activist June Jordan (1936–2002) wrote powerfully about liberation from race and gender discrimination.

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Jordan’s poems often addressed violence and injustice faced by women and black people in the United States.

Jordan wrote “Poem About Police Violence” in 1978 after the murder of Arthur Miller in Brooklyn, New York. New York City police choked Miller to death on June 14, 1978. The poem was published in Jordan’s book Passion (Beacon Press, 1980).

Listen to Jordan read the poem, which in this recording she calls "Poem On Police Violence”

For research tips and additional resources, view the Hear Black Women's Voices research guide.

[June Jordan speaking]

Poem on Police Violence

Tell me something
what you think would happen if
every time they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
every time they kill a black man
then we kill a cop

you think the accident rate would lower
subsequently?

sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
comes back to my mouth and I am quiet
like Olympian pools from the running the
mountainous snows under the sun

sometimes thinking about the 12th House of the Cosmos
or the way your ear ensnares the tip
of my tongue or signs that I have never seen
like DANGER WOMEN WORKING

I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rabid
and repetitive affront as when they tell me
18 cops in order to subdue one man
18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle (don’t
you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue and
scuffle my oh my) and that the murder
that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn
street was just a “justifiable accident” again
again

People been having accidents all over the globe
so long like that I reckon that the only
suitable insurance is a gun
I’m saying war is not to understand or rerun
war is to be fought and won

sometimes the feeling like amaze me baby
blots it out/the bestial but
not too often

tell me something
what you think would happen if
every time they kill a black boy
then we kill a cop
every time they kill a black man
then we kill a cop

you think the accident rate would lower
subsequently?

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