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The Words and Works of Janice Mirikitani

Poetry For The People At GLIDE Church

June Jordan and student poet teachers from the University of California at Berkeley with the GLIDE community together creating poetry—what an incredible experience! June Jordan, grant awardee of the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, selected GLIDE Memorial Church as collaborative community partner for the Poetry for the People program in San Francisco. In the Spring and Fall of 1995, our sessions attracted 50-60 students per season, all ages, races, sexual orientations, classes and backgrounds. Together, under June Jordan’s guidance, her magical spell of teaching, her beautiful gift of writing, and the compassionate dedication of student-poet teachers, poetry flowed between the street, church and university.

Language is a mirror in which we find ourselves, in which we discover our history, our hopes and our homes. Language liberates us, especially those of us who have been imprisoned by secrets, silences and shame. Words crafted with passion and truth are an affirmation of power. Creating the various forms of poetry to contain the experiences we wished to express freed many of us. June Jordan’s love, encouragement and belief in everyone’s capabilities gave us permission to reveal what we thought was forbidden. The many poems birthed were marvelous, moving, mysterious testimonies to survival.

In the circles of the congregation, diversity is celebrated. In the circles of poetry, our words break through barriers created by inhumane systems, institutions that perpetuate racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, classism and ageism. We open the vaults of our isolation and loneliness. With the power of the word we define ourselves and speak to one another in a language that is beautiful. These circles contain the worlds we create, and like ripples, our compassion spreads.

Thank you my beloved Sister June Jordan.
Thank you courageous, committed Student Poet Teachers.

Janice Mirikitani