Jayne Cortez

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Jayne CortezJayne Cortez was born in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and grew up in California. She is the author of ten books of poems and has released nine recordings of her poetry with music. Cortez presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. She is the recipient of various awards, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the International African Festival Award, The Langston Hughes Award, and the American Book Award. Her books of poetry include The Beautiful Book (2007), Jazz Fan Looks Back (2002), and Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere (1996). According to Maya Angelou, “Cortez has been and continues to be an explorer, probing the valleys and chasms of human existence. No ravine is too perilous, no abyss too threatening for Jayne Cortez.” Her latest CD recordings with her band, The Firespitters, are Find Your Own Voice (2007), Borders of Disorderly Time (2003), and Taking the Blues Back Home (1997). Cortez was organizer of the conferences “Slave Routes the Long Memory” and “Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writer Dissecting Globalization,” both held at New York University. She was president of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. and is featured in the films Women in Jazz and Poetry in Motion. She lived in New York City.

There It Is

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is…



Let Freedom Ring | April 17, 2008
Symposium IV | Advancing American Ideals: Democracy as a Goal for the Arts