“The syntax of a sentence equals the structure of your consciousness.”

-June Jordan. From her essay, “Nobody Mean More to Me Than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan.”

In June Jordan’s university course, “The Art of Black English,” Jordan and her students explored Black English as a unique living language, “a system constructed by people constantly needing to insist that we exist, that we are present.” The presence of Black English had been a source of friction for some students while reading Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” in an earlier Jordan course: “In Search of the Invisible Black Woman.” They rejected the language of their homes and communities in a work of literature. Those students didn’t see Black English as an ever evolving system of communication capable of holding and expressing the complexities of life. According to Jordan, “The assumption of the presence of life governs all of Black English. Therefore, overwhelmingly, all action takes place in the language of the present indicative. And every sentence assumes the living and active participation of at least two human beings, the speaker and the listener.” At its essence, the creativity and innovation of Black English is about what’s possible when people connect. Black English is because Black people are.

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