Nova Scotia

George Elliott Clarke dedicates poem to 'iconic iconoclast' Joan Jones

Jones was a key organizer in civil rights organizations in Nova Scotia, including the Black United Front and the Nova Scotia Project. She died last week at the age of 79.

Clarke praised her 'words smoking in triumphant power-plays' and 'panther rhetoric'

Civil rights activist Joan Jones with her children from file video from the 1960s. Jones died on April 1 in Halifax. (CBC)

George Elliott Clarke has written a poem dedicated to civil rights activist Joan Jones, praising her "words smoking in triumphant power-plays" and "panther rhetoric."

Jones was a key figure in civil rights organizations in Nova Scotia, including the Black United Front and the Nova Scotia Project. She died last week at 79.

George Elliott Clarke reads the poem he wrote for civil rights activist Joan Jones

3 years ago
Duration 1:54
CBC News met up with poet George Elliott Clarke at the Halifax airport on Sunday night to capture him reading, 'For Joan Jones, Sanctified and Righteous.'

Clarke, a longtime friend of Jones and Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate, said people used to congregate at the home she shared with ex-husband Burnley (Rocky) Jones. It was there those involved in activism shaped their ideas.

Her friends said Jones positioned herself behind the scenes, avoiding the limelight, but always advocating for justice and equality for the black community.

Jones was also a founder of Black History month in Halifax. Her funeral was in Halifax on Monday. 

Read George Elliott Clarke's poem below:

Joan Jones in an interview with CBC News at Nelson Whynder Elementary School in 1997. (CBC)

For "Saint" Joan

"Underprivileged" was our blackness until

You enacted the pinnacle Symbol:

Africadia's Angela Davis --

Elegantly bony, Afro'd goddess

Of War--Minerva--our egerie (muse),

Iconic iconoclast....  To refuse

Silence, diss quislings obsequious,

Was thy mandate.  Rather, Vesuvius

Volcanic--cigarettes and eyes ablaze,

Words smoking in triumphant power-plays,

Appalling all the pallid parliaments

Unable to palliate Belligerence

That was bella; that was you, beautiful:

Encouraging Courage--Rage--pivotal.


Sass!  That was your style!   Such natural chic

In buffalo-stance, panther rhetoric,

Loud spunk or spite, yet soulful attitude.

Militancy was your beatitude

In strutting stride, but strident your laughter —

With smoke for halo (spice trailing after —

Likely curry).  Black-leather-serious,

Down-to-earth in denim, mysterious

In mood, your smile was eloquent even

When you frowned, cussed, or yelled.  In your Heaven,

God welcomes push-back, protest, and doesn't

Mind changing His mind.  If debate wasn't

There, it'd not be Paradise, anyway,

But boring.  And that's not your -- or God's -- way.