Tribute to Jayne Cortez from the G.P.I.





7 East 7th Street
New York, New York

The George Padmore Institute in London sends our tribute and support from across the Atlantic on the occasion of the celebration of the life of Jayne Cortez.

We thought it was very important that we send a trustee, Tony Wallace, to be present and represent the George Padmore Institute (GPI) at the celebration of Jayne Cortez’s life. Her contribution has had such a powerful impact on our work over the years here in Britain.

It was my father John La Rose, the founder of the GPI, New Beacon Books and the International Bookfair of Radical Black and Third World Books, who brought Jayne Cortez and Mel Edwards to the attention of those of us organising the Book Fairs. They attended the 4th Book Fair in 1985. They were a golden couple, talented, immaculately dressed with the look of artists. But unlike others they did not have the false air of celebrity. Both were down to earth committed, enthusiastic and excited about the groundbreaking political and cultural work the Book Fairs represented.

Jayne read her electric poetry at the International Poetry Reading at that Bookfair.

It was astonishing how this quietly spoken woman was so powerful when she read her poems. Her poetry had a sharp biting analysis making our ideas clearer, shocking us out of complacency and strengthening our spirits in the struggle for social justice. A friend and Book Fair stalwart Mogniss Abdallah recently sent links to Jayne’s inspiring poems accessible on Youtube. Here was, not only the poetry, but the music with the band Firespitters and including the musicianship of her son Dernardo Coleman. But the invaluable gift was a link from Abdul Alkalimat’s Afro Am network to  Jayne’s signature poem “There It Is” and access to these poetic bombshells  

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

Our personal and organisational contact with Jayne Cortez strengthened and flourished over the years. We invited Jayne to open the 9th Book Fair in 1990. Her speech can be found in the publication “Meeting of the Continents” which chronicles the history and contributors of the International Book Fair of Black Radical and Third World Books up to 1995. At the tenth Book Fair Jayne read her poems in the Poetry Evening and at the 10th Anniversary Gala Evening.

Jayne and Mel kept in close contact even when the Book Fairs ended. Like many others individuals across the continents they became a committed part of the “Book Fair Family” network. The George Padmore Institute held a reception in Jayne’s honour in 2002 where she read her poetry. On John La Rose’s death in 2006 Jayne and Mel attended my father’s funeral and then contributed together with Denardo, to the musical tribute to John La Rose at the Camden Centre, London in 2007.

We were honoured to have Jayne give the 2nd John La Rose Memorial Lecture in Leeds in 2011.  Her unflinching analysis, compassion and grace shines out in the DVD recording we produced of her speech and contributions during that event.

The George Padmore Institute is planning to host a European tribute to and celebration of Jayne Cortez in London later this year. The GPI trustee, musician and poet Linton Kwesi Johnson will be working with Gus John and Margaret Busby to plan a fitting tribute to Jayne Cortez. We invite you to celebrate with us.
Jayne was part of our movement. Steadfast, fearless and committed. Her contribution was exceptional. Her work lives on in her poetry, music and example.

Jayne we will miss you badly. You gave everything. We are grateful to have known and worked with you. Thank you from all of us in Britain

Michael La Rose

Chair of the George Padmore Institute, London, England

4th February 2013

Gus John with Amiri Baraka at the tribute for Jayne Cortez in New York