Claim To Fame: Why I Breathe Fire

Reflection:

The same thing I am praised for, is the same thing people try to snatch me for—this thing I do with these 26 letters.

In the face of abject crazy which is the current world, I would be remiss in my duties as a writer not to speak or record it. When I decided to lean into writing, being a writer as a career, I knew what I was getting into—what it would cost, and what I aimed to do in it.

This is the thing I love, communication and the art of word play. It’s what I do. It’s legit what I do. And for the love of it, I happen to write down my imagination to sell to people. I keep pens on hand, my desk is covered in papers and my laptops are always running out of space.

This, indeed, is my sweet spot.

Love and blessings,

JBHarris

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From the Crates: 2014-Confidence

I love this picture of me. This was last year. Stepping into this writer-voice role. Get into this melanin!

Confidence is an intangible, invaluable tool for navigating this life as a woman. With all the uproar over Gabourey Sidibe and a dress she wore to the Golden Globes on Sunday night, there have been mean comments via Twitter, Facebook and countless comments riddled with venom, or what the glamorous refer to as “shade”.

I sat, thought and wondered this…is this why we as women can’t unify? Is this why? We are still caught up on how someone LOOKS in something? Nevermind the fact of a woman being talented, driven and visible, operating in all facets of her talents regardless of station in life or situation she may find herself in. We as women have to learn how to get OVER ourselves. We really do, and learn to celebrate each other, and be an ENCOURAGEMENT. Granted, it can be a struggle to shift focus from the exterior to the interior of a person, seeing that the exterior is the thing that is most of us are taught to dress up, doll up and play up with the latest fashion, or mascara.

Whether it be Christian Louboutin’s she wears, Nine West slingbacks, Nikes or Payless flats she wears, why should it matter? If a woman is famous, infamous or anonymous there are some things that are synonymous to the human experience. As women, I believe with have this vision about our ideal selves, and what we wish to be or change. We confront insecurities, issues, and pains only the Lord knows of daily. Why make a day in the life of another woman harder than it must be? Each of us as a past written, present we live, and a future we are creating. Let us decide to do better.

Not just for ourselves, but for those whose lives we effect. Let us teach our daughter to be better women, sisters and friends. So at the time when purpose and destiny intersect, the sons of the Most High may have better wives to assist with the changing of the world.*-All of us, the writer included have been guilty of “sizing a woman up”, as if her worth is attached to what she wears to bare to the world. We have no idea what each of us has been divinely assigned to bare and conquer for the sake of our destiny. By design of the Creator, choice is the most incredible source of determination, compounded by the choice of words. Endurance in a choice. Confidence is a choice. Quitting is a choice. Running from what you have decided to do is a choice. To have your destiny stopped by what someone has told you is a choice. Being distracted is a choice. I am choosing to use my words to bless and edify.

Let the weeding begin.

THINGS I PONDER:(c) JPHarris, 2014

For The Love Of It: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman Star in New Images

I will say it again, we were robbed.

I had tried not to watch this movie. I won’t lie about it. Since I am still grieving Chadwick Boseman, I didn’t–I wasn’t prepared to see this movie. I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing him on film, and knowing he was dead–I was hurt. And I still am.

With that grief, it pushed me from this movie–despite Viola being in it. I just wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t ready. For those of you that are unaware, this film is based on the August Wilson play of the same name (shameless plug: read August Wilson’s work.). I cheered when I heard that Denzel Washington was going to be producing the work of August Wilson. I was so happy, and still am!

In watching this movie, I was enthralled! I loved it! Not because I am a lit nerd, and not just because I’m a lit nerd! Everything was good from the writing, the music, and–as only August Wilson can—the dialogue was everything. Simply everything!

I love the Jazz Age anyway! I am a student of history anyway! I love period pieces anyway! So, to have all of those things in front of me, with an artist that I respect? With artists that I respect? It was glorious–it was a love letter to Blackness, and so well done. So, so well done. You have to be familiar with the power of August Wilson’s work to get the small details that are in the movie, and how powerful they are!

From the conversations the band has, to Ma being late and asking for her ‘cold Coca-Cola’, the nephew that stutters (badly!), and Ma not budging on what she wants–even down to the sauntering she did, and body language! I love this movie, and it affirms my love for August Wilson, moreso.

Black art matters.

Black artists matter.

Black stories matter.

Keep going y’all–we got more work to do.

[image from Netflix]

For Eric

Beloved Author Eric Jerome Dickey Has Died At 59

My mother should have been a teacher. It was her that truly cemented my love of reading. It was through her love of fashion and nice things, that I began reading ESSENCE magazine. In ESSENCE, through there book review section, I came across Eric Jerome Dickey.

Now, this was the late 1990’s, and he was just gaining popularity and success! I purposed in myself that I would start reading his books. The beautiful thing I found in Eric’s work was how he –as a Black man–wrote about Black women.

We weren’t caricatures. We weren’t stereotypes. The Black women he wrote about were complex. They were beautiful! They were vibrant and alive. Eric Jerome Dickey was truly a storyteller–and that endeared me to his work. Of course there were people whom wanted to read his book, wanted to borrow mine and I wanted to borrow theirs! The presumption about writers –especially when they are Black!–is that you assume they will always be here to write.

The thing about what Eric Jerome Dickey was he elevated Black fiction. Too often the white gaze will tell or show the world that Black writers can only write about Urban Fiction (and I still to this day, do not not like the term Urban Fiction–I think it’s coded language for ‘only Black people read and write this.’), and nothing else.

Nall.

Eric didn’t do that.

He gave Black life, Black people and their experiences color and a life that made you forget it was a book! This is the power of good writing with the rocket fuel of storytelling! Eric Jerome Dickey did this…so well. He will be so missed. The beautiful thing is when a writer dies, like any other artist, there is a legacy which soothes that grief.

I miss him. Thinking of him in past tense is heartbreaking, and unnerving. And at the same time, he isn’t truly gone, is he?

No. No, he isn’t.

[image from Essence]

January 6, 2021

American Flag Ripped from National Guard Soldier's California Home |  Military.com

Throughout the whole tyranny of reign of Orange Thanos, I have kept my strength on a steady diet of dystopian fiction, PoliSci and V For Vendetta. I remember the night Vader came to power I sat at work, and watched V For Vendetta. I remember holding my breath, baring down, teeth clenched and—scared. That same feeling I had when I gave birth, both times no less.

I had a panic attack on November 3.

I waited for the whole world to catch up with votes, recounts and abject craziness.

I watched as the right fawned, lied, prayed and schemed to take this election from President-elect.

Fake news.

Legitimate versus illegitimate votes (which is really just coded language for it was too many non-white people voted).

Crazy television appearances.

The non-conceding.

And the abject delusion and outright denial of reality–to the tune of 74 million people.

With that said, what happened at the Capitol, on Capitol Hill, in broad daylight? How? How in the big wide world does one get the unmitigated gall to take off work, storm a federal building, to LARP Call of Duty or Metal Gear? On buses? And–it’s just too much!

I will say it forever that this insurrection was an inside job. The footage being revealed to the greater world shows police officers moving barricades, taking selfies with insurrectionists, and directing the mob to where all the legislators were! The thing that is so glaring with this–aside from the treatment of these domestic terrorists and BLM protests!–is the fact that these people thought nothing would happen to them!

Now, people are unnerved that these group of racist, White people are being held to account–because the law does not lean favorable to the delusional! There is a whole thread on Twitter called #NoFlyList that depicts people whom were at this coup, being put off planes, being arrested and being labeled terrorists!

And as this story develops, I want all of these Call of Duty Navy Seals to be caught. I want them to be prosecuted! I want them to know that the law is not a weapon for evil–and it ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun is it?

Everlasting

Allow me this:

I have neither answer
nor cure for this.

He is me in side that I-
Both warning and comfort
Ocean and storm
Which allows Us to
Exist and always be.

-JBHarris, 01.11.2021

To Stacey Yvonne Abrams: We Thank You.

Democracy as we know it owes a debt of gratitude to Black women. At this point, that debt can’t even be repaid in a lifetime. As I sit this morning, basking in the hard work that Black women have done; Native/Indigenous women have done; allies and accomplices have done; 45 percent of White women did, and all those Republicans that pushed back a tide of absolute evil–one name sticks out to me: Stacey Yvonne Abrams.

It is through her hard work, her grit, her faith and organizing that flipped the state of Georgia BLUE–TWICE! Without her help, endurance and tactical brilliance there would be no Senator Warnock or Senator Ossoff.

Black women are WONDER WOMEN. This election proved the Nikkii Giovanni quote about the necessity and power of Black women:

Nikki Giovanni Quote: “I am a huge fan of the Black woman. I never hesitate  to recommend her when times are bad or things go wrong.” (7 wallpapers) -  Quotefancy

Sometimes as a visionary, you get discouraged when you cannot fulfill the plan you set out to complete. Stacey Abrams had an election stolen from her, and used that pain to push forward! In that pushing forward, look what she did! Look at the press, and what came from it!

The world owes Stacey Abrams. The world needs to realize what it means to have society aligned against you; fighting for the most minuscule advancement! Fighting to participate in a democracy we are promised access to! With her using all her talents and abilities, affected this level of change. Within all this joy, I am reminded of the Zora Neale Hurston quote about Black women being the mules of the world. As I celebrate, ask I bask–I cry.

With all this harnessed power, it feels unfair!

It is always left to Black women to fix, clean up, mend, tend and rescue! We see what happens when we don’t: LIFE DERAILS! That derailing isn’t just for us, it’s for everyone! We have been graced with unique blend of passion and vision. For that reason, we fight. We equip. We organize. We teach. We reach. We push.

We fight—because we cannot afford to die.

The world needs the heat and fire of Black women, and will never admit it. It will be whispered about, celebrated with nods and lunches with girlfriends and hugs that are too tight or too long–to push strength back into her. I want to push strength back into her. I want to cover her in a sheet and let her just pass out! I want to cry with her and tell her she can breathe. I want to tell her this:

“Stacey-

I see you. We see you. We are proud of you! If you do nothing else, you have done enough. You have done enough. Rest, sis. Rest.”

Thank you, Stacey. I hope you sleep so good tonight.

Dying In Power

For the accompanying poem, The Death Of The Black Body, click here.

Flowers in the Graveyard – All the Wonders
Nothing is so sad as seeing flowers among graves…

There is a certain indignance to the death of Dr. Susan Moore.

Black. Woman. Mother. Doctor.

The same attributes that make excellent doctors, were seen as ‘intimidating’ to the medical staff which were responsible for her death! What makes this all the more heartbreaking is the viral video Dr. Moore, and the subsequent New York Times article. The thing which turned my heartbreak to rage is the video. She knew what was happening to her.

She knew. They knew.

Dr. Moore knew the doctor (in name only) that was ‘in charge of her care’ was denying her what she needed to recover.

She knew. He knew.

Dr. Moore advocated for her health up until the hour of her death. Yet, she did what most Black women do–even as they lay dying–she imparted truth.

She knew she was dying, and would die. She also knew her medical neglect was a result of the staff feeling ‘intimidated by her’. Let me explain to you what it means to be intimidating as a Black person, especially a Black woman. It means you cannot be easily manipulated. It means you don’t take the word of people (namely White people in power) as the final say on any matter. It means you speak up when people don’t think you should. You hold space and take it up–you don’t shrink. The fact still is, Dr. Moore knew what she needed–and no one listened to her.

Aside: This is why Black doctors are needed! Black patients need to be listened to and believed!

Peep this statement (taken from ABC News):

In a press release, Indiana University Hospital president and CEO Dennis M. Murphy described Dr. Susan Moore as a “complex patient” and said that during her stay at the IU Health North facility in Carmel, Indiana, the nursing staff treating her for coronavirus “may have been intimidated by a knowledgeable patient who was using social media to voice her concerns and critique the care they were delivering.”

A complex patient.

Any patient that is knowledgeable about their care is intimidating. Speaking from personal experience, retired nurses are the worst patients (and the most entertaining!). But there is a whiff of coded language here. Dr. Moore says that her care was compromised because the staff all knew she was a doctor–and yet they were intimidated by her using social media. Let me help you out: if you were doing your job, and charting, she wouldn’t be intimidating. If she was getting the care she needed, would she even be using social media? Would she even be dead?

The question that I keep coming back to is why was Dr. Moore using social media as a tool. Why did she feel the need to do this? As I answer my own question, the only solution is–she must have been scared. Something must have unnerved her to the point she had to record it. Dr. Moore had to have thought, “These people might do anything to me. Let me keep them accountable.” The fact is, Black folk whom are knowledgeable are always a threat. We are always seen as complex because there is no way to knock a down a peg–the archaic phrase is ‘uppity negro’.

So let’s look at this again. There is a Black woman, knowledgeable about her care, and advocating her own health and safety in the middle of a global pandemic which has killed over 300,000 people. Who wouldn’t be scared? Who wouldn’t document everything? Who BLACK wouldn’t let everyone in their circle know what was happening to them? Good or ill? Granted is it aggravating to take care of people whom are medical professionals in patient roles? Yes. They will look over everything; they will ask questions; they will try and direct their own care. It’s frustrating. It’s aggravating. But, this is not a reason to not take care of your patients regardless of race!

Dr. Susan Moore should not have had to resort to the vehicle of social media to detail what what happening to her. The medical staff need to be held into account! The suspicion that most Black people have for doctors, hospitals, and the medical community as a whole is an open secret.

From Lucy, and countless other slaves whose bodies where used to ‘further’ what we now know as gynecology. To the Freedmen Hospitals. Henrietta Lacks. To the Tuskegee Experiment. The sterilizing of Latin women. And now COVID-19. The medical community likes to gloss over, and rebury the bodies which have allowed ‘science to move forward.’ The lynchpin? The families of the unwilling forced into graves too soon by avarice or malice hiding in a white coat and stethoscope fueled by curiosity didn’t forget!

We remember.

These cases are not alive or immortal through medical journals. These are people, were people, and are always going to be people! Members of a society cloaked in science, superstition and embolden by racism have always used Black, Brown and Native bodies as guinea pigs; expenditures of its own curiosity.

Social media is a tool of marginalized people, and Dr. Susan Moore used it to advocate. Black women are always advocating, and warning, and trying to save the world. I cannot help but think of Mama Pope and the soliloquy felt by Black women everywhere:

“Trying and saving and trying to save. Like we do. So here I am. Admirable or ridiculous? Baby, you tell me.”

Dr. Susan Moore should not be dead. Dr. Susan Moore should not have had to advocate for her own health, fight racism and recover at the same time! It’s the system that killed her that is ridiculous. When will that change? I’ll wait.

Dear 2020: What To Say To The Year That Was…

Mood leaving 2020…#CaptainMarvel

What to say about the year that is 48 hours out of memory? I am equal parts relieved and heart broken. In the 12 months that was 2020, I have feared for my life, been elated, hopeful and resolute all at one time. On the one hand, a relationship that needed to end two years previously, ended. And I celebrated being a college graduate for the year. I have cried laughing, and cried to the point that I could not get out of bed.

So, this what I have to the year that was.

I believe that 2020 was year that I needed. It wa a year that made me the woman I am destined to become! I needed the fights, the tears, the break-ups and the questioning of my own worth. Why? This is not because I am a masochist–far from it! But there were so many things in my life that needed to change, and without something major–nothing was going to change.

Nothing.

I want more for my life, and 2020 showed me that I needed to believe in myself.

I wanted to be a better mom for my kids, and 2020 gave me that time to reconnect in the midst of a global pandemic!

I wanted time to write, and 2020 gave me the thing I cried for–time.

For me, 2020 was hard. I’m sure I’m not the only person that feels this way. Yet, but by no means, will I allow myself to wallow! I refuse to keep crying! The year of 2020 reminded me that the superhero I needed was the dynamic duo of Jesus and me! There is a power that has been unlocked in me that only could be found in 2020! No other person was going to come and save me…and I secretly wished they would! I didn’t want to be the one (again!) to have to fix what I didn’t break, clean what I didn’t make dirty, and admit my part in making 2020 more chaotic than it had to be.

Getting to 2021, surviving 2020, started with admitting that some of it had to do with me. When I was able to do that, that’s when surviving of last year began.

I was off New Years Day, and couldn’t even cry. I just sat and…looked. I slept. I ate. And rested! I did all those things in peace. For the first time in five years. Imagine! So was 2020 trash? Oh, completely! But the fire that was 2020, made me realize I was going to stay a Phoenix to survive it.

Women whom are forged from fire, will never fear it. I am one of those made from it.

The Death Of The Black Body (Say Her Name: Dr. Susan Moore)

Always a mood…

Melanin is precious and sold by the pound,

just as bucks, pickinnies and mammies were

and are and always will be because there is always

amusement that corresponds to the death

of the Black body–

born celestial, holding power, light,

and all color, seeing it reduced of life,

ashen and quiet.

The world loves when we are quiet.

When tongues are no longer fire

Ears no longer the attentae for

what is wrong, missing or lingering–

Deaf to the ancestral, the integral and

hands prone and cold.

Reduced to pounds

gathered in shrouds,

bound, and hoisted inside

capsules to be planted in the ground

with the wails of the mourning

shaking the trees.

Hands reaching Heaven

because our shouts have not

reached, remembering that

the same Who remains yesterday,

today, and forever more promised

to be in the fire, the wind and the

earthquake, and in every breath.

To our last breath,

we fight.

And when we can no longer fight,

we become seeds

to grow trees, to give strength

to the weary in need of rest.

We have mastered being in the world,

yet never being of it.

-(c) JBHarris, 12.24.2020

Say The Quiet Out Loud

I want nights

That are quiet,

And still

Loud as thunder,

I want storms in

Oceans of sheets

And limbs pulling

Me further from

What I know into

All I want.

I want the quiet parts

Said out loud

And kisses made only

For me,

And all my inner light

Being bother magic

And woman lit

By you.

I want the now

and the present presence

Of what it means to be

Lost and still be found.

From sky above

And Earth beneath

I want to dream

Of setting future

Suns…

Again.

-JBHarris, 12.27.2020