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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I Finally Watched ‘Da 5 Bloods.’ We Were Cheated! #ChadwickBoseman

If you haven’t seen this movie. Watch it. Now. RIGHT NOW! #BlackActorsMatter

Da 5 Bloods | Netflix Official Site
‘I like to think of myself as an artist.’
-Chadwick Boseman (1976-2020)

Spike Lee has accused Clint Eastwood of overlooking the experiences of Black GI’s. I agree, so as only Spike Lee can he told the story of 5 Vietnam Vets. Deleroy Lindo would be great reading labels in Target. His performance took up the entire scene wherever he was. But the thing is this. His performance was only overshadowed by Chadwick Boseman’s.

Every time he was on screen, there was this quiet strength he exuded, and it made me forget for two hours that he was gone. It made me forget the pain in the back of my heart that mourns This King.

There is this element to art that is intangible. That is definitive and irreplaceable. You cannot teach presence, dear ones. That is something you either have or you will never possess! Chadwick Aaron Boseman had presence. The magic he had along with other other cast members whom made up the ‘Bloods’ let me know just how amazing he was…and would have been(!) if given more time.

Ah, always more time. Death is thief, coward and robber! It took Chadwick in the prime of his life, and left us thinking and wanting and waiting for more of what he would have done. Should have done! And when I got to end of the movie? I had to fight back a howl that was ancestral and primal, indicative of pain only mothers know. I had never felt so cheated out of watching an artist! We were robbed, y’all! Robbed!

I know there are those whom will think that this may be emotional, but I don’t care! There is not enough credence given to Black actors and artists! There just isn’t! There is a need to foster Black actors like never before. In the age of Issa Rae’s and Will Packards, there is a need to continue to support and put on those who come after us, and even are working along side us!

The life and breadth of the work of Black actors is invaluable! And when a Black actor dies, and you are a part of this guild of artists, it is a death in the family! There is a void that no one else can fill! Unless you are an artist, you cannot understand what we as a culture just lost…and what we have.

Whenever we miss Chad–I think we can start calling him that again, we family now–we can just hit play, or scroll through streaming services to find him.

Death is coward, thief and a robber. Yet, we have memories. We have stories. Maybe, the justice to be found in loss, is that nothing is truly lost is one remembers.

We all remember, Chad. We are not scared to remember him.

Besides, who can bury a King? Not nobody.

[image from Netflix.com]

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl–Lie #5: You Do Too Much!

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

-Lucille Clifton

As long as there is a world that seeks to erase Black folk, we will never be ‘doing too much.’ In this observation of ‘too much’ who quantifies this? Who can say what is ‘too much’ or why it is ‘too much’. Now, I am well aware of what the phrase means. I know what the words in their individual power mean. What I am not understanding, or what I desire to understand is how these words are so apt to be affixed to Black women! I truly do not believe the world realizes just how and how hard it is to be Black and woman–daily. To have everything from your skin tone, hairstyle, speech pattern and whether or not your knees are crusty examined. I’m sure there are no new contagions studied with such scrutiny!

Have I said this phrase to more than one woman I know? I sure have. Have I said this phrase when a situation was already out of hand, and someone’s behavior (whether Black or White) exacerbated it? Yes! The phrase ‘too much’ is itself an exacerbation! Yet–it is the behavior I want to see change, not the essence. Therein lies the rub! The current adage is we [Black women] will always be too loud for a world determined not to hear us. So, the idea of being ‘too much’ manifests in success, in victories, in triumphing over something set, thought, and set out to kill us! I must become ‘too much’ in order to be seen, heard, fed, to feed, and to thrive!

I must become my own hero because none is coming! I have accepted the title, own the space of ‘being too much’ or being seen as ‘doing too much’. I accept that there are those whom will see out that space I occupy or they will flee from it! It is not my job to acclimate to a world on a continuous basis that only seeks to destroy or deconstruct me. I have decided to celebrate–because even in graveyards, there are trees.

I have purposed myself to stretch towards that light, the power, the space of knowing all I am is valued, necessary, formidable and most of all undeniable.

Offset, Reset & WAP

Cardi B Opens Up About Offset Divorce: 'Sometimes People Really Do Grow  Apart' | Billboard
Cardi B is getting divorced. This might be the best thing in the world.

I told you so. I TOLD y’all this wasn’t going to work–like at all. The thing that find so hilarious about this situation is he says he is embarrassed about Cardi’s lyrics–his wife now!–to ‘WAP.

The man that cheated on his wife with at least two women, and possibly has an outside baby with or by another one, but mad that his wife wrote lyrics about her WAP. Yet, he is out her chasing other WAP. The dissonance is a super power. I mean, truly! You want to know why toxic patriarchy is trash? Here is the prime example. There is a class of man whom think once they sleep with you, they own you! This same trash logic is what gave Carmello Anthony the cajones to tell the world and I quote:

“My wife [Lala Anthony] is married. I’m not.”

So, him being offended or embarassed about his wife singing about how dope and satisfying her vagina is, rather than be embarassed about his behavior says alot. So he’s not upset that he hurt his wife; embarassed himself; embarassed his daughter, family and these girls he was cheating with. You, Offset, are mad at the woman you married and impregnated, that she made a song about her WAP, while you were seeking out or falling into OPP/WAP. But you mad at her? Her?!

Yeah. This is Hotepian common sense.

She isn’t allowed to be mad, hurt or embarrassed because she is HIS, right? Which entitles him to the most base, banal, basic behavior! And he won’t acknowledge his own behavior in the demise of this professional situationship! He wanted a pretty girl to show off (and do bad!); having her on lock while he did what he wanted, like he wanted.

The killer part is she loved him. A lot. You can tell that.

I truly believe as this situation progresses, he is not going to leave this relationship quietly. I really don’t! I say that from the vantage point of having to contend with a man whom I used to be with–sleep with!–and because I wanted the relationship over? He decided to make the life I wanted without him, miserable! Spoiler: I kept living my best, Black life.

Cardi has money and time, and the rest of her twenties! The last thing she needs is to be attached to a man that doesn’t value her, want her, respect her or think that she is less than who she is! She is greater than her WAP, yes, but she owns all she is–being a wife of this man-child didn’t stop that. She and Kulture deserve better.

Offset need to grow up, and stop letting his penis determine the caliber of his manhood. The question remains that when/where are the men around him going to tell him that the length of his peen, his WAP sonar, and his ‘ability’ to make a woman holler will never make him the man he think he is.

But, this is 2020. Trash peen energy is running the world. Chile, money is an accessory to unattractive men. Remember that.

[image from billboard.com]

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #4: If You Would Just Change…

The world loves to tell Black women what they are not. It love to look at us, copy us, love the pieces of us, yet choking (or lusting!) on the whole only to then look us in the face to tell us we need to change!

And the world, and those in it want to know why Black women have the nerve to be angry? Octavia Butler said something similar: “Some people have no idea what it is like to have the whole world sat against you.” Nothing could be more right, and leave it to a person who was Black, woman, and writer to reveal such a truth! Why should I change when the world sees me a troublemaker, whore and mule–all three things you can (and do) commodify! The secret is–anything that Black touches is still Black. Why should I change? How can I change? What am I changing? Who said I need to change it? What I have learned is when a woman is told she needs to change, there is something about her way of being–her essence–which intimidates people. Now, essence and behavior are not the same thing! Essence is who you are at your core, those immutable things. Behavior is what you do depending on the situation you are in: this can be changed.

Essence cannot be changed.

This is why we have parents–those people assigned to our lives (through birth or circumstance) to show us how to behave (this is the process of being raised) and who we are (our essence). The world loves to commodify the unique, but persecute what it cannot control. At the essence, at the core of this concept called being Black/Blackness the constructs of white supremacy, racism and capitalism can do nothing with! Black people, Blackness cannot be eradicated. Since it cannot be eradicated, it can be exploited! It can be associated with all things undesireable, criminal and evil. See, if you can control a narrative, you can decide or describe what best suits it.

This is the power of a [the] Master Narrative–and why it must be questioned, challenged and dismantled at every turn! At it’s essence it is wrong. Saying who I am at my core, most base self is evil or wrong because it does not suit you, exists independent of you, and refuses to bend to you–is wrong! I cannot change what I am, what I know and believe to be true of and to myself for the comfort of those whom seek my oppression, destruction and erasure. I will not do it. I cannot suffer it. I will not accept it.

Anything that Black touches, changes.

Black does not change.

Book Release–Thinking I’m Grown

I am so proud of this work.

In this work, I reveal more of myself, and ‘owning my and’. From motherhood, reflecting on my childhood, the death of my father, being in love and not anymore–I examine all of this. In that space, the poetry is divided into 3 categories:

Mind. Body. Soul.

My mother said that after 25, you (as a woman) begin to settle into yourself.

The work is about 30 pieces of poetry, with a surprise in back of it!

Bonus: Own Your ‘And’…

What is the definition of the 3-letter word ‘and’? There are 15 definitions to what this little word means. The best way to remember the power this word has is the word conjunction. A conjunction is a word that allows a sentence to be richer, more complex. Think of conjunctions (such as and, but and or) as the hitch to a tow truck –allowing you to bring all of your imagination to the page. With this in mind, I want you, the writer, to begin to do something radical:  own your ‘and’.

What does this mean, you ask?

This is a reminder to you as a writer to bring all your experiences to the any work, idea or project that you have. For me? My and’s are as follows:

I am Black, woman and writer.

I am woman and mother.

I am a believer in God and am pro-life in the complete sense.

These are just a few, of course, but these are just some of the identities and experiences I bring to anything space, platform and project I am involved with.

There will be no idea you will write or conceive which will not expect or demand you be confident in all that you are. In owning your ‘and’ you are owning your identity. You are defining how you move in the world, undetermined or undermined by the opinions of other people. This kind of radical honesty is imperative to a writer! Ownership and mastery of the self is  tool of a writer, and needed no matter the genre you desire to write!

The work you create will always bring a small sense of uncertainty. This feeling of tightrope walking, holding a stack of dishes on your head! The only way to conquer that feeling is to realize not to look down, and you succeed one step at a time…and the further you go on this tightrope, the more dishes you get to throw off you head. Knowing who are as an individual, accepting who are as an individual, gives your space as a writer! This space is invaluable because it grants you a power to be honest, open and vulnerable. This, this willingness to be honest brings a beauty and empathy to you work.

This is the power of storytelling! When a writer can ‘own their and’ and create because of or in spite of, they give a piece of themselves to their readers whom will become their audience.

Shy from nothing. Embrace everything. Own your ‘and.’

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #3: If You Would Pull It Back, You Would Have A Relationship.

At this point in my life, the women that I confide in are in two categories: Mother figures and Sisterfriends. One of my sisterfriends is the remarkable, beautiful and completely savage (she describes herself as a ‘manicured pit viper’) Kelly Heflin. I have been a part of her world–happily–due in part to my own wit, love of fashion, and the same substance I believe all women have that have gone through the loss of fathers.

And in that power, with that wit, I call her my sister. Shouts to Kellz!

With that, she never ceases to amaze me with the level of nonsense she reveals from her inbox into the waiting Facebook world. From this, I have seen my sister be called everything that could enter into the heart of a petty, jealous, acrid man. I have seen the messages that she was bold enough to share (because, Kellz–and I love she!). The thing that is so confounding about this, is their reaction to her reaction to not wanting to be treated as anything less than what she was taught she was! Her answer to that, which is my echo, “If you wouldn’t let your daughter settle for it, why would you want me to?”

I agree, Sis. I agree!

I should not–will not–lessen myself to the point of being gaslighted for the sake of ‘having someone.’ Why should I? Who is raising these men-impostors?! Who started this lie that in order to have the woman you want you have to break her like a wild mare? Why is a woman to be broken, to be made whole to and for a man? Let me give you some Bible, because the I know the Hoteps are trying to formulate a way to ‘check’ me.

Note: I write and sign checks; I am never to be checked.

Or, as my ex-husband said: “You can’t handle when a man like me puts me in your place.” My retort, like a reflex, was “Where is my place? What is my place?”

Women are the last divine thing to look God in the face. Think about this! So, if I–like you–am a divine, sentient creature, why should I not be treated as such? If we go through Genesis, and really read it, Adam was in charge of naming all things in the Garden of Eden. And it was he that named the being that came out of him–and praised God for it. And named it. Anything you honor, you care for and name! So, if my job is to be a complement, a help, and source of support, why should have I to dim or become less in order to be suitable? Please, make this make sense.

There is a generation of women before us whom we, the women whom are those late 70s-80s babies entering into middle age, are looking at and wondering–Why was this treatment of okay? Why is my ability to endure, to soldier on, to cry in showers and in pie or cobbler filling the proof by which I am to be chosen? Now, I was taught charm and class by my mother. I know how to handle myself, and be a lady–that is second nature. My father is one who taught me game–who said to me that ‘No one can feel your brain.” Let me translate: it’s not good enough to just be smart; keep yourself up. I, at 39, and examining these conversations my sisterfriend had in a new light. They are hurtful. They are demeaning. They are gaslighting at its finest! The most outrageous one that I have ever seen was the one she shared from a man who told her–unprovoked! No one sent for this dude!–who decided to tell her that she needed to be more humble. That she just needed ‘a good man’ to ‘humble her’.

Let me say this: If you feel you have to humble a woman, in order for her to be suitable, you will never have her. As I say often, “If you have to hold her with a chaser, you don’t know how to run!” What does this mean? It means you are not ready for what it is you want–and you need it to be more palatable to be able to handle it. You just not ready, son. He told her that she was too ambitious and it is intimidating to men. I, like my sister Kelly, thought none of these words strewn together into what he believed with all his strength would make sense–do not, in fact, make sense.

This good man by which homeboy spoke of could handle and support an ambitious woman! A good man would see that the woman he wants, has a life outside of him, and is not defined by him only–and he wouldn’t want her to be! A good man would know his girl to the point she would never have to humble herself: he would make her feel safe enough to submit to his leadership (that is the key to submission: Can you make her feel safe? And care for her? Can she rest with you? But that is another conversation–isn’t it?). A good man would know how to lead, guide and protect his woman without believing he has to break her, hurt her, in order to have her.

Y’all need to check your boys…they are surely not men.

What Is A Darkwalker?

My first love, if I have to admit, was horror writing.

I was fascinated by the things that go ‘Bump!’ in the night. And I was fascinated (much to my parents’ chagrin) with death and the concept of just…not dying. From that, I have like the idea of vampires (Peep this post from a couple years ago!). I have liked the idea of being eternally young, getting stronger with age, and being able to walk in the world as I want–without the approval of a higher power.

Note: Let me say this. I am a woman of faith. I believe that God exists. I believe in Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His resurrection and His return. I believe all the gifts and talents that I have are God given. In those gifts, I believe that my imagination is one of them. I am not an atheist. I am not ever going to be an atheist! I have seen too much in the world to NOT believe in God. I am aware of the controversy of the Christ-believing writing horror or what I call ‘dark literature.’ With that said, I answer with the Christopher Priest quote: “A real writer can write anything.”

I consider myself a real writer.

There is no genre which is off limits to me, that I cannot touch or will not explore. So, for this I return to visit my first (undead) love. Why is it vampires, and not wolves (I am #TeamJacob, but that is another matter)? Simplest answer–Bela Lugosi. I make no apologies for that. But, vampires to me have always been this mix of scary and sexy. That, and–if I am being honest–I feel A WHOLE WAY that Anne Rice’s Merrick (Merrique) was this dynamic creature (a witch!) and turned (by Louis), and then after not even a century ‘in the Blood (to use vernacular of The Vampire Chronicles), she just…died.

I remember being so angry, so frustrated, and feeling like something had been taken from me.

With the Twilight saga, and Stephanie Meyer having a issue about Black actors/People of color being cast (she said that she wanted to stay as true as possible to the source material)? I mean, the clear intent is that Black people cannot be seen, are not granted the space, to be extraordinary!

For that, I claim these vampires in the names of our ancestors! And if you liked the teaser of Calsepsi? Then you will love the novel that comes in April/May 2021.

#Staytuned.

[Our] Famous Black Aunties Matter

If you didn’t see the Verzuz last night, you missed a whole treat. That is it. That is all!

Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight Set for Verzuz Faceoff This Weekend -  Variety

Lemme tell you a secret.

I have loved Patti Labelle since I heard “Lady Marmalade”. I loved Patti Labelle like I loved Dihann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge and Phylicia Rashad. There is an easy glamour to them which I believe inspired Beyonce to say, “I woke up like this.” So, when I heard that she would doing a Verzuz with Gladys Knight? I thought it was a dream!

You have to understand one thing: I am the oldest child of Baby Boomers. I had the parents that looked over everything I would listen to! I had a Vanilla Ice cassette tape and they insisted on listening to it. I knew they would take it because he cursed in it. You have to understand how hard Tipper Gore made every child’s life after her Parental Advisory campaign! So, I grew up listening to NWA (at my cousin’s house–duh!), Elvis, Stevie Wonder and Duke Ellington (my mama’s favorites). I remember listening to KLOU, the local oldies station on Sunday nights with my father. When I heard Aretha Louise Franklin and Patricia Louise Holte?

THAT WAS IT!

I was happy to have the rasp to my voice, and happy about my alto! And I adopted them both as my imaginary aunties. And I loved Patti Labelle the moment I heard Lady Marmalade. And still do!

This Verzuz was like being in the room when grown folk were talking. I watched it with my sister, Tawanna, and it seemed that every time Patti sang–it hit different. When Gladys sang? It hit different. This is why music is so transcending. When I heard If Only You Knew at 11, it doesn’t sound (read: feel) the same as it does at 39…with some for real life under me.

Soul legends Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight to face off in 'Ultimate Verzuz'  battle | GMA
These millennium children could NEVER!

While reliving childhood memories and hitting that one IF in the chorus of If Only You Knew, and shrieking when she Auntie Patti kicked off her shoes, all I could do was smile. When Auntie Gladys starting singing On & On, I was transported! But the thing that I loved the most about this event was the love that was there. It wasn’t about who won! Although, I told my sister that Auntie Patti was going to win because she was going to be give me everything that I needed! Everything! From the hair, the bougie glass, her blonde bombshell persona and the rack of shoes! Auntie Gladys was regal, and warm and it felt like I was in a front room again. You remember that scene in When Beale Street Could Talk when Tish had to tell Fonnie’s people she was pregnant? Remember all the love, shade and music in that room? Oh, yes! That is what I group up with, it is that love that I try to recreate when I write, or tell a story aloud.

This Verzuz was a hug. This Verzuz was your favorite aunt wiping your eyes and telling you it’ll be okay. It was your Mom or your Dad sharing playlists with your or their vinyl. It was Black Girl Magic becoming the reminder of those who were watching that we come from a stock that can’t help but see us, gotta see us, because they can’t ever be us. The women on that Verzuz have been giving us memories for a combined 130 years! The beautiful thing is how affirming they were to one another. They called to the Queen in one another, reminding each other they would be friends still, and always. This is the gift and jewel of seeing Black women aging while maintaining friendships.

Everything about this was beautiful. And lovely. And I was here for it.

Iggy Azalea will never.

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #2: It Doesn’t Take All That!

The world loves to tell Black women and girls what they can and cannot do! It loves to define Black women and girls for what they believe they should be. I am not a should-be Black girl. I am not a should-be Black woman! I own all that I have gone through, all I have done, and I want all that I dream of being!

I own me on a level I couldn’t dream of before! I suppose inching towards 40 which has settled me in a way that I didn’t think I would reach yet. Yet, in the intersection of aging, motherhood and adulthood, I find myself confronting the need to hold my own space. There is a need to protect that space, and every footstep that goes into owning that. The lie that I break daily is that I “do too much” or “it doesn’t take all that.” But, it does! It does take all that–it takes every bit of THAT which makes me Black and woman and walking through the world!

There is a different level of moxie, chutzpah and bravado to be a Black girl in a world that either wants to be you, erase you or kill you! It take every bit of your THAT to walk through the world and not be overtaken by it! What is THAT you ask? THAT can be a myriad of things, but here are the three things that I have deduced THAT is: Voice. Style. Presence.

Voice. There is a power, a magic, that Black women have. There is a natural authority and sway we have. When we open our mouths at certain points, God will come out! And in that space, from that place of authority, people who don’t want to see or hear Black women–silence us. We get removed from rooms. We get ‘rescheduled.’ We get delegated. We get told that we ‘too loud.’ We are ‘too aggressive’. And then those accusations are met with rebuttal? Oh, then we are called ‘bitches’. As if that will make the roar soften because you call me a name! No. I’m too told to be stopped by that.

Style. The poet Nikki Giovanni talks about how divine this thing called style that Black folk have. The poet herself even said, “If the Black woman wasn’t born, she would have to be invented.” There is a power in this! There is something to Black women, whom bear Black girls who, too, will become Black women have that is indicative of self-expression. In a world which is bent toward erasure of anything it considers and aberration, Black women still are noticed–we can’t help but to be noticed! From hair, our nails, make up and shoes–to how will pull ourselves together for dinners, weddings or a night out–Black women have shaped, reinvented, and owned style from the first time we discovered color. This was before chattel slavery, dear ones.

Presence. I have been a tall girl my entire life. In quoting my aunt about the state of my body, she says it this way: “All you had all your life was legs and ass!” That’s a direct quote. Now, I stand 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and about 200 lbs. With the right outfit and shoes I am over 6 feet tall–you notice when I walk in a room. My mother tells me that a lady always has presence about her. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s until I realized what that meant. Presence is owning your life, experiences and all that your body is–stretch marks, muffin top, eyeglasses–whatever. The world doesn’t know what to do with a woman they are supposed to be ignore (let’s not forget we aren’t to be lusted after!), and it wants to erase! What do you do with a woman that you can’t help but see?

So yes, dear ones, it takes all of THAT. This life takes you owning your space. Amplifying your voice. It takes knowing who you are, and having your life not be defined by what other people can look or conceptualize you as! You make the boxes and draw outside of them!

Never let the world which can only take you in sips demand you give them a chaser! No! You have every right to be in this world–so be in it. Be. In. It.