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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The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 1-What Is “Struggle Love”?

“Every relationship has goes through ups and downs.” This is the lie we are told–especially as women!–that there are things we have to just go through in order to ‘have a relationship.’ This leads to the idea, and idolizing of this thing called ‘Struggle Love’. The best way to explain this is a relationship/potential relationship that is tumultuous, full of drama or potential abuse; the couple stays together because  they want to be together–and they believe that ‘every relationship goes through things.’ More often than not, these relationships have aspects of being domineering, full of gaslighting, and one of the participants of this relationship must continue to endure things that are painful for the sake of the relationship.

I have a friend of mine, whom makes sport of eviscerating those whom come for her with this type of insanity–and it is glorious! Case in point:  there was a man that was in her inbox who was trying to shoot his shot! Okay, nothing wrong with that (she calls these misadventures  Inbox Chronicles). But when he came to her on some ‘If you were my woman you would…” or “I wouldn’t put up with that if you were my…” My personal favorite, “You need to understand that you need to be patient with a man, y’all [I suppose this to mean women born after 1970] ain’t nothing like y’alls grandmas!” For the life of me, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean! None at all. 

I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t need my husband or father (and I have neither) to open a checking account, I can vote, have an abortion, and can go to a higher science class without my womanly assets being such a distraction. But to ask for this level of fairness in a relationship? The word egalitarian is a curse word. There is a this twisted appreciation for the women that endure. The ones that suffer in silence, give everything to everyone and has nothing left for herself! This expectation that –as a woman–you are supposed to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…and smile. Take the case of the relationship between Gucci Mane and his now wife, Keisha. He took this woman through the unimaginable! Just like Emily and Fabulous –he has literally hit this woman in her mouth! And she’s still with him! Why? The illusion of the happily ever after. This promise that says, “If I just put up with a little bit more, cry one more time, believe him one more time, then I’ll get my happily ever after.”

Struggle love always has outlandish requirements–these requirements are often met by the need of one person to be needed and wanted, doing all in their power to appease someone that is (clearly) abusive. Struggle love tells us that love is earned, not given. Struggle love tells us if we just hang on–all rewards will be ours. Even if  we die along the way. Struggle love is what most women have been taught! In this teaching it makes women the mules of the world–not deserving of someone unless they can ‘prove’ they love us; or we must suffer in order to be loved. Love–with God being love—gives it to all of us lavishly, so why do I have to prove I love someone else–by how much I will put up with, cry over, or forgive?

Don’t worry–I’ll wait.  

Cultural Conversations #4: School & Work

As problematic as T.I. is, he had the idea for a TV show on BET. The premise of the show is/was to find out which is better: classic education or street smarts. When I saw this, I wanted to start screaming. This is another form of classism and elitism. Why?

I’m glad you asked.

I have college educated parents. I have a mother that loved books, loves reading, learning and in a last life, she wanted to be a teacher. I had a father that made sure I could write my name and read by 5! I, myself, am dual-degreed and thinking about grad school. I am the mother of gifted children, whose gifts I speak to on a regular basis. Yet, some of the smartest people I have ever come across don’t even have high school educations. With this pandemic, I have remembered the things all the older people in my life have pour into me that has prepared me to survive! You have to understand that learning is eternal, intelligence is not quantified as one thing, and to have a degree does not make you better than someone else!

With that said, I come from a family that values education. Yet, even though I value education–I understand that ‘school ain’t for everyone.’ Yet, even with that, in that, those without that higher education shouldn’t make those with it a target! Don’t you know this a form of classism? You can’t keep telling yourself “Who do they think they are? Going to college don’t make them better than me!” Yes, you’re right! But you cannot knock those that want a college education, want those opportunities that it brings! Conversely, you cannot shame the people that want to go to trade schools, start their own businesses right out of high school with no desire for an MBA–with more sense than a board of folk with MBA’s!

It was my grandmother, with her 8th grade education, who showed me how to survive, garden and be observant of the world around me. It was my college educated father that told me the value of reading, being confident in my intelligence, and using my voice do what I know is supposed to be done! The thing is just like it was in the antebellum portion of history, so it is now!

Education is a tool of achievement and to others its been divisive!

If you get an education, and go around certain (read: white) people, it is seems that the expectations that follow Negro expectionalism apply! They (read: certain white people) don’t understand ‘why everyone doesn’t go to college?’ I would be here all day and until Jesus’s return talking about this!

Everyone should be able to go to college, yes. College should be affordable enough for everyone to go! Yet, there are some people that just don’t want to go! And that is okay. Just like you should be shamed for going to college, you shouldn’t be shamed for not going! We need to normalize the not going to college, as well as going to college! We have to take the stigma off education. There are people that enjoy working with their hands, or doing hair, or fixing cars! It is okay to let people pursue the things they desire–which, too, make them money!

Intelligence is not just ascribed to what’s in a book! It cannot be limited to what can be found in a book. And not all intelligence is associated with common sense! With that, stop telling people (read: Black folk) that to be educated is to try and be white! That is toxic and further emphasizes this divide between the decision vs. the availability to college right out of high school!

There are so many variables between education and achievements. This dovetails nicely into those who decide later in life to go to college, or send their grandchildren. It happens! We must be able to become more understanding of one another, even baring in mind what F. Scott Fitzgerald said when in The Great Gatsby: not everybody had has the same opportunities as anyone else!

We cannot be caught up in such a minor thing when we have white supremacy to dismantle! And we need everyone working together to do so–whether that be driving the car, giving lectures, fixing the meals that we eat after, writing books, opening businesses, mentoring who need it, and giving hair cuts after! We need everyone on deck just like the Avengers in Endgame!

Degreed or no degree–we are all in this together! On my watch, we aint leavin no one behind.

…And Just Like That, She Is Forty Minus One.

Happy Birthday to all my Birthday Twins! According to the Original Firestarter, My Mama, I was born Wednesday, June 24, 1981 at 10:37 am. If you desire to send all bday money, you send it to my CashApp: $JBHWrites. Thank you, dear ones!

39. I have made it to 39.

I am a mother, a daughter and a friend. This birthday feels different. It feels different, because it is different. I survived the onslaught of COVID-19, with my mental health and body intact! But this birthday is different.

I am getting extra tattoos. I am piercing my belly button again. I am embracing my sensual nature, and respecting (read: re-establishing) my boundaries. I am falling in love with me, and my own company all over again. Yet, I am doing it in a way I could only have done at this age. I am no longer keen on male company, and I am not dumbing down for it. I have found that I am a fan of a good wine, and Megan Thee Stallion.

I am writing more, and building a legacy for me and mine. I am appreciating my mother more, and her bed still has magic in it! And I do not know what I will do without her when the day comes I can no longer call her–or find her—on this side of the grass.

The previous 6 birthdays, I have been someone’s wife. I am no longer that. That wound is fresh, pulsing and I am still healing from that. It is a beautiful thing to be able to write in this time as well. If I couldn’t get all of this out of me, I would definitely be in a much sadder state.

In this birthday, the last of my 30’s, it feels different. I’m moving different. I’m looking at my life and raising my kids different. Everything is different! I went into 2020 with all these plans and expectations—and weights. I will not dwell on the demise of my second marriage, for 2 reasons.

1.) Ain’t no body got time for that. We are getting divorced. We are not friends. Nor do I purpose to be.

2.) Mr. Harris deserves to live his life without his ex-wife dragging him through the internet.

I’m much classier than this. I’m a lady (most days). Despite rumors to the contrary.

But the thing is this, I’m not terribly scared to turn 40. I’m not rushing it either! Trust me! I am thinking now about what I want the second half of my life to be. I am thinking about how I am going to be a better Mama. A better friend, and I am loving sleeping alone again! I am healing up, Oracles. I am enjoying time with my kids, and writing, and even have taken up gardening.

Yes, gardening.

I refuse to get a dog. And I hate cats, and the scary thing—in the next 5 years, I will have an 18-year-old child. And I have to get her ready for the world. I am absorbing all the time with her and her younger sister now.

What these first almost 7 months of this new decade have taught me is I am tougher than I ever thought. I deserve more than I ever put up with. I have learned when things are over, they are just over–and some men just can’t handle you; though they love the idea of you. What I have learned in this now 39 years of living is all wisdom is gotten at a cost: youth.

There is more I desire to do, that I must do–and I am excited. Besides, the adage is, “If she’s fine at 40, she’ll be fine forever!” And I plan on aging like Dihann Carroll!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Short Story: The Talebearer

This piece was chosen for a collection done by Big Black Chapters in honor of Juneteenth 2020. I am indeed a descendant of enslaved people, and as a writer? That holds a unique responsibility. With all that said, enjoy. #BlackWritersMatter #BlackStoriesMatter #Juneteenth -JBHarris

Juneteenth is today. What it means, why it matters, how to ...

The Talebearer

By Jennifer Bush-Harris

June 19, 1865, Massion Plantation, Galveston, Texas-

“Lord, you said if we would just wait on you, you would make the path straight!” Anna  watched her brother Luke as he prayed with the heat he had only seen my own Pap pray. She looked out the shack window, watching Luke talking and rustle of the trees answer him. Anna touched her belly, swollen and jumping as Rasp put his arms around her. Anna breathed him in, closing her eyes. “Jesus, help! Jesus come help!” Anna breathed deep as Rasp kissed her forehead. His voice and Luke’s prayer soothing as her heartbeat in his ears. “I saw them soldiers, looking like a some of the night time in the day time with all that blue.” Anna closed her eyes, the tears stinging her eyes. “But they ran, Rasp! They run from here!” Rasp held her, tight, shushing her in the way he always had. “Daddy said he seent them too.” The tears from their hiding place, tracing down the bridge of her nose. “But they ran!” 

Rasp walked around to the front of her, hands on her lap. Anna felt eyes on her, those same eyes that found her underneath the stars three summers ago. Rasp but his face in her lap, Anna petted his head. She scanned the trees for her brother, sighed when her eyes saw nothing but trees and night. “Anna, I have loved you feel like all my life.” Anna felt the air leave his body, shoulders loose, neck taut. This was how he had come home back from the field. This type of worn out her mother said, ‘Take somebody breath day by day till aint nothin left but tuh die!”

To die.

Anna had thought about that same thing, that last summer. As she scanned the trees for her brother, she closed her eyes. As Rasp held on to her, hands around her hips, she let her mind swim back to that summer. Back to the water. Back to the night she ran. Back to the night where death, that ‘good sleep’ Father Shep said was better. As Rasp breathed deep on her lap, her eyes closed. “Them is dark things in yo head, Anna. Don’t chu go chasin em.” Her father told her that when she would take off in the evening. “Imma just need to be by herself!”  Don’t chu go chasin em. The heaviness in her chest came back, the tightness of it making her head ache. The apron over her dress hard and damp from a day of candle-making. 

Don’t chu go chasin em. 

            Anna remembered how dark that night was, how cold it was. The comfort of the memory was better than not seeing her brother. Luke, the doctor. Her mother said when he was a small baby that he had an air to him, always fought to protect him. “He my Moses. Our Moses!” It was because of Luke, and Anna her mother, May Clara, was gone. The thoughts came back, the sand in her hair, the clothes torn from her, and her feet bleeding. It was the knocking on the door of the little shack Luke called the Prayer Closet, that snatched her back through time. He busted in through the door like hurricane wind. “The scouts is in the woods, Anna! The scouts is in the woods!” Anna pushed Rasp away, cold from the weight and heat of Rasp gone from her body. “What?” Luke paced the Prayer Closet, looking at the small window. “The Yankees ain’t gone, Anna!” She felt her chest ease a little, she rolled her shoulders, and went to her brother. 

            Luke held his sister, close and warm. Tears came then, as Luke spoke. “I saw one of them folk from that place Indian Jack stay.” He kept hugging her, speaking faster, lips near her left ear. “Them scouts is like God, they just be everywhere Anna! They coming in the morning. We gotta be here tonight.”  Anna pulled away, looking into the face of her brother. Tall. Dark brown. Cabinet maker, furniture maker their father and his father before that. “We gon be free tomorrow, Anna!” He blew out of the door just as quick as he had come. Anna watched him run back through the night towards the trees. “In the morning. We gon be free in the morning!” Anna looked at the sleeping Rasp beneath the small window. She wanted to wake him, tell him everything Luke had just poured all in her heart. 

Rasp had told her and Luke while they were in the cook house that he had seen the Yankees that morning. He had left the field, was missing the last two days trying to catch up with the troops. Rasp had hidden in the same forest and Prayer Closet Luke called his own to avoid the dogs and the patrollers Master Massion hired to find him. In the morning. We gon be free in the morning. Anna turned to the window, looking at the forest seeing Luke again running like he was young again. Breathing deep, Anna walked to the first big tree of the forest, leaving the door to the Prayer Closet open. Leaning against the tree, Anna wished for Luke, needing for the rest of his arms. But the thoughts came back, chasing the wisdom of her father away. She could smell the fire of fireplace in the room, candles that burned and how she had woken up, groggy and sore. The parts of her sex open and pulsing like a wound. 

Anna’s mother, their mother, May Clara tried to tell her that Master Massion’s son wanted her. “Anna Clara, there be a talebearer in this here house!” May Clara had told her this when she saw her leave the field to come to her, putting oil in the lamps in the salon room. “Be careful Anna Clara. Mind yaself, Anna Clara.”

Be careful, Anna Clara, Mama said.   Don’t chu chase em, Daddy said.

That cold creeped up her back, just like his hands did as he took off the housedress, she wore. The cold fingertips and lips that caressed her, came back. How her Master Massion’s son, Edward, took her. From that first night, and a season after. The night he, Edward, this same boy who taught her how to spell her name, took her in her own quarters. He slapped her, pushing into her as she cried. “You ain’t ever leaving me, Anna!” She smelled the liquor on his breath, through his clothes. “No, Suh! Please! Stop!” Anna couldn’t reach him through the liquor he drank. Groping in the darkness, of found the metal of a small lantern. She had grabbed the lantern with all her might, bringing glass crashing everywhere as her mother and father woke. Edward, bleeding and not moving, laid at her feet. Anna leaned again the wall of her cabin, holding her clothes together. As she held her clothes together, her parents woke up—looking at the bleeding, drunk white man on their floor. May Clara looked at the man on the floor before looking at her daughter. “Run, Anna Clara.” The calm of her mother’s voice, now a hiss, scared her. Stepping over Edward, she ran.  

Anna’s feet burned remembering how she had run. How fast she had run, how far she had run. Through that same forest, until she reached the beach. The sand a comfort as her feet throbbed and bled. As she wrapped her arms around herself, there was warmth that came over her. As she closed her eyes, she stayed in that space. Anna remembered everything in the waves that came to her that night, seeping through her head scarf and hair. The tears came again, as she pulled herself back from the sand, her blood and the water. Anna opened her eyes, pushing away from the tree. “We gon be free in the morning.”

There were arms around her then, Rasp’s voice in her ear. Her body shook as she cried, leaning against the tree, free from the memory. Don’t chu chase them. The memories of everything that happened came in waves again. She remembered Luke telling her their mother pushing Edward out the quarters. “Anna, Papa beat Mistuh Edward somethin bad! Face red as Jesus blood!” The memories skipped to the day her father, Joshua, took the lash to protect her after everything happened. Before he went with the overseers, he told her what she was scared to say again aloud: “Them is dark things in yo head, Anna. Don’t chu go chasin em.”

  Edward hadn’t remembered being hit with the lantern, but he remembered Joshua hitting him. Anna wept in Rasp’s arms like the same day her father was beat in the barn. For her. For her sake. We gon be free in the morning. She hung on to the words as the tears came in heavy sobs, tears steady as raindrops. “Papa!” she shrieked. Anna remembered Gram Hallie holding onto her from the tree near the barn. She remembered how he struggled, fought against her hug. Anna’s body shook, remembering the whip lashing against the flesh of her father’s back. “Shush, baby! Shush!” The juniper Gram Hallie worn filled her again, wrapped around her again even in Rasp’s arms. The sound of the whip fresh as Rasp held her. “Anna Clara! Anna Clara!”

Clara. May Clara’s mother’s name. Her mother was the last child she had before she was sold for spite. Master Massion’s sister, Miss Julia, lied and said Clara stole something from her. We gon be free in the morning. Her feet throbbed, reminding her of what Luke told her. “Luke wit Paul on alla his travels, dass what Father Shep say.” Her mother said. “Luke the same way. Knowin and seein. He gon be great!” Her mother vowed any daughter she could keep would have the name Clara if she could help it. “I know these white folk aint finna ever call you all that I say you is,” her mother had told her. “But yo name Anna Clara. Anna like the Bible. Clara like my Mama.”

We gon be free in the morning. 

Rasp held Anna, tight. His breath in time with her tears. She cried as the trees rustled. “There they is!” Rasp held her, turned the Anna from the sound. The smell of the hickory wood in Rasp’s clothes steadied her. “Anna Clara!” There was a weight that crashed into Rasp’s back, with a small tow sack on his back. It was Luke. “The scouts is gon be here at dawn! We gotta stay out here tonight. Be ready to go when they knock on the Closet door.” Rasp followed Luke as he set a lantern in the small window. Rasp picked Anna up from her feet, still throbbing from memory. “Tomorrow, Anna. Tomorrow already comin!” 

As he crossed the small threshold of the Prayer Closet, this small house built by their grandfather, Old Wen, before Master Massion was ever born! This place was built with scrap wood, and lumber from other trees. Old Wen, who died not knowing freedom, set a place for his grandchildren. Rasp held Anna, as she closed her eyes. “Tomorrow?” Rasp kissed her forehead. “We gon be free in the morning.” 

Cultural Conversations #3- Artists & Athletes

There is a stigma in the culture around being an artist. Too often that is just relegated to an default position or career or hobby. Make no mistake–I believe that you need to expand your network to include unlikely people or places–life does not lend itself kind to the unprepared. But it seems there is no value placed on those that consider themselves, call themselves, artists.

They, we, us don’t get the respect we should if we were more prone to athletics.

Tell me I’m lying! I’ll wait.

It would seem the fam that whom battle rap or call themselves rappers have garnered themselves the title of artists for themselves! Yet, when you need a flyer done ‘on a hook up’; hair and nails done for an event; resume done or redone; you have a book you just gotta write but ‘don’t got it all right now’; a beat made for your songs on SoundCloud, YouTube of Spotify–or a video shot to put on YouTube—you know who to ask!

And what do the artists in your life do? They concede. They give. They serve. They create. This is what artists do–give. That is the dual nature of these gifts we have–but no one wants to always pay for them! Yet, anything having to do with being entertained in a gym, stadium, arena or some sort of practice session–y’all support that! The book signings, short film debuts, the series on the YouTube Channels, the nail shop openings, custom tees? Nall. It irks! It hurts! If people in your circle can by a PS5, then they can buy 5-6 copies of your book–and gift them!

The Arts need the same support a high school football team does!

Not everyone wants to play on a team: the gifts don’t fit there! Just like you support the daughter that is on the Dance team–support the one that is getting the writing awards. If you have a son that is good at drawing, support him like you do his cousins who play basketball, football or run track! Spread the support around! The last thing a Black child needs is to feel they are unseen and unsupported. Athletics are one thing, but not the only thing! The Arts need the same support! I feel most often athletics, that type of prowess is attached to whatever possible money is coming in the future. To that end, lemme help you: not everyone gets drafted. Not everybody Mama is going to be on the NFL Draft special. Not everybody’s son is going to the NBA, or daughter going to the Olympics!

It is okay to support the child that would rather draw the sky than run under it.

Waiting On ‘Candyman’

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the retelling of ‘Candyman’ will be in theatres on September 25–pushed back from its original June 2020 release date.

I saw this new trailer through my Facebook feed early this morning, and had to watch it twice. Despite (and perhaps this is too my detriment) never having hear of Nia DiCosta before directing ‘Candyman’, this short film–this new trailer–has me more hype than I was before to see this movie. And if you look carefully, you will see snippets of other Black history/horror stories in it as well. Within 2 minutes, I am that much more of a fan of hers. The short is intelligent, complex and telling. It reminds me of something that should have been included in the SHUDDER documentary, Horror Noire (Please cop this book! Please watch this documentary!).

The thing that is awesome about this teaser, about this retelling is found in the tweet of the director: “…the symbols we turn them into and the monsters they must have been.” This goes into the controlling of narrative, the controlling/ownership of language, and how minority people will always suffer from the retelling of their own stories by people who don’t look like them! This dovetails into the quote by Tananarive Due: “Black people have always loved horror–horror hasn’t always loved us.” And my favorite quote by her being, “Black history IS Black horror.”

Perhaps the issue remain in the fact that this story was originally written as a short story by Clive Owen. From that story, was the film. From that film, with its premise, allowing pain, anguish, revenge and autonomy through the vehicle of this angry spirit, I believe, is one of the reasons relegating Black people to tokens, magical/sacrificial Negroes or the ‘other’ is comforting to White audiences!

There is a shift vibrating through Black art right now–through all its medium. Besides, if there can be literally 10 movies featuring Jason Voorhees, the world will deal with the angry vengeful spirit of a Black artist whose hand and life were taken because he dared be who is was–and loved who he did! Jordan Peele said it best when he voiced the White male lead horror protag has been done—to death. Now, in this age where freedom is continueally paid for with time, I am anxious to see what else Nia DiCosta is allowed to create. This has to be–must be!–only the beginning.

In Memoriam Of The Charleston 9

It has been 5 years since Dylan Roof walked in the Mother Emmanuel and killed 9 people at a prayer meeting. I remember watching this on national news, and my heart breaking. BREAKING in my chest. At the time, my [then] husband and I were pastoring in Ferguson, Missouri–trying to figure out how to be married, clergy, activists and sane a year after Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered not even 10 minutes from our apartment. 

What Dylan Roof did was evil. The absolute level of evil is for God discern when he closes his eyes for the last time. As for me and mine, my [then] husband and I kept pastoring. We kept serving, kept loving the community we were in, and trying to do what God told us. In 5 years time, what I have seen is two fold: people running away from anything Jesus-related, or they are clinging to it. 

The folk whom are running from it, say they have abandoned it because it is a ‘White man’s religion.’ Forgetting that Jesus isn’t White, the Gospel went to Africa before it went to Rome, and the ‘fishers of men’ didn’t speak English at a native language. I say all that to say this. The White Evangelical Church has a lot to explain. A whole lot! Once more, it has taken the death of a man who was innocent to have dramatic, world-wide effect. You have to understand, as a woman of faith, the housecleaning that is happening in the faith community is overdue! It is overdue! Do you know how hard it is to preach this gospel with the assertion that most people believe that Christ is a ‘white man’s savior’? Let’s not even get into what it means to be a woman doing this work! 

In the light of this resistance–this once in a generation resistance–it seems fitting that this memoriam would be commemorated! However, the best thing about this? The White Evangelical church is having to deal with these chickens coming home to roost, dens of foxes in henhouse, and packs of wolves in sheep’s clothing. What reassures me that a reckoning has come is when WHITE pastors are confronting racism in their respective denominations. 

One of those pastors is Pastor Judah Smith of ChurchHome-Seattle. On a June 4th Zoom live, he said these two things: “We have colluded with the culture.” Meaning, there is still a thread of racism (real, palpable RACISM) that is going through the church. But the quote that struck me was this: “We have preached America as if–at times–its is scripture.” I see no lie present in this. None! The church, the one founded by Jesus Christ was NEVER supposed to collude with a culture. It was never supposed to align with one race of people! It was never designed to be a place where all people were not welcome! The fact Dylan Roof did this, killing the pastor of this church, only to have his body taken to internment under a Confederate flag? Insult isn’t even the word. In commemorating this tragic event, it is right that the church–a entity of change, hope, protection and security, begin to examine just how much of Christ is in the church. 

I mean, it was founded by a Middle Eastern man, whom didn’t speak English and was a refugee whose non-English speaking parents teenage parents fled their home to prevent his murder, only to be murdered by this state in front of his mother for being a threat to power—maybe, the legacy of this moment is the change it would bring. Rather, that is bringing. Octavia Butler said it this way, “All that you touch is change, all that you touch changes you. God is change.”

Change has now come.

I Don’t Understand: To The Matter Of Skeeter Mills

Y’all know me. I do not post trauma porn. I will not be posting the video. I will tell you it is on YouTube. I saw it on Instagram this morning. As of this posting, this young man has taken down all his social media. Cameras always reveal who the real gangsters are. -JBHarris

By any means protect Black Women #love #honor #essential #life ...
We must protect Black women, they are our hearts.” -John Boyega, actor

I saw this video this afternoon. This exchange, innocuous at the outset, and clearly the young lady isn’t feeling this dude, and he hit her with a skateboard.

A SKATEBOARD.

In the video, you see the young lady fall from the blow, and hit the concrete sidewalk. He walked away, talking noise, and being puffed up on the echo chamber of dudes in the background, one of them whom was recording the incident.

No one helped the young Black girl off the ground.

No one ever helps the young Black girl off the ground.

The recording, which is less than three minutes, you hear the utter disrespect and contempt ‘Skeeter Mills’ has for this girl. How it was just so easy for him to hit her, because he felt disrespected. The thing that struck me was everyone of those little boys have a Mama somewhere. They have grandmothers! They have sisters! Why is it, why was it, so easy for him to just assault her? I don’t want to hear excuses that begin or end with, ‘he didn’t know what else to do.’

This is the problem with toxic masculinity! I makes women a target, and leaves men no room to emote: they can only be happy, horny or aggressive. Think about that! What does that mean for Black women and girls! He was saying the young lady that he knocked out with his skateboard disrespected him!

How?

In the video she doesn’t put her hands on him, she’s not so loud that the dudes with him hear what she’s saying from where she is standing. So where was the disrespect to the point he had to hit with a skateboard? The only thing that I can think of is that she told him ‘no’ to something! From that ‘offense’ he was so flipped, that he decided to assault her–and leave her there!–because he felt disrespected?

The thing that disturbs me about this is cats like this will go to war over the women in their lives that find themselves in! They will be incensed that someone had the audacity to hit their sister, their mom, or their close homie! What makes this girl any different? And the fact this young man is Black? In the age we are in now? All I want to do is slap HIM this a skateboard!

Watching this video, I thought:

“I have to teach my daughters how to interact with racists cops; a system that wants to either kill them or erase them, and how to handle men that look like them when they have to tell them no?”

It’s too much. It is entirely too much! And yet. The most troubling thing in this video, his friends, these other beta jackals, are sniggling, and made the sound of a complicity as the skateboard connected with her face “OOH!” Yet no one helped her. No one ever helps the Black girl up off the ground.

[image from Pinterest]

Cultural Conversations #2-Single Vs. Married

“Yeah, but is she married?”

I cannot tell you how often I have heard this question thrown around in conversations related to success, especially for women. Even in the lives of the women I respect, it almost seems their achievements are diminished because a man is not attached to them! I understand the cultural implications and expectations, yet I cannot help but think roux of these needs or necessities stems from the emphasis of wanting to be chose–above all else. I am the first one to have said, and continue to say that I am an ambitious woman. With that ambition, I have also laid to waste 2 marriages.

Yet, in the wreckage of that, I always had this thing I was pursuing. And now, with the second marriage ending, that is much more apparent. I wonder why that is. I wonder how that is. I know there are more things at play than just ‘irreconcilable differences.’ There are many a woman that I know personally, who have dealt with this! But, for the sake of argument, let’s contrast the lives of two of my personal heroes: Viola Davis and Shonda Rhimes. Gorgeous. Gifted. Talented. Black. Both mothers, yet one of them is married. In some circles, Shonda Rhimes isn’t/couldn’t be as successful as she is without having a man. Which is totally unfair, archaic and utterly false!

Upon closer inspection, it would seem that the reason for is this for the love affair with patriarchy: a woman cannot be successful–really successful–without having a husband! Which, on some end, lightly diminishes Viola’s star because she is married. The thing is–the most hurtful thing is it would seem women have to consistently choose. They must choose between to romantic relationships and their personal ambitions; there is no way to ‘have it all.’ The most common adage I have heard is, “Women can have it all–just not at the same time.” Well, that’s some Phyllis Schlafly bullshit!

Now, I GET that for virtue of time and the demands on personal responsibilities won’t allow ANYONE to do all they desire all at the same time. I GET there are people whom trade-off the things they want to do against the things that need to be done. There are people that do change careers later in life or start college after sending all their children; pursue lifelong hobbies more seriously as they age or children or grown–even having children after a certain age. These trade-offs are applicable to everyone! But, more often than not-women bare the brunt of it! Women are expected to be self-sacrificial to the point of their own self: sacrifice because that is ‘just what women do’. It is not fair to attach the success of any woman because she chooses to be married.

I have never thought that!

I have never thought that was fair!

I mean, I cackle at the word compromise in relationships! Like Eartha Kitt, I laugh when asked to compromise. I ask, “Compromise for that?!” Men aren’t told they have to compromise–men are taught to dominate and take. They are taught to be ambitious is to be successful. For a woman to be successful she needs to be married? She needs the respect of being married to validate her? Something about this makes me indignant! Being married doesn’t validate a woman. Being single doesn’t limit a woman!

Women have the right to self-determination: to build, do and achieve as they want. When these conversations arise–that angry little girl who was told “No one can feel your brain” wants to scream! They don’t have to feel my brain, they need to respect me as a whole, sentient human being–inside pretty packaging. These conversations around what a successful woman looks like has room to expand, needs to have room to expand. The woman that decided to give up her career to raise her children—and is happy to do so!–should be celebrated. Also, the woman that decides homemaking, marriage and children aren’t for her due to what she decides to do should be celebrated. Besides, isn’t making this life your own the goal?

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

What Do You Do When The Sun Is Gone?

For THIS Debra. -JBH

Debra.

The ancient texts tell us that she, this woman.

this warrior, this guide, this light was

placed between two palm trees.

She was to be sought out and after for all matter

of wisdom, accompanying warriors and soldiers

on battfields–at her coming, at her presence

victory is assured.

What does one do when the sun has died,

and the moon has not yet come,

and we must still go on in this night?

What do you do when the sun has died…?

In the rustle of leaves,

inside the rain hides the thunder,

and from under the belly of the shadow

of death, we will fear no evil.

For thou art with me.

The sun has not died, it has only become the fullness of the moon…

so at night, we, can see the palm trees, and remember to fly.

-JBHarris, June 2020