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

P.S. If you love what you see here, consider donating!

Support Black Writers

If you love what I do here, consider supporting the platform! I thank you in advance for seeing the vision, and helping me develop all I Breathe Fire will become.

$1.00

 

 

If you prefer, I also have CashApp! Click the image below. (CashApp:  $JBHWrites)

CashApp 

 

That Conversation, Week 3: Talking To Strangers

 

When I started school, we were constantly being taught not to talk to strangers. We were constantly taught not to get into stranger’s cars, take things from them, and to tell an adult if someone tried to bother us, to let an adult know. How similar these rules become when you cross from child to woman!

My girls are at the age now where I have to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. I have to tell of the trappings of moving through the world as a pretty girl. I have to make them aware, and unassuming all at once–and it troubles me. Especially when I take public transit, or am out in public. As a woman, I have the accouterments of the realm for assurance I won’t be bothered:  phone, book, sunglasses, earphones. When I was of the age where  I went out every weekend–and my Spanish was better I pretended I didn’t speak English.

It worked.

The goal was always to be safe, get home, or not be bothered. In this age of participation trophies, and continuous yeses, there is a certain ilk of young man that does not like to be told “no”. And in telling them this ancient word that is used to dispatch, they–like all evil spirits—seek to destroy what they cannot hope to possess.

There is a certain portion of the male persuasion whom cannot cope with rejection or being ignored.

They stalk in packs like wolves, waiting and looking for the weak or unassuming, seeing if they can seduced or devoured. When I was younger, my father would tell me if there were a group of men/boys inside a place (like a gas station)  to let him know, or he would come in with me.  Or, the scarier part as a girl between 12-15 is when I would have to pretend I wasn’t scared—when I was. At that age, I knew what sex was. What rape was. What being touched when I didn’t want to be was. I knew all of these things. And I didn’t want these things to happen to me.

Yet, because toxic masculinity is real, and toxic patriarchy makes weak men believe all women are possessions and property, this evil roux births rape culture. In such a world that has such people in it, daughters are sent out into it. As scary as this is, they cannot avoid such evils in the world. If we love them, we have to equip them for this as well. We have to be brave enough to tell these brilliant female children, they walk amongst wolves.

Now, I am a fan of women and girls being able to defend themselves. I am a fan of women and girls always knowing their surroundings, and being aware of who they are with and the places their feet tread. There are conversations I have had with my daughters as it relates being ladylike, clean, and dealing with law enforcement. This, however, is a conversation I dread; only having it in pieces. I have only had the strength to have it in pieces. How do you tell your daughter there are people in the world that don’t see her as a person, but property? How do you remind your daughter to stay close to you in parking lot where there is light, and close your door as soon as your get in without making her feel utterly terrified? Yet, I must. I do. I continue.

I cannot have them go into the world unknowing. I cannot allow them to be in a position where they fall prey simply because they were uninformed! Where or when they didn’t know what to do; how to get out; how to defuse a potentially dangerous situation with an equally dangerous person? How can I let the go out into the world and not recognize their gut feeling and intuition–so they don’t override it? No. I cannot be that lax, or naive. I equip them, piece by piece-for their own good. Even when they don’t know it yet.

In that, I remind them the world can be dark–but it’s better to have a flashlight.

From The Crates: January 2014

*THINGS I PONDER:

(c) JPHarris, 2014

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.

*GET OUT, We Out, Peace Out: Who Did Y’all Think Rachel Meghan Markle Was?

Image result for meghan markle

I don’t know how long this process was in the works, but I in my Katt Williams voice, this is check and checkmate. Prince Harry of Windsor, the Duke of Sussex–with his wife, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, have ‘stepped back’ from their royal duties. Allow me to translate:  “I am leaving as soon as possible.”

Well, played y’all. Well played.

But the thing that I find most amazing is how it was done. Am I mad about this? No, not at all. But I wrote last year, how I was praying for Meghan and Prince Harry.  How I hoped, how I prayed that as formal, as unrelenting as a platform as being a British royal would be, that Prince Harry protect her.

The thing that most Black women are not afforded full privilege of! I remember how I got up and watched the wedding, and how gorgeous she looked, how happy Prince Harry looked–and yet, all of me that is Black and mother, remained coiled. All I could think is, “Don’t let them get her, Harry. Don’t let them get her.”

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'RESPECT Rogue Poledancer @LeratoMannya Prince Harry understands the importance of removing his wife from a toxic situation even when that situation is his family.'

From the press imagining this feud between her and the Duchess of Windsor (Kate Middleton), like they are Fergie and Diana reincarnated, to Prince Harry having to rise up on people that were coming for her, and the coup de gras? Some idiot on Twitter calling Baby Archie a ‘monkey’.

What I need y’all to know is, as woman, as a mother, as a person who occupies that intersection as one whom is Black? It is a miracle that Meghan didn’t burn something down! It is a testament of her grace, and the morality instilled in her that she didn’t become the stereotype of what the world thinks Black women can only be. The glorious thing:  my prayer was answered. Prince Harry protected his wife–with all power he could muster.

It was glorious!

But what I think is so amazing is how shook the world seems to be by their decision! Some men won’t defend their wives and girlfriends to the people at their jobs or crazy family members! So, the world is shook that he didn’t want his wife–HIS WIFE–to be exposed to the same toxicity which contributed to his own mother’s unhappiness? Be for real, y’all. Be for real.

Meghan couldn’t do anything right. She shouldn’t have had a wedding ‘so Black’. She should have worn more make up. She shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. Meghan shouldn’t have looked like she did right after having a baby! From what she wore, her baby bump, even what they named their baby! Dear Lord! How much was she supposed to take?

Herein lies the problem:  the world expects Black women to just take that type of abuse because that’s just what we do. Black women are seen as tragically loving mammies whom desire only to serve others. To die in pain with smiles on our faces–like Georgina in GET OUT. But the brilliant Zora Neale Hurston said this, “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” As I continue to live and learn, this quote manifests its truth on a daily basis.

In inhabiting this Black woman body, in encountering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune while inhabiting it,  I have come to three conclusions.

1.) White supremacy tells those that follow it that Black people, Black women, are props. We are to be confronted, controlled, and herded to the pasture of a master narrative.

2.) It scares some white folk when Black women don’t just smile and nod.

3.) In asserting any power over self as a Black woman, you have to be willing to go against what folk want  you to do.

The world wanted Meghan to take her Blackness, or half-Blackness with her–and leave Prince Harry; restore him pristine to be made lily white again. The world that hated Meghan–and perhaps hates her more now–wanted her gone, to reclaim Prince Harry. How dare they–how dare she–become, remain sentient, poised and leave where she was not respected?

How dare she refute all tricks and traps to be controlled by and in a world which only wanted to curse her to her face; devour her behind her back?

How dare Prince Harry do what was mentioned in the movie Belle:  ‘wed the exotic’?

And how dare they plot to leave a platform which is quickly becoming archaic? Add to the fact they see mixed in with the people whom disliked his mother on the best days, and served her avarice as ice on the the worst ones!

I am proud of Meghan.

I am proud of Harry.

I am relieved for Archie.

The joke around the internet is on their tour of North America and Canada, they visited her mother. In being in that space, where there was love being served they couldn’t go back to where there was none. I like to believe that is so. I like to believe that in speaking to her mother, as all Black girls do when life is heavy and dark, she was able to just be Rachel again. Not the world famous/infamous Meghan Markle.

Maybe she was able to emote. She could cry. She could be listened to–and she could plan. I mean the Windsors have a sorted history anyway! Exhibit A:  King Edward whom abdicated for Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American; not to mention he was anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer! Never forget, Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, married the woman he cheated on Harry’s mother for!

Meghan decided to leave a place where they both were unhappy, to make their way in the world together. Isn’t that what any parent wants for their children? The thing is, no one expected Harry to follow her. No one thought this Black girl from California–with the Black Mama with the nose ring and locks–would be able to pull a Prince from the gilded cage of money and privilege! But, she did. They did. And why not?

Image result for meghan markle prince harry

It is glorious to see her still retain all of who she is. I think Princess Diana would have liked Meghan. And I think, she would have told her to leave as well. Remember my dear ones, love is action and power. When harnessed together, it is a force of tremendous good. Besides, the world needs to see Black women own their own space, being intolerant of mistreatment. And if need be an necessary, get all your stuff, and leave towards something greater. The age of the Happy Mammie is over.

 

*Special thanks to Hannah Drake of Write Some Shit who reminded me to weigh in. Love you, Ma’am. 

[Images from top:  instyle.com; author’s Facebook timeline; PageSix.com]

 

 

 

 

 

That Conversation-Week 2: The Wisdom Of Better Men

(This is an intimate letter to the Kings that inhabit this Queedom. Read and share.)

Kings of this Queedom:

Toxic masculinity is described as follows:

noun. a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health: Men and women both suffer when toxic masculinity perpetuates expectations that are restrictive and traumatizing.

Let me make this appeal simple for the men of this Queendom:  I need you to raise better sons. I need you to understand being a man is more than phallus antics. It is more than killing bugs. It is more than sporting events, being physically strong and ‘being a man.’ I need you all to understand your sons need to be able to be attentive, perceptive, and be taught to care for women.

Let me say this again:  be taught to care for women. 

Caring for a woman is more than buying her things. It is more than providing orgasms, or masturbating with her body (oh, it’s a thing)! Caring for a woman means that you have to be able to be what she needs, provide support (outside of material things), and have some empathy.

I need you to understand the world is scary, and women don’t always have the ability to ensure they will be okay. With that, what I also must impress upon you is toxic masculinity is not what grows a relationship. You exerting control over a woman, claiming that it’s what men do, is not the healthiest space to be in.

I need you to be mindful of the women in your life whom need you. I need you to check the men in your life who demean women, whom participate in street harassment, or are unable to handle the most dangerous word a woman can say:  “No.” I need you all to understand your manhood, the idea of manhood, is not determined by what the world may think of you. I need you to understand your worth as a man is beyond the mastery of your emotions. The ability as a man to control your emotions, does not mean they do not exist.

Give your son, the young men in your life, permission to emote. To cry. To be human more than once! I want you to affirm your sons in the non-athletic things they do. Dearest Kings of this Queedom,  I want you to give your son the permission to possess all of their personhood. This means being able to be the young men whom will help shape the world. Let them cry, let them draw, let them play football and paint or play trumpet. Remind them that manhood is both collective and individualistic. Collective as they are not the only men in the world, and somethings are just common to the sex. Individualistic because they are, will be, unique to the world; such things are to be special.

What is needed now, what is needed for future generations of daughters is men (and women) whom are able to value all of their person; beyond sexual antics. I need the men of this Queendom to understand women are not possessions to hoard, or projects to critique, but people. I need you all to understand that as a man, you have the unique responsibility of instructing and modeling for your son, and instilling that model for your daughter.

She will need your strength to let her know what reasonable expectations of a partner. Your daughter will need your help to navigate these spaces that require her to be astute as well as charming. She will need your wisdom to set reasonable expectations, how to avoid crazy situations, and to know what love looks like.

Can you do that for her? For her sake, I pray you can.

For the sake of all the world, teach the Princes how to be Kings.

Dealing With The Mini-Deaths

*-Name changed for privacy.

The first part of any year, I become intraspective. I begin to think about the things I have lost, the people I lost through death and through the process of the life. I know the adage is not everyone can go with you. But the thing I find hardest? The death of friendships. What impacted me the most through this past holiday season was the abrupt ending of my friendship to *Olivia.

Olivia and I had been friends before kids, husbands, and during the thot phase of our lives. She had seen me at my greatest, I at her lowest, and was godmother to her children. In this new decade of 2020, we would have been friends for 20 years as of 2023.

As a girl whom keeps her friends close, it was devastating. I still don’t know why we aren’t friends anymore. I mean, she helped deliver my first child! You can’t get closer than that! So to just have her leave my life? It’s hard. It’s my Cancer nature, I suppose.

But it was a death.

I call these separations mini-deaths. Death is permanent, offering a solace of the finality of a thing. There is a cause, a reason and a time. Mini-deaths are sporadic, independent of logic and totally unreasonable.

My best friend, walking around in the world, is gone from mine. I mourned her as if my own sister had died. And there is no way to ask what I did which hurt her so badly. That’s the thing about these mini-deaths! There is a curious finality to them. The memories are there, and the person is no longer. The positive, funny futures you set for yourselves are gone also.

The worst part? When these types of deaths occur, they give you a callous on your heart. It allows you to let go of other people more easily–you notice the signs of such a leaving sooner. Just like how those that work in healthcare notice it.

You cannot unsee it.

I wish nothing but the best for Olivia. She deserves that. The things she trusted to me in confidence? They will stay in confidence. She was my sister–and I get that sometimes sisters fight. But those fights shouldn’t result in someone bleeding to death. I know the world we live in now thrives on a level of blood-tinged bullshit. It keeps the galvanized machine ruled by the whims of a chaos god amused.

But, I considered her my sister. Her people, my family. And yet, they all still live! Mini-deaths are hard…because they are insurmountable. These deaths which are completely unprovoked, may catch you entirely unaware; banish you to this space you no longer recognize. Waiting for the day of a resurrection. Every faith I know of speaks of and to some sort of redemption, bound by a time–certain and definite. But those are for the deaths which are complete. Final. Ended. Perhaps, that is the worst part.

Mini-deaths are vicious. They offer a hope of resurrection, but a vapid with details. They tease hope, and offer light and for that pursuit…I waited for my best friend–my sister–to come back to me.

A year has turned into another. I’m sure this will be no different. It has been about 3 years since I have spoken to, or seen, Olivia. The girl that once called me her soulmate. The one that I could tell anything to. The girl I grew up with to the point that she knew when mu swag was off, and whom called me when her world was falling apart. And I miss her. Dearly. Yet, I move on…heart beating, eyes forward. I mourn what was, but am no longer bound to it. If Christ has conquered death, Hell and the grave, surely I will not die because one person could not see value in my friendship.

Grief is too deep to not give to the deserving dead. Those whom are alive and remain? We deal with regrets of what could have been and now is. While doing as George Bernard Shaw says, “Avoiding one another while appearing not to do so.”

This too shall pass.

[top image-telegraph.com, second image astrograph.com]

The Matter of Blue Ivy Carter

Before anything else, I need y’all to understand she is a Black girl. And I will not tolerate any disrespect or denigration to her or her mother, or her father. You will be put off this site. -JBH

Image result for blue ivy carter

I have never understood why the world hated this little girl so much. I mean to the point that the world had something to say even about how her mother styled her hair. I have never, ever understood that.

I, having grown up as an ABG (Awkward Black Girl), I was teased for being smart, tall, too Black, too quiet–everything. And that type of thing is not easily conquered (that God for these 26 letters–they have been salvation more than once). But as it relates to Blue, Shawn and Beyonce’s daughter, the world cannot seem to shake the expected aesthetic it wants for this child.

Enter the fetishism of Black women and girls.

As of this month, Blue Ivy Carter is 8. She’s eight.  I have stayed away from this internet debacle because I thought is drivel and stupid! The ability for a Black girl to be aesthetically pleasing to the world around her allows her safe passage through it. What does this mean you ask? If so, I am so glad you did.

The world does not like when the monolith it constructs for Black women and girls is challenged. It does not like to be both sientent and flexible. As Dr. Brittney Cooper says in her book Eloquent Rage, “Sass is an acceptable form of rage.” The world loves to see us either as model gorgeous like Iman (whom is riding age like nothing known of this world) or like Fannie Lou Hamer. There is no space to differentiate. No space to just be–you are constantly picked at, prodded and told with a smiles on faces exactly what you are not. Or can ever hope to be.

Blue, sadly, is not an exception to this.

Image result for blue ivy carter

The thing I hope, the thing that grants me such a hope, is the fact her mother and father know exactly who they are–and will not allow her to be anything less than what she is. In a side by side comparison, she looks like her mother–as most daughters do. How dare Blue’s genetics not make her a pretty Octoroon or gazelleesque Creole Barbie? How dare Blue’s genetics produce a phenotype that look like her father first!

To me, I think that’s who she looked like first–and now she looks more like her mother.

From her hair, to how she dressed to how she looked–the world had something to say. Only now, is that beginning to calm down. That calm, quite frankly, is unsettling to me. It’s almost like the wolves have gone further down the path, waiting for her to turn 15, 16–that’s when the extra lewd, trifling comments will come. On queue.

Ask me how I know.

But the difference between myself, my daughters and Beyonce and hers are exposure, visibility and money. I am of the insistent persuasion that raising a child, whom navigates this world as Black and female, is to have a hypervigilance paired with a empathetic compassion.

You have to both shield, protect all while you equip her to deal with a world that may never accept her as she is–and be okay with that. That is hard. I cannot imagine how had that is when you have cameras, bodyguards and the paparazzi is a daily an occurrence as pouring cereal.

Let Blue be. Just let her be.

Her parents allow her to be seen when they want her to be seen. They understand their role as parent and protector. They also understand (or should understand) that precarious position of being uber-visible in and around Black culture:  everything they do is monitored or scrutinized. Including the kids.  What I love, what grants me hope, is they give and have given her space to be herself. She has space to grow, and do, and be and it is glorious. They are raising her, and radically loving her. These elements will ensure Blue will have a sense of self that is not determined by likes, shares or other articles shared on blogs or other social media platforms.

In 2020, can we resolve to love all Black girls the same way? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[first image from PageSix.com, second from eonline.com]

No, Queen Bey Didn’t Have To Stand Up. We Do.

Our Beloved Queen makes even being an a firestorm hella elegant.

With that said, let me say something else first. I didn’t watch the 2020 Golden Globes because I think Ricky Gervais is a more palatable form of the demon Screwtape in the C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Life is hard enough–I don’t need extra shenanigans which is both toxic and crazy-making.

Now, as pumped as I was for Joaquin Phoenix, to win Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for JOKER, I was irritated to know the world seemed to be mad (again) that Beyonce did what she wanted to do. She chose not to stand when Joaquin’s name was announced.

According to The Griot, she did clap, but she did not stand. Beyonce was in attendance because her song, Spirit (from the album The Lion King: THE GIFT), was nominated for Best Original Song. Now, Joaquin stans are mad she didn’t stand, and insulting her acting ability. Okay. Whatever. But here’s what isn’t talked about:  sis had been drinking, and her dress was huge and maybe standing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. The doper part? The writer of The Griot article, Dawn Onley, can tell you:

She and Jay-Z came to the award ceremony with two bottles of Ace of Spades champagne, also known as Armand de Brignac, the champagne company that Jigga bought out back in 2014, according to Cosmopolitan. Their bodyguard carried the alcohol in for them.

So not only did Bey not stand, they were drinking, they were drinking. And they were also promoting their interests.

Win-win.

I get why the world hates Beyonce. And yet, she moves in grace despite of it! The thing that irritates me the most is people believing she should have stood up–because that’s just what you do at these events. She should be grateful to be in this space, right? She should just do as all the others do–Beyonce is in Rome, right? Do as the Roman do, right?
No.
This is the consistent issue surrounding Black people in White Spaces. The expectation is that all be done to the Master’s specificity:  no deviation, no independent thought. And definitely no room for plain ol’ ‘I just don’t want to.’
The other issue that needs to be address–which I try my best to bring attention to constantly–is this idea of invading White Spaces with more Black people! Any space a Black woman or man inhabits is already a Black Space. It cannot just be those at the intersections of Black, wealth and privilege to negotiate the terms of acceptability. It cannot just be expected that the interest of the unfortunate many be delegated to the advantageous!
We all can do something–we need to stop expecting other people to force that visibility.
Besides, Black women been standing/serving/fighting since our feet touched the waters of these shores called the Americas. I wouldn’t have stood up either.