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.

JBHARRIS

P.S. If you love what you see here, consider donating! You can donate as little as $1 USD. Either via CashApp ($JBHWrites) or PayPal (sgwritingservices@yahoo.com)! Also, share the fire with others who need to laugh, cry or think!

Love and blessings!

Denise. Carol. Cynthia. Addie Mae.

*On Sunday, September 15, 1963 in Birmingham, AL four Black girls were ripped from the world at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. All four are pictured here: Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Cynthia Wesley & Addie Mae Collins.

 

 

Four little girls, ripped from the world.

All Black, all precious, forever little girls.

The right of life stolen

In favor of all things White

And hung to remind those

Whom were not of their places.

Their lives to be counted at

Fodder, kindling, for

The Fire Next Time,

This time.

As they were found together,

So we find ourselves the same,

Among the rumble of loss,

We still remember their names.

Cynthia. Carol. Denise. Addie Mae.

Forever together, forever this way.

Four little girls ripped from the world.

All Black. All precious. Forever little girls.

-(c)JBHarris, 9.15.2019

The Women You Least Expect

Author Note: I am a cisgender, heterosexual woman married to a cisgender heterosexual man. As a woman acknowledging my own privilege, I can no longer be silent about the murder of transwomen, especially Black transwomen.

I am a fan of two specific YouTube Channels: JahairasMission and DiamondStylz. In finding out these women were trans, didn’t allow me to see them any different. What the vessel of YouTube has allowed is for me to remember this life is not the same for everyone you meet.

In becoming more vocal about this issue was time and personal reflection. I am a fan of Jahaira–she called me her sister in a video she did. I follow Diamond Collier on social media, including the podcast Marsha’s Plate. I adore Janet Mock! And POSE on FX?

YASS. More. Please!

Am I aware of the brutality facing Black transpeople? Transwomen especially? Yes. It is abhorrent to me now as a Black woman, whom is writer and mother, to not say anything! To not add my voice to this conversation. I believe it is in poor taste to love POSE, and not speak out about the murder of Black transwomen.

You cannot have ugly cried when that John killed Candy on POSE and be silent. This is not to say that I’ve been unaware of these murders till recently. No, quite the opposite! What I have done is allowed Black transwomen to lead this conversation. I acknowledge my privilege as a cishet/cis-het woman.

Some spaces just ain’t for me to be the lead voice.

But in listening to Diamond on her podcast Marsha’s Plate, in appreciating everything Janet Mock does, I had a gut check. I don’t celebrate these women as mere Black transwomen. I celebrate them as Black women. That was powerful! In seeing that, recognizing it, I was compelled to say something about the murder of Black transwomen.

With that acknowledgment, I remembered what Diamond said about transwomen needing allies. And, how cis-het women can be trash about being allies. The women whom look like me, whom come to their Black womanhood a different way, need my voice. Not to overtalk or over take, but to add power.

As of this month, there have been 19 Black transwomen murdered in this nation. This is a pandemic! You cannot, should not be allowed to kill someone based on how they believe, need and choose to walk through the world!

I am tired of these arguments that say these women aren’t women, but men. I am tired of hearing transwomen are out here tricking or catfishing men! In weary of the gay-panic defense! Like Ilan Nettles in New York who was murdered: she was clocked by a group of young men and one of those young men killed her! Why? The young men he was with told him that she wasn’t a woman, but a man.

And he killed her!

The disconnect. The callousness. The ignorance.

I understand the part toxic masculinity and patriarchy play in these crimes. Which is why silence about these matters is detrimental! This goes beyond treating someone as you would like to be treated. It goes beyond keeping your hands to yourself.

This pandemic is at fever pitch! Black transwomen are being killed for existing! Existing! And murdered under the guise of ‘I was tricked’ or ‘I’m not gay’ or ‘She a whole man.’ Like that justifies anything!

Pro-tip: it doesn’t!

If I am tired of hearing about the murder of transwomen, I cannot imagine the exhaustion to be a transwoman hearing it! I cannot imagine what it is like to be damn near hunted because of how you walk through the world!

I have never had a moments doubt about being female. I have never looked in the mirror and not seen anything not female. Never. I cannot fathom the pain to look in a mirror and not see who you know are. I cannot imagine, as Laverne Cox did once, death would be the only way the world can acknowledge who you are!

As a mother, all I want to do is wrap my arms around every transwoman that will let me. A hug which will acknowledge and strengthen! A touch that will affirm humanity and visibility. From that bringing in, of us together, my hope is she feel protected. That someone is looking out for her. That I will do all I can to help, assist and support–and know she has a right to exist.

Black transwomen, too, deserve to see the promise of tomorrow! There is enough sun for us all to get some.

[images 1-colorlines.com 2-entertainmentforus.com 3-huffpost.com]

Click here for Diamond’s piece in Essence magazine regarding Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special.

Week 4-Do It Expeditiously

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“Engage the text.”

-Professor Kimberly Welch

 

This week left the kid reeling. Like for real, reeling! I failed a quiz because there was a day I was so outta focus that I could not focus enough to read. And the book?

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Bruh.

I mean, I am a fan of Ellison! When I put just my name on that paper to take my quiz and nothing else? Humbling as loose drawls. I vowed right thing, RHETTHEN(!!!), I would not fail not nam nother quiz. But I had a check moment. When I saw that quiz, on the screen, and new I hadn’t read? I couldn’t stand my prof. The same woman I just quoted. The woman, a Black woman, whom has my dream job.

I had to sit with that. I thought she was too hard, thought she didn’t like me, and who did she thinks she was! But, dear ones, Prof. Welch is the first Black English professor I have had this institution! I had to respect her drive, respect for the subject matter, and had to respect her for demanding that a broad keep up! I had to think about what it was like for her, teaching a class where there are only two other Black women–and maybe six Black men.

I had to examine what made her seem to be an enemy, and not an ally. What I came up with? I wasn’t ready, and expected the rules to change for me–because she looked like me. The Black girl space, in that space, this space, excludes manipulation. I had to realize this grade is going to require all of me, and I ain’t scared of that.

But I carved out the Black girl space with a Black girl named, Bianca.  Seeing a girl that looked like me, just as brilliant, in Prof. Welch’s class? This Black woman providing this space to discuss this text (Invisible Man) gave us this chance to deep breath. The cooler thing? We were in this group discussing this text with a girl that was not Black, but when we started crafting this space? She pulled back–she didn’t force her way in.

She pulled a curtain for us. I cannot tell you how dope that is.

There is space in this place, this realm for me–for us. I am charged to not just make space for me–but for those after.

The words are bigger than me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updates: Where Is Janelle?

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I know, I know.

Janelle and I owe y’all so much, and thank you for rocking this far. The site has been slow going, but! There light is coming.

More Janelle is coming.

At long last, starting October 1, 2019, you lovely people will see and read all that Janelle has for you. With school, motherhood, and life at a breakneck pace, by then new work will be there, and Janelle’s work will be there.

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So, what will this mean?

This means all Janelle’s work will have its own site:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JANELLE.

This includes erotica, poems, snippets and even a few essays and stream of thought pieces. And yes, this means more Daddy and Kitten stories.

And a little birdie told me there will be a book, On Daddy’s Lap, to be released February 2020.

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American Girls, Addy & Me

I am almost 40.

This means I am old enough to remember when the American Girl dolls came out. I was in fifth grade and totally enraptured by Samantha. Keeping in mind, the first three dolls (Kristen, Samantha and Molly) were all White. I, ten-year-old girl in St. Louis, was not. It would be 1993 when Addy would be added to the American Girl doll line; with her addition, her story.

I have always played with dolls. My first doll I remember having and taking care of was a female Cabbage Patch doll named Lynn. She was white.

My first Barbie dolls were white.

My godmother got my first Black Barbie when I was in third grade. But throughout my toys in my girlhood, I always had White dolls. There were always more White dolls, and Black dolls were harder to find. If there were ever any.

Seeing Addy as an American Girl, even in reflection, has me sad. I am glad that such representation exists. Yet, my first question is why does she have to be a slave?

Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls—have to be a slave?

We can debate about history, recognition and visibility. We can have the free versus slave argument. We can even debate using Addy as a teaching tool! But the question still is, “Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls– have to be a slave?”

The diaspora of Black people does not have its genesis here on colonized shores, nor will it have its zenith here. Having Addy being this controversial is only a further indication of the chasm that is race relations in this country. The thing which I don’t think we pay enough attention to is the American Girl company was not founded by a Black woman or a person of color. That unique cultural awareness–that mix of representation, honor and sensitivity–was absent.

Just like with the founders of Mattel. The first Black Barbie was sold in 1968–as Christie. But a BLACK BARBIE was not marketed until 1980! I was born one year later. The first Black Barbie I ever remember being given to me was Peaches and Cream Barbie. She was so pretty–but you have to understand. Black dolls, Black Barbies especially were hard to find! I know this was only 30 years ago, on the heels of all things Black:   from Civil Rights, Voting Rights, literature (Roots and Queen by Alex Haley for example), the Cosby Show. Yet, there seemed not enough Black Barbie dolls in St. Louis for every Black girl that wanted one.

So imagine My delight, when I find out American Girl had this doll.

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Who is this girl?

Cécile Rey was the eleventh Historical Character of the American Girls, representing 1850s New Orleans. Cécile was released in 2011 along with Marie-Grace Gardner.

In May 2014 American Girl announced that they would archive Cécile’s entire collection; she, Marie-Grace Gardner, and their collections were archived prior to the BeForever relaunch. Their books remain available for purchase.

Personality and Facts

Cécile comes from a well-to-do and highly regarded family within the New Orleans community. Cécile wishes to become a stage actress, and shows a talent for storytelling, recitation, and poetry when she volunteers her time at the Holy Trinity Orphanage. Unlike Marie-Grace, Cécile is homeschooled.[5] She finds her lessons to be boring and especially dislikes writing. Cécile takes voice lessons with Marie-Grace, but unlike Marie-Grace, she doesn’t feel she’s very good at singing. Cécile is very good at keeping secrets, as she kept both Armand’s and Marie-Grace’s secrets.

Cécile is characterized as being confident, curious, and loving the limelight. She likes to be original. Americangirlpublishing.com describes her as bold. Cécile loves to make others laugh. Cécile is popular and has many friends in contrast with Marie-Grace. Cecile is outgoing and loves parties. One of her dreams was to become a famous actress, and dance at parties every night.

While Cécile can occasionally be outspoken at times, she is also shown to be sensitive and caring, such as teaching Marie-Grace French, spending time with elderly people of color at La Maison, and keeping Armand’s desire to become an artist rather than a stonecutter a secret from Papa. Cécile has also shown interest in distant lands, traveling, and adventures as she loves to hear the exciting adventurous tales her Grandpa tells her and is in awe with Marie-Grace’s experiences.

Cécile is quite interested in clothes and her appearance, and often tries to avoid getting her clothes dirty. For this reason, she’s not too fond of Marie-Grace’s dog Argos, who often has muddy paws.

She is always full of clever ideas and can be quite mischievous.

Her nickname, Cécé, is a diminutive of her full first name.

[taken from Americangirl.fandom.com]

See how deep this goes? See how imperative it is for Black children *to see themselves outside of what is reinforced? I understand not every child was born into such privilege as Cecile but not every Black child was born into chattel slavery either! I can appreciate that American Girl tried to make Addy as connected to her African culture (with her earrings and celebration traditions). I can appreciate that they tried to have Addy be an exception of sorts as it relates to chattel slavery. I can appreciate the effort to try and embody everything an entire culture familiar with erasure would need. The problem is, it wasn’t enough. There was more that was needed.

The doll did not, does not challenge the Master Narrative. Neither should that responsibility be laid on a toy company, or on the plastic soldiers of a doll. Addy began the conversation, but she has only scratched its surface. Leave to a White-loving world to think a Black girl, even a doll, can fix everything.

*-To date (with Cecile included), American Girl Historical Collection only has 3 Black American Girl dolls, 1 Latina doll, 1 Native American doll and two doll which can be classified as a POC.

[images from American Girl fandom]

When I Found My Claddagh Ring, I Almost Cried.

sterling-silver-ladies-authentic-claddagh-ring

Claddagh Ring Meaning

A popular piece of Celtic culture, the Claddagh signifies love, friendship, and loyalty. Traded among close friends and those in a romantic, committed relationship, a Claddagh portrays two hands holding a heart, topped with a crown.

The Claddagh is most often seen in a ring, but it can be expressed in necklaces and earrings as well. Some common reasons people wear Claddagh include:

  • As an engagement or promise ring: Yes, the Claddagh is so beloved, some use it to signify their romantic, lifelong commitment to one another.
  • Best friends: Close friends who want to honor their bond may wear matching Claddagh rings as a symbol of friendship and loyalty.
  • Looking for love: Wearing a Claddagh ring on your right hand with the bottom of the heart facing away from you is a signal that you are available.

 (Taken from Google)

I’ve always been a romantic. I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps this is my artistic nature. With that said, it is of no surprise really, that I kept a ring from a young man that I once wanted to give my everything.

I was 18, you see. I was. In love and a fresh-faced nursing student. I was in love with the idea of adulthood, American Movie Classics and this guy named Daniel Nelsen. In my years of dating, I never found a sweeter dude. He asked me to marry him. Sent me a key to his house, and said I was his everything.

Like with all young women eager for the world and its holdings, I’d break up with him when I wanted to date someone else. He was in New York, and didn’t leave. He’d take me back when I wanted and I did this to him for 2 years. Until, I finally told him how I was treating him was wrong.

In the madness of our coming together and leaving, he told me to pick out a ring. I was about to be chose chose! I wanted this ring to be distinct, unique and totally unlike any other I had ever seen.

I got the idea that I wanted a Claddagh ring from a Nora Roberts novel. She’s always so proud of her Emerald Isle heritage and this ring sounded like something I would love. That I have to have. Even now, so many years removed from wearing one I can spot on and the dating status of person wearing it.  

I remember the weight of it, how gorgeous it was. And it meant more to me than any jewelry I had ever owned. And our breakup was amicable, for the most part. And I haven’t spoken to him sense. There was no need to.

That’s ring replicated itself with my last serious boyfriend. I wanted one, I wanted that affirmation of what was unique and special about our relationship. When that shattered, I kept the ring. Which is odd for me. I kept this ring and stored it. I cannot tell you why.

It was only during a recent move that the small white box was unearthed. I saw the tarnished silver ring and thought. Not about the guy, but about–loss.

The loss of time.

The loss of future, and alternate nows.

I thought about how I allowed myself to be the damsel in distress waiting on someone to save me–waited for the kiss in the glass coffin; save from the spinning wheel; rescued from the tower.

 Yet, those before were not strong enough to stay. Or desired to rescue. I thought about trust I had given. Willingly. Pieces of me I gave away. Willingly. I thought about how none of what I gave to them could ever be given back to me. Ever. Conversely, nothing I did to them could ever be made right.

I lost what I could not replace or barter or hustle for more of: time.

I wept because the ring, with its tarnish, remembered.