The Journey So Far: ‘SUPERNATURAL’ & All Dark Literature Everywhere

When I heard the boys (Misha, Jensen and Jared) on Facebook announcing the badass ride of Supernatural was ending this season, I was shocked. Now, I know all good things must come to and end. I get that. The magic that is Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble had to end one day. However, as a girl that grew up on horror/dark literature, in some form or another, I am sad.

Dude, I remember when the pilot aired! It was 2014, and I was 22, not even 23 yet. I remember that I thought the show would be awesome. I was dating a dude that would become my first husband, yet in love with someone else (No, look at the Able Unshakeable on The Ideal Firestarter for more of that saga). However, I had a raging crush on the treat that is Jensen. Oh, shug, Jensen and I go waaaay back!

Season 11 promo

While he was on Days of Our Lives as Eric Roman Brady (whew, Lawd!) he was the first man I had seen without a shirt. I was 15. I followed him through Days, Smallville, and those awkward haircuts and clothes on Dawson’s Creek. Bruh. I was a fan. And there was no way that I was going to miss him on this show! I had resigned that I was going to love it, because if he was in it?! I was going to be good–that was a foregone conclusion!

But there was something about this creepy little show on theCW. Keep in mind, I like horror as a genre. I don’t really like or do gory stories. I like how stylish the promos looked. And Jensen was in it? Oh, yes please. From the pilot, Season 1, Episode one. I was hooked. And I’m a car girl at heart? Yes! That 1967 Chevy Impala was everything. I told my then boyfriend/now ex-husband, that I wanted that car as wedding present. As a side note:  Jensen made me forget all about the Able Unshakeable. But that’s a story for a later date.

From demons and rock salt, to being vessels for Lucifer and the Archangel Michael,  to time travel, Sam and Dean Winchester have been a part of pop culture for almost twenty years! Get into that! To have them gone? That’s bizarre! I used to watch this show with a friend of mine, and the day I watched Route 666, I called her at work. When she picked up, I screamed this in her phone: “Dean likes chocolate!”

“What?!”

“Sis, Dean likes chocolate!”

Yes, Dean had a Black girlfriend. Dean knows about this Black Girl Magic. If you been watching you know and knew that! But let’s keep it moving. Could seasons be infuriating, yes. Did it sometimes feel like you were playing an RPG and getting sucked into the side quests all the time? Did I get mad and stop watching for a while? Yes. Bruh, I was such a fan that I didn’t work on nights it aired!

But, I loved the writing. I love the depth. I loved the stories. I loved the world that Eric Kripke made and maintained. I looked forward to the show because sometimes I had to look up what they were fighting or the lore they were using. I loved the show. It made you think. It made you root for them. I cried when I found out that it was Mary who was the hunter, not John. I lamented for Sam that went through so much after he lost Jessica. I was made that Dean was a total slut for a while (did you not see Seasons 3 and 4!).

But it was always the story. Always the story. Once this show is gone, then what? I know there is AHS, and that is amazing. But this show? This one? With the diversity of music, people (where Black folk just ain’t props! And Sterling K. Brown was on in Season 2, never forget!). I mean, it was good! I remember fretting when the rumors started that show might be cancelled after 3 seasons! No lie, I loved when I was this underground show that not everyone watched. I loved that it was a secret of sorts.

They have changed so much!

Now, having to say good-bye to my boys? That’s tough. But, as ever the fangirl, I’m going to watch Season 15 to the end. I have to see how it all ends. It is rumor to air in October which is kinda tradition; it normally airs before Halloween. But, this one hurts the dark leaning, lusting fan girl in me. There is still nothing sexier than Dean Winchester wielding a firearm. Don’t debate me. This is never up for discussion.

Get ready, loves! You know the rules by now. Driver picks the music; passenger shuts his cakehole.

Note: Thank you, Carver Edlund for sharing Sam and Dean with is. Yes, he made the cameo as Chuck the Prophet.

In Memoriam: This Is It

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Next month marks  decade in this artistic-music era where there is no Michael Joseph Jackson. That didn’t resonate with me until the documentary/movie This Is It  came through my Netflix home screen. You see, I remember Michael Jackson as this entity that could do anything–include defy gravity!

I remember watching Thriller every time it was on. My mother’s youngest sister, whom is 11 years older than me, had that album cover on the wall of her room! She played his music constantly, which means that the younger nieces and nephews that she watched listed to him and the Jackson 5 all the time.

I remember…I remember where I was when he died. My boyfriend at the time, living and working in California, called to let me know. I didn’t believe him. And this morning, I am still in a dream state. While this documentary played, I became that 8-year-old girl watching MOONWALKER over my cousin’s house after school. There was this aura that surrounded him. Perhaps as an artistic child, slightly out of step with the world, I noticed the otherworldly nature that was Michael Jackson.

I am old enough to remember singing to every song in his songbook when it came on the radio*. I remember for a month and some after he died that the hardest dudes I know were bumping Billie Jean, Thriller and Bad from their cars. I remember.

I’m also old enough to remember the first scandal. And the trials. And the settlement money. And the craziness that is the Jackson family. I am under no illusion of the cloud that hovers over his legacy. And in the age of #MeToo, we need to believe the victims. Conversely in the age of #MeToo, we know that people lie and are devious. But let’s move on.

I fought tears watching this. I grieved him. Just like I grieve Prince. Just like I grieve Aretha Franklin. There is something divine in being about to create, to walk in that God space of pulling something  that wasn’t there, was unseen, to where it can be seen. I know that Mike died from an overdose of prophophol–a powerful anesthesia. However, I know what it’s like to be that consumed with an idea, or a vision, that it robs you of sleep. Where you have to make yourself shut down–to stop, and even that sometimes doesn’t help.

I get it.

I was never graced to see Michael Jackson perform in concert. But everytime he was on television, I watched. I remember the raucous that was over the Black or White video when it premiered on Fox! I also remember how when that aired in 1991 (when was 10!), Mrs. Grant’s fifth grade class talked about it! Everything he did seemed so damn special. This Is It is no exception. I am happy someone had the presence of mind to record all this.

Y’all will excuse me while I get my Michael Jackson playlist rolling through Apple Music.

 

*-Top 10 favorite Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 songs (no particular order):

1.) Liberian Girl

2.) I Just Can’t Stop Loving You

3.) Jam

4.) Can You Feel It?

5.) Speed Demon

6.) Thriller

7.) Ghosts

8.) Bad

9.) Dangerous

10.) PYT (Note:  THE JABBAWOCKEEZ MADE ME LOVE THIS ALL OVER AGAIN!)

The Fire Next Time: For James and Octavia

 

 As a writer, and moonlighting teacher, I reflected on If Beale Street Could Talk after the hubs took me to see the movie. I was 6 when he died in 1987 of stomach cancer. And through my middle school and high school reading, I cannot remember him ever being mentioned. Either him, Octavia Butler, Alice Walker or Richard Wright. I think Toni Morrison would call that ‘the colonization of your canon.’  I mean, my Junior year of high school is when I got introduced to Toni Morrison. That was 1997!

I get incredibly pissed off when I think about that now!

Now, do I know, did I know, that Black writers existed? Yes. Most of my books are composed to authors whom I fell in love with on my own. I needed, wanted more than the smattering of Black writers we go in February. I remember being so tired of just reading Knoxville, Tenneessee by Nikki Giovanni! In wanted more of her work. But I’m aware that certain school districts like the safety of Maya Angelou and Lorriane Hansberry’s Raisin In The Sun. I get that Baldwin is confrontational to those whom govern these curriculum spaces; the people that can and do say ‘Yes’ to Washington Irving and ‘No’ to Octavia Estelle Butler. The people that think James Baldwin asking with audiacious sincerity why the country ‘needs to have a n–gger?’ is too much for White teacher in a predominately Black school, whose bosses and administrators are all White. I get that no one wants to have these conversations regarding race and writing. Perhaps, this is the folcrum that Wynton Marsalis talk about when he said this during the Ken Burns documentary Jazz:

“The more we run from race in this country, the more we run towards it.”

Perhaps this is why up until the birth of my parents, and a little after that educating a Black person in Mississippi was seen as punitive and would be punished as such! There is a power in control a narrative in such a way that the people you brutalize cannot even tell what happened to them in a first hand account. That kind of power the oppressor will never give up, be reasoned for or given away without it being identified and overthrown!

A friend of my husband graduated from seminary last week. As all college students do, she was cleaning out her apartment to move. In these three Rubbermaid totes, she just had books. Copious, delicious, incredible amount of books! She called it her Harlem Renaissance collection. I thumbed through them and almost cried. My legacy, my footsteps as a writer in this colonized, thieving nation was in these bins. I almost wept. I couldn’t take them all with me, and I couldn’t just take one.

My mission as I move through this space of writer-teacher is two-fold.

One. I vow to write constantly. bell hooks said that no woman has ever written enough. I agree.

Two. I vow to decolonize my canon. This means that I have to step up my reading to where it was before. This means I have to be willing to talk up other Black writers. Recommend their work as casually as I would any other writer. To quote them, read more of them, and–in the case of the marvelous Tananarive Due–follow them on social media!

For those of you IRL that know me, it is no secret that my passion has been and is words. The dream was–still is–to teach at the university level. Whereas before I wanted to be a professor at NYU, teaching English Literature. I think we can say that I’m passed that. The most amazing way to honor my Blackness, my gifting, my call–all of me that is Oracle–would be to teach African-American studies. I mean, I already got my thesis! No, I’m not telling you, but it’ll be dope I assure you.

In earnest, if I didn’t see folk that look like me setting the world on fire, I would never have believed I could. For that, I am grateful.

 

“The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.” – James Baldwin

[images from azquotes.com and goalcoast.com]

 

 

Being Part Of The Knot-Part 4: “Not The Marrying Type.”

My baby sister, the aunt to my baby dragons, said that the women in our family (read: maternal) are “the marrying type.” When I asked her what that meant, she kinda looked at me. Then, I knew.

Our parents and maternal family wanted all female children to be able to take care of themselves. The worst thing to be called was ‘a weak woman.’ This is a woman that is dependent on other people. On its face, this is dope, right? On this bitter Earth, it is an abuse and a danger to have female children ill equipped to deal with the world around them.

I had a mother and aunts and a father that reinforced that I had to be self-reliant. In the words of my father (I cannot make this up!):

“You need to depend on a man for nothing.”

This is the drumbeat I heard from middle school up through high school and up until I got married for the first time! I learned to be self-reliant to a vicious degree. I learned to always have a backup plan. Never to ask men for money. I learned to ‘always have my own’.

Funny thing about that.

When you say that you want to build your life with someone, you have to trust them. You have to be able to give into the relationship that you are building. With that indoctrination, I was reminded of this one thing:

I didn’t deserve the chance to be in a committed relationship. Why? Women like me, didn’t get that. I couldn’t trust, because that would make me vulnerable.

Vulnerability is a liability.

Now enters Strong Woman Syndrome. Or in my case, Strong Black Woman Syndrome. My heart had to be fortified from disappointment before any could come. I had to be prepared for him that would walk away before he could ever come into view. I had to learn that there would be times where I would be alone because no one could (or would help me).

This quote was baggage. It was an emotional anchor that I took into every relationship, and threw in the face of any man that tried to lob me. It made me suspicious and vigilant. It made me hyper focused on flaws rather than joy. This thought of not being the marrying type had be resigned to a life of being single when I hadn’t fallen in love yet.

I never thought I would get married because I thought I was too much. I was too ambitious. Too loud. Too driven.

But also too scared to admit I didn’t know exactly how to be with someone without having a life hidden in a purse, box or closet. I had to admit that I was far too quick to expect a blow, than a touch. I freely admit, I was ready to fight and flee than ‘work something out.’

I was taught to be strong. To be resourceful. To be vocal and fortify my heart. Even when I was in a relationship, the man I was with had to beat in walls to get to the real me. But, I wouldn’t let him in. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t because I didn’t know how. I wasn’t taught that part.

Here on the cusp of 40, I have time now to reflect. To be mad. To take ownership. To admit what I learned equipped me, but didn’t prepare me. I have to love me, totally, so I could give love to someone else. I had to break my own walls and realize the lie was there, put there by hurt people. Whose only crime was that they didn’t want me to be hurt.

I don’t have to be a wife to every man I meet, but I have to be ready for the right one. And now, I am. And I have him, and he still thinks the sun rises when my eyes open. I am worthy of that kind of love. So are you.

This Is Me…Then

 Yesterday, this thought came through my Twitter through the television show THE REAL. The question/topic was would you date your twenty-year-old self. Adrienne Haughton answered this as only a woman could whom is familiar with her entire self. She admitted that she was selfish, didn’t know how to say “No” and was only worried about her career.

I mean, that’s powerful.

So, the question is this:

Would Jenn want her twenty/twenty-something-year-old, dated?

In a word? NALL.

NALL!

 

And here is why.

At twenty, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know where I wanted to do. I wasn’t in school. I was aimless! I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted or how to get it. I wasn’t writing, and I was depressed! No one needed to date me! I needed to heal! But if I were to narrow this to three things, maybe four, as to why thirty-something Jennifer, is much better than twenty-something Jennifer.

 

Ambition. I didn’t finish college with my first degree until I was 27. The ambition that I have now, I didn’t have then. Some, but not all. Twentysomething Jenn (TSJ) had all this drive and no assistance to channel it. I knew I wanted to write. But I had small kids! Ambition without aim is wheel-spinning. It’s not cute. Me, now? I don’t shy from that ambition–and I have a trajectory for it now. I have a better idea what, and how to get that. More than before. No one wants a partner that has no aim but all power.

Confidence. I was always tall girl. TSJ was insecure and carried what people thought. I was a people pleaser. I remained fluid with stressful or toxic situations. I stayed when I should have left. I made excuses when I should have never agreed. I was the girl that stayed when I never should have gone. I wasn’t a pushover, but I wasn’t as strong as I am now. Some of that comes with life experience, but some comes from the lack of common sense. Relationships thrive where are spaced of equality and support. Being insecure, within yourself, helps nothing.

 

The ability to dream. TSJ was a dreamer.  I still am on the cusp of becoming 40. In my early twenties, my dreams were nebular. They were there, but they weren’t as solid as they are now. In that label ‘dreamer’, I cheapened the vision for my life. I’m not just a dreamer. I know now that I am a visionary. That is beyond dreaming. That is dreaming plus the implementation. In that dreaming, I am able to pinpoint and plan and set things in place to create what I see! And that visionary capability–sometimes I think–curves advances for my affection or attention before. For and in my current relationship, that visionary capability fueled by my own ambition has caused issues in my relationship. Why? By his own admission, he had never encountered a woman like me. EVER. Dreaming is one thing. Implementing is another. What I understand now is a the dream is one thing, but the hustle is never free. It’s mandatory.

 

Love. TSJ didn’t think that she was pretty. I thought I wasn’t curvy enough. Breasts too small. I didn’t want to get darker in the sun. I didn’t love me like I love me now. I thought if I was different, looked different, my life would be different. Now, I love all of me. Even  the stretch marks, and small pudge. I love the woman I am, and who I am becoming. I grin at the gray hairs. I think, now, that beauty isn’t just being eye candy but being your whole self. Without apology. TSJ wouldn’t do that.

I was ratchet at points. I was ridiculous. I made mistakes and fucked up! Alot. There are things I wished I could change. There are things that I have learned that I would never have learned without going through them. My husband tells me that he wished that he could have met me earlier. Nall. NALL. I wasn’t ready for a man that had a mission or a call or direction! I was unsure of who I was, but I knew that I was alot.

TSJ was still a girl.

Jenn approaching 40 is dope and she is amazing and she is deserving of all good things.

 

 

I am grateful for my twenties. I learned. I strived. I became a wife and mother. I became a grateful for everything that I learned from 20-29. But, my mother says it this way, “After 25, you start settling into yourself.” I’ve settled into myself, and I’d have it no other way.

[image from bigsurpartners.com]

 

 

 

The Power Of ‘POSE’

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Author Note:  I am a cisgender herterosexual woman. I am  married woman to a wonderful man. I am also a mother, wife, best friend and I have made all digital spaces a safe space. All inboxes are open for love and support. -JBHarris

 

First: Billy Porter… is everything I need in this show!

I have known about POSE from the marvelous Funky Dineva (Quintin Latham). I have been following the marvelous and talented Janet Mock for years, and the utterly incredible Jahaira (if you follow no other YouTube Channel, follow JahairasMission and Funky Dineva!). From their seal of approval, I fell into this marvelous, marvelous how.

On the blog The Ideal Firestarter, this month, theme is community, and its representation. This show here?

Chile!

I have cried, I laughed, I have quoted, I have run the gamut of emotions that I could only have now that I am a mother myself. And this music?! Girl! I am 38 in a month, and this music gave me all kinda memories! I remember being in my grandmother’s kitchen listening to my Aunt’s boombox to Majic 108. I mean, this show is gritty, diverse and above all–well-written.

This is why community, representation and diversity is important! With that creative roux, all and any story can be told.

There are no caricatures in POSE. These people are real, flawed and complicated.

Season 1 was set in 1987. This means in Jenn Harris history, I was 6. This was when Michael and Janet Jackson where new and amazing. When Whitney was young, and when HIV/AIDS was appearing. When in some circles it was still called GRID. These stories need to be told by those whom where there, and can no longer speak. The highs and utter lows, need to be recorded. Toni Morrison says this is the needed, dirty, unseen work of writing. We record. We reveal.We make space. We give voice.

POSE has done that. It has given me a real-time look into a world that I was too young to understand or affect. I remember Ryan White. I remember Pedro Zammora on The Real World San Francisco. I remember the protests and the fear as a kid. Hell, I remember when Ryan White died! I remember the protests on C-SPANN and CNN! I remember the AIDS quilt when it started! I had a knowledge of how wrong and mean the world could be. POSE has allowed me to look at a world that was, to be able to interact with more of the world as it is.

From watching Blanca interact with her kids, building a life and a legacy for herself? I want to do the same thing. Every good mother wants their children to excel, set standards and protect them. In Desmond and Ricky,  I saw the boys I played with, grew up with and are no more. In Angel, I see so much of me when I was a bit younger. In my early 20’s. Unsure. People-pleasing. Knowing how I was, and not quite knowing how to be that.

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Cast of POSE, Season 1

Yes, I have a privilege being of being a Black, straight cis woman. I have no right, nor place to claim or appropriate a life that doesn’t belong to me. But, I do have this. My best friend and I call it this:  ‘bringing you in the room.’ This simply means to introduce a person, a space or concept or something that needs attention brought to it.

POSE on FX is one of those things I am choosing to bring in the room. As writer, cis woman, and spacemaker, I must! The writers are brilliant! The actors are amazing! The director, producer and supporting staff and content creators are phenomenal!

The content is potent and needed! All stories are valuable, and we need to know why–someone needs to record them. There also needs to be people bold enough to put other people–whom may not look like you–in the room.

Get the keys, loves and get to unlocking these doors. And like my Daddy said:

If they won’t let you in the back door, go around to the front. If the back door is locked, buss a window and jump in!

 

Shameless plug:  Season 2 of POSE starts June 11!

 

[images from Wikipedia and them.us]

Even Up-Lana’s Story

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Think of the most painful thing, and push past that.

 

That’s what I was told.  In order to break a mated bond, you have to associate them, from their scent to their name, with pain. It is the worst type of conditioning. I don’t recommend it. Worst part? I thought it worked.

I really thought it worked.

I associated Nathaniel with the death of my mother. Of losing a limb. Losing my hands or my sight as an artist. I held on to that pain. I nurtured it, grew it like a magnolia tree. I had no choice. He left me no choice. Think of the most painful thing, and push past that. I thought of my best friend dying in a fire. I thought of Nathan dying–of just ceasing to be in the world. The thought, the mere thought of those bottle green eyes eyes and his six-foot-two frame was too much! I remember being in my dorm bathroom and screaming before I passed out in the white-tiled room. It was a Friday night when that happened, the first official night of Spring Break. I opened my eyes, facing the white cabinet doors below the sink. My face was wet, my dark hair a veil and covering my face. My red shirt sticking to me. Think of the most painful thing, and push past that.

It had been four years since that day on my suite bathroom floor. I lay there, grateful for the quiet. I broke the bond. I broke it. Alone. You weren’t supposed to be alone with the bond broke! I remember weeping, loudly. I couldn’t feel him.  I couldn’t hear his thoughts. This feeling of relief, regret, and complete loss. I remember when I researched this during this faithful Spring Break week. I remember Nate and I had this huge fight. “You’re mine, why would you want to leave!” I remember putting my finger in his face and said, “I didn’t ask to be bonded to you! You told me that I was all you could imagine, yet, I found you with a woman not even half of me!” I had seen his eyes grow gold. His wolf nature about to answer me. I heard his thoughts. You belong to me and with me. My eyes were watering, and I bit my lip. You wanted her. Not this! Not us! I’ll get free. Watch me! 

He had reached to touch me, and I turned my back as I walked back into my newly deceased mother’s two story house. The same house I was showering in. The same house that Nate walked me home to years ago. The same house my husband, Johnathan, proposed to me in. Nathan found me. The caveat on the site read:  It is the depth of a trauma that breaks a lupine bond. It is recommended The Breaking take place with witnesses or possible medical assistance. 

Four years I beat him back. Every thought and memory locked away. But when I smelled his soap when I was alone a year ago, I tried The Breaking again. I did it with my best friend Andrea. I remember her cupping my face, willing back to consciousness to breathe. “Lana, wake up! Wake up!” Her sweet brown face, and smooth hands pushing life force back into me. When I came back to consciousness, she said I asked for him. Johnathan was downstairs making tea for me. Andrea sat on my bed, smoothing my dark hair. I couldn’t breathe, heart in my ears. “It didn’t work, Lana.” I closed my eyes, tears leaking down my cheeks. “You have done this twice, if you try to do this again, it might kill you.” She leaned closer, her brown eyes and short red hair super bright. “And Nathaniel.”

I  knew then it would be a matter of time. If the bond hadn’t broken, if The Breaking hadn’t worked, my heartbeat was an antennae. He would either kill John and take me. Or just come and take me. Closing my eyes, I counted my breaths.

And I prayed.

*****

I didn’t know if Johnathan kissed me good-bye when he left for is ER shift. But I laid there in this king-sized bed, with the morning sun invading through the crack in the blackout curtains. “He’s coming!” I got up and put on my hoodie and shorts to go run. I was hot. I was cold. I was sweating. I didn’t want to be here when John got here, or when Nate got here. My mind raced as I slipped on my blue Nikes with my shorts and one of his John’s white shirts. I looked in mirror at the foot of my bed.

I heard a heartbeart. Louder and close. My mouth went dry, I couldn’t think. I went down the stairs as if a fire was behind me. The heartbeat was louder, stronger. Nearer then. I got to the bottom of the stairs, and touched the doorknob. I turned it, and saw him. He was on the sidewalk, heat washing over him and through me. It was pulling me towards him. I walked to him, remembered how his kisses made me forget time existed. That it still passed when we were together.

I got to within a breath of him all tall and golden, in a red hoodie and jeans. He wrapped his arms around me. I put my manicured hands through his dark strawberry blond hair. I cupped his face, and kissed him. I forgot I was married. I forgot I promised God and family I would love, did love, someone else. He kissed me, and–I pulled together again. I pulled into him, and there was us again.

I wept and hung on to him. From wall to floor. And to bed. I was in my marital bed. I was fighting to snatch him from his clothes. Memories flooded my mind, as time stopped for me. For this. This kindness of giving him back to me. He growled in my ear as he pinned me against the wall. Pictures rattled as he entered me, and grabbed my hair. Why? I asked. Please. He answered. I heard my shorts and the black panties hidden in them rip.  He kissed my neck, and slid into to me. As he growled, he bit my shoulder. Opening the old mark. I felt my body meld into him. I opened, and sang.

Now here I was, showering and quiet. Could feel him in the next room. Hurry up and get back in here. I miss how you taste.

No you don’t.

You’re mine. 

You’re mine too.

I’m hungry.

So eat. I turned the water off to find him in my bathroom door, leaning against the door jamb. I held my breath, feeling him count water beads over my lips and chest. I stepped out of the shower stall. I looked at the floor and smirked and my pink painted toes. He tipped my head to face him, eyes gold again. “I will.” he nipped my ear, licking it. “And I still lick my plate clean.”