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

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

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

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

I agree, Sis. I agree!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is A Darkwalker?

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

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

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

I consider myself a real writer.

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

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

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

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

#Staytuned.

[Our] Famous Black Aunties Matter

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

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

Lemme tell you a secret.

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

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

THAT WAS IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iggy Azalea will never.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My [Almost] 9/11 Story

I normally don’t write about 9/11. I’m not a native New Yorker, I say ‘FTP’ often, and I have never been to the East Coast. Yet, I remember exactly what time I heard when the first plane hit, I know where I was, I remember the shrill tone in my mother’s voice. In this time of COVID-19, it feels surreal:  both near and far away.

I was in love with New York City.

I wanted to go to NYU. I thought the farthest I could get away from St. Louis, had to be New York. And I wanted to go. Fashion. Culture. Food. People. I wanted all of it!

Then, 9/11.

In the time of COVID-19, it is weird to remember everything about that day–almost 20 years ago. Even when I think of it now it doesn’t seem like it should be something that happened 20 years ago. That morning, a Tuesday of all things, I remember I was sitting in the room of my mother’s house. I was on the phone, talking to some guy who was not my boyfriend. The radio was on, and I was listening to Z1077–my favorite local station.

I remember hearing something about a plan crashing, and didn’t think anything about it. That is until my mother screamed from downstairs, “Jennifer, is there a movie playing on Channel 4 (the local CBS station)?!” “No!” I screamed back. I think I remember her telling me to come see what she was seeing. I ran down the stairs clad in light blue surgical scrubs, bare feet and a t-shirt. I sat on her bed, mouth looking like a catfish.

I couldn’t believe it! Did I see any planes hit the Twin Towers? No. And I am so thankful that I didn’t. That is one memory of that day I didn’t want. I remember being in a daze. I remember nothing making sense. I remember fasting and praying for about 4,5 days for the first responders. Even praying for the police! I wanted everyone in NYC to be okay. It was a few days later that my mother said this:

“See! See! I saved your life! You wanted to go to New York, and look what happened?! See, you could have been working in one of those towers!”

As a 20-year-old kid (yes, at 20 you’re still a kid!), I rolled my eyes and was aghast she would say such a thing to me. As a 39-year-old woman, whom is the mother of 2? Oh, I can see the prophetic panic in her voice. I can look at her observation in a new light; age is humbling that way. I see her relief that I wasn’t in a tower and died, or having jumped or unconscious and burning to death. I feel her relief and stress knowing that I wasn’t ever probably going to New York–her prayers worked. It was years later that I found out my mother, oh-so God fearing, had prayed for me to not leave St. Louis! When I asked her why she had prayed such a prayer, she said:

“I knew if you had left you would have never come back.”

She was right. I wouldn’t have–ever. My demeanor was such that I would have been homeless in New York City rather than try to admit any sort of defeat and come home. She had, in fact, saved my life.

The memory that stays with me from that day is the helplessness! No one knew what to do other than call and check on the people we knew. I remember being in a daze in the days which followed. Unsure of what to do, what I could do, and wanting to do more than what I thought I could do. I remember feeling this way when Hurricane Katrina hit. I was 24 then. I announced to my mother that “I’m going to New Orleans to volunteer!” She looked at me and said, “No, you aren’t!” I looked at her, incredulous that she dare infringe on my adult decision to go help people! When I asked her why, she only would say, “If something happens, there is no one that can come and get you.”

Remembering 9/11 in the time of Orange Thanos and his henchmen, on top of COVID-19, there is a vulnerability that stays with me. It lingers like the odor of something that is burned. It is unsettling, and scary, and it feels like something else is about to happen. It feels like the ‘next bad thing’ is in arm’s reach. The nation is a state of mourning since the first of the year–over 100,000 people are dead. Yet, there are people today which will cry over the over 3000 whom perished in this act of evil, but will tell other people COVID is a hoax. They will support the police as they arbitrarily kill Black people! They will champion Orange Thanos even while he presides over the most corrupt administration aside from the Tribunal one might see on the way to Hell! As an essential worker, as the daughter of a nurse, as a patient care tech, as a mother, friend and daughter–this day feel like how matches smell before you strike them.

The Weird Sisters of Macbeth said, “Something wicked this way comes.” What happens when the wicked is already here? What can those that strive to do good, and love mercy do other than fight? In the face of mourning, we fight. And we listen to our mothers–they indeed are life-saving.

The White Marriage

Meet MacKenna. Her life is complicated. I think I am on to something. Stay tuned.

MacKenna Anderson was due to walk down the aisle in two hours. The dress was delivered a week before, her veil, altered and belonging to her grandmother, Natalie two generations before, in her hand. Her mother, Carolina, fussing over her hair, again for the nineth time. “Oh, Kenna!” she gushed, guiding her face back towards the mirror in the Bridal suite. “You look so perfect! Paul is going to absolutely collapse with joy when he sees you!” MacKenna forced a smile, looking in the full-length mirror. She looked at the girl in the mirror looking back at her. Hair, ruler straight, and highlighted blonde as her mother thought best for a ‘fall event, light hair would be best.’ MacKenna’s mind went back to the early hours where she was alone the house she shared with Paul. That she recently bought with Paul. Her MBA graduation from Saint Louis University three years before and her families wealth and connections, made getting the big, pretty house in  Ladue possible.

5 bedrooms. 3 bathrooms. Full basement and 3 car garage. “Kenna, it’s a starter house. We will get the house we really want after the first baby is born.” MacKenna let her mind wander, let it take her to the days before her revelation at 4am on the night of her wedding day. A week before she and her friend, Jocelynne, sat in her bed. Mackenna had always been so jealous of her, it was for that jealousy they became best friends. She had called Jocelyn over to her new house to talk. Just talk. “Sure, girl! I’ll be by after work.” MacKenna smiled remembering how warm Jocelynne was—how her presence made everything lighter and better. She had come over, in her new black Lincoln Navigator, and Chanel sunglasses and threw her arms around MacKenna. They laughed as they always had in the 15 years had been friends, best friends since 8th grade.

Jocelynne took off her glasses to show her brown face, and natural hazel eyes, with her Delta Sigma Theta tee shirt that she always wore on weekends. “The Maid on Honor has arrived, chile!” She laughed that rolling, deep, thunder loud laugh of hers and MacKenna held her again, laughing infectious now. “I really needed you to come by, Lynne.” Jocelynne’s face slacked, her eyes searching MacKenna’s. “What is it?” MacKenna walked into the kitchen, hearing Jocelynne’s heels behind her. MacKenna took a bottle of wine from the refrigerator, putting it on a table. She didn’t watch for Jocelynne to decide which seat she would want. MacKenna took to wine glasses from the wine glass rack—a wedding present from her grandmother. “You’ll need such trappings of privilege when you start entertaining, MacKenna.” Jocelynne looked at her from the chair nearest the door in the kitchen. Her red peacoat a happy pop of color on the back of the black chair. Her hair, dark and newly done, Mackenna could tell—she smelled the hairspray and her signature Addict by Dior.

MacKenna handed her the glass, sitting across from her. As she shifted in the seat, her reflection expanding in the wine bottle. Her skin, lighter than Jocelynne’s and her hair, needed to be done—the dark roots showing. Her secret sprouting from inside her. She saw her eyes, green-hazel, and saw the tears. MacKenna closed her eyes, feeling the weight of the table shift as the bottle was removed from its station as pillar in the middle of the glass table. Jocelynne’s heels clicked as drawers opened, and shut. “All this shit y’all got in here, and it take forever to find a corkscrew!” MacKenna sighed, a bitter tinge to her laughter. “Blame Paul! You know I don’t have anything to do with that!” Smoothing her face, she opened her eyes to see Jocelynne opening the bottle with a small corkscrew that she had. “Look, if you are about to be the wife of a surgeon—”

“Soon-to-be surgeon. this is the last year of residency for him.” Jocelynne rolled her eyes and went back to her perch at the table. “Anyway,” she rolled her eyes. “You have to be able to—” MacKenna started to cry. She chest ached. She cried as she had when her grandfather died. “Mac!” Jocelynne went over to her, holding her as MacKenna went limp and slid to the floor. “Girl! What is it?” This is how Jocelynne became, remained her best friend. She knew that MacKenna was passing for white. Jocelynne knew all that MacKenna could bear to tell her. How she couldn’t pledge Delta with her. How she couldn’t really play in the sun as a little girl. How when Brandy got to be popular in middle school, she couldn’t get her hair braided. Her mother kept her hair straight. The one time that Jocelynne’s mother, Halle, took her and MacKenna to New Orleans for their Senior year of high school? And she came home tan? Carolina had slapped her across the face for coming home ‘too Black.’ MacKenna’s chest heaved in the mirror, grateful for the gift of the corset bodice of the dress.

“After everything we have worked for! How dare you do this? How dare you—do you not know what you did?” MacKenna had held her hot face, biting her lip and willing her hands not to become fists. She willed the thoughts of killing her mother to the back of her mind. “I cannot wait to get out of here! You can’t control me forever, Mom! You can’t keep doing this to me! Jocelynne knows I’m Black! You grew up with her Mama! Why are you—” Carolina slapped her again, and again, until her screams brought her brothers Samuel and Brandon to get their mother off of her.

MacKenna’s memories splintered as she tried to focus. She thought of Jocelynne’s Dior warmth as she tried to reassure her. She thought of the rage on her mother’s face. She remembered her brothers pulling their mother off of her, but Carolina’s jaw connecting with MacKenna’s left hand. Joceylnne’s words came to her again. “Tell them, tell them what you want, Mac. You can’t keep going through all of this! Paul doesn’t know, does he?”

Paul didn’t know. Carolina’s mother had made sure he wouldn’t know. “Money is a useful tool, MacKenna, and right now, you need to remember what you are getting—not what you are giving up! Stop dreaming and live in reality!” Reality. What was that to people who lie? Who built a family on lying? What was reality to people who made it up? Her mind took her to this morning, to her bathroom, to the straight razors  and hot bath she ran. She was grateful that Paul was gone to his Bachelor Party. Grateful at the thought she might have been unfaithful to her, that she would have something on him like he did on her. The steam of the bathroom fogged the mirror, wiping the steam away she saw her face wet with her own tears. She took the razors and when to her bath,  I’ll just soak, she thought. Soaking is not suicide. Soaking is resting, letting your body rest.  MacKenna just wanted to rest—have her mind rest.

The heat of the bathwater, pulled tension an apprehension, from her body. The wine she had would help her as well. She smiled thinking of the line from Romeo and Juliet:  ‘…no friendly drop to help me.” She had a glass full of friendly drops She let her hair coil, what her mother told her to never do in the tub. “You never want to have your hair, nappy, MacKenna.” She would always have face twisted at the word nappy. “White girls do not have nappy hair.” MacKenna laughed, and drank the wine. “But Black girls do, Mother! Black girls have nappy hair, Carolina!” She swallowed the glass of wine in four swallows, reaching to put the glass on the soapdish near the gold tinted faucets.

Mackenna looked at the razors on the side of the clawfoot tub, gleaming and inviting. She had cut herself in middle school during her mother’s second divorce. Kendall, her middle school best friend, told her that if she cut herself in the tub it wouldn’t hurt so bad and it could heal quicker. “I do it all the time,” she said, applying her Bonne Bell lip gloss in the bathroom of Vianney Middle School. “Whenever you get stressed, don’t throw up like the Barfing Bitches in Mr. Howell’s class. Just…cut.” She said the word with such ease, that she thought she was lying. That is until she looked at her exposed thigh under her plaid skirt. MacKenna smiled at the razors, looking like silver stars on the side of the tub. She cried again, thinking of Kendall and how her father found her in the tub during a visit to his house after her parents’ divorce. She had gone too deep, knicked her femoral artery. Had taken her stepmother’s Valium. She was only 16. That’s when MacKenna stopped.

The tears started again. For herself, for Kendall, for her Jocelynne, for Halle. She blinked hard and felt herself spirited to the bridal suite again. Her skin, still light, flushed and untanned. Her dress pristine, the embroidery indicative of a patience she, herself, was not capable of. She concentrated on steadying her breathing, thinking and believing enough deep breaths could keep her from being pulled apart like a wound suffering dehiscence. MacKenna smoothed her hair, looking at her reflection as the veil lay on her lap. She kept breathing, looking at the false eyelashes she insisted were too big. She looked at her roots, still black, looking at back at her. The hairstylist convinced that if the veil were placed just right, no one would ever know or notice. “They aren’t that bad, Mrs. Walton. They aren’t that dark! I’ll finesse them a bit, and it’ll be fine.”

MacKenna hated her mother then. Wished that she could have just vanished like her older sister, Lorelei, had done. She wished for her sister, wished for that kind of strength. But she looked down at the veil, seeing the tears fall. The weight of everything fell on her again, as she heard Jocelynne’s ringtone from the table behind her.  As tears started again, she felt her mother’s linen handkerchief  pressing into her hand. “Snap out of it MacKenna.  It’s time to go.”

Darkwalker Story: Meet Calsepsi

Novella will be released in April 2021

Here is what I have been up to. Let me introduce you to Calsepsi.

There are few things that I remember now.

But the things I remember are so scattered now, but for you, my dear Dark children, I will tell you what I am able to remember. I have been of this blood, for four centuries.

Four hundred years.

Forty decades.

Yet, I remember my last dawn. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I am Calsespi, daughter of Queen Nkimbe and King Junkimbah. I have not seen my parents since I was stolen from the coast of what you may now call Mali. As was the tradition of my people and village that the youngest daughter, is married the oldest son of the next village. “To keep peace, we must sacrifice the precious, Calsepsi.” I was the peace. I was the precious.

The night before my wedding, our village was attacked by enemies of my betroved. My youngest brother, Kheme, grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I saw my village burn, my father taken and mother murdered because she wouldn’t tell where I was. I watched her eyes, my eyes now, looking into her face as she closed her eyes—willing the enemies of her children to not see where she looked. We hid in the brush for two days before we were captured by the Portguese.

I had never been more hungry.

I had never been more angry.

Kheme held onto me like our father did when I was small. His arms like branches, strong and sure as I cried from fear and hunger.

I remember the ship was quiet, the smell was horrendous. I remember all the languages and listened four ours in the bottom of this ship with these men that held what I know now as guns to us as they packed us in.

Packed like boxes.

I imaged if I could die, this is would Hell would be like:  hot, dark, and not knowing what is going on…ever. I remember sleeping a lot. I remember thinking, forgetting what land and sky look like. Kheme and I arrive in South Carolina—of course, I didn’t know that was what it was. I was shackled to Kheme, and separated from him and he screamed to me in our language and I reach for him, the irons placed on me clanging as laughter. “Aww, they must be married! Parson Shelby keep them together!”

Keep them together.

From that togetherness, we have never been apart. We were sold to Parson Shelby and his wife, an evil woman that had her eyes on Kheme from the time she got him. I remember she constantly touched him, stroked him, and would do all in her power to keep me us apart!

I also remember that Parson Shelby was a drunk. He ran a brothel, and I cleaned it. He was no shepherd, and reminded all those pale, ruddy faced people giving him money how it was their right to own people. How they were entitled to do so because ‘these dark, devil people need the brightness of our God. We rule over them to help them!”

That’s when it happened.

1648. It was winter. I remember how cold it was, and how pretty the morning was. Kheme had run away from after Parson Shelby beat him for the last time. That was the habit, you see. Parson Shelby’s wife would give something to Kheme to get him into her bed. After she would have her way with him, Parson Shelby would come in and beat him inside of their bedroom. With Kheme, wounded, again on the floor, Parson Shelby would make love to his wife—if that was what that was.

Kheme had run before that Christmas. He ran in the snow. I remember the blood, his bare feet, and my breath in the window. I had never been so scared. Now that I remember, there was nothing I had been more afraid of. There were stories of slaves that were killed by their masters. Some that jumped back into the ocean, determined to swim home.

Home.

Kheme came back by night, in the New Year of 1649. I had been the property of these owners for five years. The child of the Parson in my womb…not by my choice or desire. I remember how shiny that Kheme looked, how icy his skin was. He found me in the back room off the hearth, and he hugged me. Kheme was beaten for not speaking English, Bambara was our mother tongue.

While holding me, he told me that he had met someone and that he was more man than he had ever been. He told me in a loud rush in this small space on which I slept on the floor that he was different. Stronger. Faster. “I can see as well in the dark as the sun cold ever let me!” he said, still holding me. The scent of the outside in my nose, the cold pushing into me like needles. I no longer fear the lash, Calsepsi.” I squeezed him harder, happy to hear my name in the language of our parents. These people, these owners, called me ‘Bess’. He pulled me from the world of our creation, made up our my warm and his chill, and stood.  He looked like a giant as I sat on the floor, the life in me, flipping.  With his face to me, his back more like mountains. I wanted to go to him, hold him, share what he held in his heart like I had when we had crossed the ocean together. “I no longer fear the lash.”

I bit my lip, wrapping my arms around him. I willed my ears to hear everything that was going to happen next. “I no longer fear the lash, the heat or the cold.” If felt colder then. “I have seen the amshun in the village, saw him when I ran. I wanted the strength to come back and get to you, Calsepsi!” I stood then, all things in me buzzing. “Say it.” I said, I too not wanting the world to come in this moment by speaking the language of the people that stole us. “The amshun said that he would make me…”

I didn’t need him to say the word. I knew what the amshun was. I knew what they did. There was a girl I worked in the tavern with that was related to one. There was a rumor that an amshun had the pour of life and death, and it was in their blood to do so. “If you drink the potion of the amshun, death will not touch you.”

The slaves at that time didn’t know what a vampire was, you see. That wasn’t a reality. There was no word! But when my brother, my protector turned to face me, wrapped in the blankets which gave no warmth, my brother’s eyes opened and were red, this burning orange. “I no longer fear the lash.” As he wiped his mouth, he could see red on his teeth. Blood.

There was a word the other slaves had for those that went to see amshuns–  Darkwalkers. Amshuns were a special type of apothecary. They made medicines, poisons, yes. But this potion was not supposed to be real! It was supposed to be a myth. My brother was now a Darkwalker! Hearing my thoughts, he walked to me, pulling me back into his over six-foot frame.  “I came to get you Calsepsi.” There was something about him uttering the word, get. I watched as he took me to the salon, were Pastor Shelby and his wife lay on the blood, bleeding. He stood behind me, making me witness his Puric victory. “You never need to fear him taking you again, Calsepsi. Come with me, we can go home. I can make you strong enough to go home.”

Home.

It was that fast. The rage welling in me, sentient and more real than anything. I made one fist, then two. “Make me not fear the lash, my brother. Make me as strong as you.” As I exhaled, I felt a bite in my neck. Fire went through me, consuming and insistent. I remember opening my eyes willing them to stay open as I had times before when Parson Shelby would try and take my body. My eyes would make him leave, save for this last time in the fall. I felt the flipping in my belly slow and cease. “Calsepsi, drink.” I didn’t move. I turned to face him, head and limbs burning. Kheme put his  wrist to my mouth and I remember closing my eyes. His blood was cool, sweet and rippled down my throat.

I remember falling to the floor, screaming as what I carried inside of me crawling, oozing out of me. As it died, I held onto myself to keep from ripping in half. “Calsepsi, don’t fight it. You are so strong, and this will make you stronger!” He knelt at her head. “My dear sister, you will never have to fear any man—free or slave—ever again.”

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #1: You Are Too Much

The most vicious lie you can tell a Black girl is that she is ‘too much.’

In the 39 years I have been on the planet, I have neither been explained what exactly is the criteria for being ‘too much’, nor have I been advised that being a good thing! So, what is too much? What does to mean to be ‘too much’? But there is a criteria to this! There is a reason that the world loves to call a girl they cannot deal with, who does not conform, a problem. She is a problem, because there is no archetype to the type of woman that she is. Rather than look at the gift that is femininity and ambition, it is the former that is seen the thing that is the aberration. The thing, this entity inside of her that must be stomped out, questioned, ignored or erased on every hand! 

We know the memes and quotes about the ‘quieting women.’ But there is a quote that I hold close to my chest about this idea of being ‘too much.’ The quote goes like this: “Black women will always be too loud for world that never intended to hear them.” We will always be too loud. Too vocal. Too angry. Too quiet. Too smart. Too…Black. We will always be too much. Yet, we go on anyway don’t we? Yet, there is something about this ‘too much.’ There is this indignity that comes with being called this, being classified as this. There are different types of scarlet letters–this I have seen myself. Black women are pushed into cookie cutter molds that cut pieces of us away! We are constantly pushed into these molds which are neither designed by us, or designed for us. Erasure is habit for Black women and girls! It has become easier to tell a girl what she is not, rather than confirm what she is!

What is she?

Can she not be both Black and ambitious?

Black and aware of her Blackness?

Can she not be what she determines outside of the gaze of an unaware public?

It is easier to assign ‘too much’ to a woman that you have no idea how to handle. This is a stigma, a warning to any other less-than man that wanted to be with her—but has no idea what that means? Too much as a woman, means there will be/are a certain type of man that will believe by the justification of his sex–and the superiority that only a phallus can grant–that you should accommodate this inadequacies with the lessening of yourself! And they become indignant when you do not, will not, shall never diminish for their comfort? As Eartha Kitt said, “Compromise? Compromise for what? Respect has to be earned!” Cersei Lannister said you have to earn a Queen–and she will always be whom she is. If you cannot chase her, if she dismisses you because you were not enough–admit that! A woman will always be ‘too much’ for a man that never intended on being enough for her.

Women whom are ‘too much’ change the world–because the world wouldn’t change for them.

The Rivalry Of Black Women: Why Does The World Needs Black Women To Fight?

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'VERZUZPRESENTS VERZUZ BRANDY MONICA V MUSIC LIVE FROM TYLER PERRY STUDIOS DRINKS CIROC FEMME FGRWALD'
“I don’t declare a winner when Black women are involved.”-my FB friend, Twyla.

I remember the Monica/Brandy, Brandy/Monica rivalry. I remember liking Brandy and Monica! But at the same time, when I heard Monica’s voice as a 14-year-old? Chile, you couldn’t tell me nothing! And I was wearing my hair short in high school anyway?! For whatever reason, my parents wouldn’t let me have ‘Brandy Braids.” But that is another conversation for another day.

The conversation surrounding this Verzuz Battle got me to thinking. Why is it such amusement to see Black women at each other? Why is the rivalry (or any rivalry) a sport between Black women a source of amusement for the entire world? Yet, it reminded me of a conversation that Tyra Banks had with Naomi Campbell when she had her talk show. Now, for those of you who are my younger tribe members, let me tell you who these two people are.

Tyra Banks (before she hosted/created America’s Next Top Model and had a talk show (Tyra)) was a supermodel in the late 1990’s. She is Black. She is still gorgeous.

Naomi Campbell is a supermodel, and has been a model for at least 30 years. Not an exaggeration. Not a typo. Naomi is 50 now, and still incredibly stunning.

I bring them up in this space of rivalry and competition because there are themes I saw in this Verzuz that I saw on the Naomi Campbell came on Tyra’s show! The thing that Tyra said to Naomi was the industry they were in (modeling, beauty) seemed to not be able to handle there being more than one Black supermodel in the industry.

One.

Tyra went on to say that she felt that Naomi didn’t like her, she felt alone, and just wondered why it was Naomi (seemed) not to like her! Imagine that! Tyra Banks was a young, pretty, Black girl that is modeling–a very non-Black space, and the person that could help you–hates you! That struck me, deeply. It was from that show–that moment!–that I purposed I would not tear down another Black woman for my own gain.

With Brandy and Monica, Monica and Brandy I see the same thread. Women in an industry that thrives on talent, yes, but also exploits! This is the same industry that helped to take WHITNEY ELIZABETH HOUSTON from us! It is so easy for the world to put lanes and limits on Black women; to compete for things that we should have access to and for. Instead of fighting the industry by which we are making our way in, confronting the people/entities that control it, we fight for access to the one door they offer.

We fight each other for the one door.

The killer part? There was so much shade thrown on social media, that it overshadowed the fact these women have had careers in an industry that devours women or replicates them! What was the sweetest thing was this 30 second clip Verzuz didn’t show–Monica and Brandy actually hugging back stage. There was shade thrown at their outfits, and how they tried to make small talk. What I will say is the conversation did look forced. But, that is from the context of not seeing what happened backstage? Yeah, it does look more forced than it probably was.

Image may contain: 2 people, text that says 'VS BRANDY MONICA HOT 100 NO.1 HITS 2 7 18 o HOT 100 TOP 10 HITS HOT 100 CHART HITS BILLBOARD 200 No.1 ALBUMS BILLBOARD 200 TOP 10 ALBUMS R&B/HIP-HOP AIRPLAY No. 1s 3 8 16 1 5 3 11 1 6M R&B/HIP-HOP AIRPLAY TOP 10s 5 13 1 9M 10.6M 919M billboard GRAMMY AWARD WINS U.S. ALBUM SALES U.S. SINGLES SOLD U.S. ON-DEMAND STREAMS 10.5M 1.33B AND STREAM FIGURES FROM NIELSEN MUSIC/MRC DATA'

But the history, the innuendo, and the need to have Black women compete for what should be shared or built to accommodate–it’s more amusing to have us fight. And we fall into it. Brandy has had so much success, and tragedy. Monica has had so much success and tragedy. And it is said that from great tragedy comes great art.

This rivalry was supposed be 20 years ago…so can we leave it there? Please?

This year has been hard enough. The easiest thing to do now, I feel, is celebrate more than we criticize. The winner last night for this Verzuz was the culture! It was us! It was good to just jam and reminiscence for a couple hours, man! It was lovely! They aren’t best friends, and they don’t ever need to be. They were grown-ass women with careers, babies and a bag to secure!

The most beautiful thing? They did it for us…because that’s what Black women do.

The Battle of “Pick Me’s”

This rant is courtesy of Facebook. A girl named Vanessa Bobineaux shared this and a FB friend of mine shared it after. This here is the roux of being a ‘Pick Me’. Dig this part though: I said what I said. -JBHarris, 9/1/2020

This is a false equivalence.

For every woman that is “tying to do what a man does”, there is a woman trying to do what she HAS to because the man that promised her help, DID NOT, HAS NOT, or WILL NOT!

This issue is not solely based on “feminist ideology.” Some is this is because men are not being raised or taught as they used to. Some men are TAUGHT a woman is supposed to do everything for you; she must become LESS than in order for you to be secure and right.

Biologically, I know I cannot do everything a man can do. The issue is when a man doesn’t want to do/know how to do all he is supposed to! And because the makeup of women is to nurture and maintain, we fill in the gaps!

We get the second job.

We take the extra shifts.

We take kids for hair cuts and braid appointments.

We change tires and oil.

We tend to you and the kids when you “just can’t do it today.”

We aren’t “losing” our uniqueness—WE ARE TIRED.

For that reason, we have stopped asking for help, because help isn’t coming. We carry the groceries in because we bought them! We go car shopping with Carvana and Car Facts because when some of us ask the men in our lives for help? Then we ‘need too much.’

But no, no, not losing our uniqueness. We are becoming something else—and not by choice. This strength has come from some of us as women tired of asking for help, and no one coming. Most women have no eversion to being taken care of—no woman I know does. We just haven’t been blessed with a partner who can do that consistently. That needs to be factored in as well! Not to mention there are women who need healing from the traumatic lie of “I don’t need a man for nothing”, but keep engaging in toxic behavior with the same people (read: men) they claim no to want.

This is bigger than a post.