Making A Place…For Us (For John Lewis)-#3

Q&A: Representative John Lewis Will Never Lose Hope
Wise men plant trees, even thought they may never see the shade of them.

Because he is with us,

and his history speaks to us,

we now we are the causes

of change and Good Trouble.

In his passing, in the seed

which became the root,

which begets the tree,

we can partake of shade

and strength, resting

for the moment, being

equipped for the fight

ahead, which should be won

which must be won!

We are both alone

and together,

both united and distant

as we remember what

heroes look like,

how loud lions are,

and the determination

it takes to be bridge

and door.

We are the causes of Good Trouble.

(c) JBHarris, August 2020

Crossing Muddy Waters (For John Lewis)-#2

This is one of the most shared pictures of Congressman John Lewis, when he was a young man causing ‘good trouble.’

Has indeed become the door,

the standard, banner and cause.

There are bridges that have now

been erected which have the blood

of the elders, seeing us in them,

now we can see them in us.

We have a charge to keep,

and a God to glorify,

so we will be catalysts

for change and the manufactures

of Good Trouble.

We are trouble makers,

wall-scalers,

jail breakers,

and believing that we

have come this far

by faith because we

cross over the waters

in and on moonless nights

because he is with us.

(c) JBHarris, August 2020

In Remembering Lions (For John Lewis)-#1

We remember lions

We do kings,

Expecting their presence

Reassured by their strength

Believing all that they are

Will remain and is

Unchanging.

Never do we believe

In age for lions,

For their roar is eternal

In the life of their cubs—

Adopted or born.

We see them as pillars

As we do kings,

Death cannot hold them,

For we know who holds

The keys to such doors.

And yet now,

This bridge, baring the

Name of the

most excellent forerunner

Has indeed become the door.

(c) JBHarris, August 2020

A Review: Why We Needed “Black Is King”(Part 1).

“Step out of your estimate and into your essence.”

I downloaded The Gift, the comparison Beyonce album to The Lion King live-action remake. I loved the album, and Key To The Kingdom, Spirit and Find Your Way Back are my favorite songs! The whole album is a vibe, really. Being totally honest with you all, after LEMONADE? I became a Beyonce Stan. I work part-time and weekends at the BeyHive.

But, what has impressed me about her, what made me become a Stan, is her raw talent and willingness to challenge herself–and in that challenging, to let us see only what we need to see. And, like all good artists, she wants us to see ourselves. I have seen and listened to her become more herself, more confident and self-assured as an artist. She is no longer just Beyonce that was the lead in Destiny’s Child! Like she said in HOMECOMING, the world wants Black women to just stay in their little boxes. Well, Black women don’t really do that–and have never stayed in boxes well.

Not ever.

The world, all vain and White-seeking, wants to relegate anything which is non-White, not White-seeking, to a box designated for erasure. We as minority people, especially Black people, need to be able to see ourselves as we are, as we must, as we have always been. Black Is King is a loveletter…to us! Every depiction in this film is positive, is beautiful, is detailed and brilliant! Every aspect of this film, from the significance of colors, to how she wore her hair, to the languages (yes, LANGUAGES!) she sang in. No detail is overlooked!

You have to appreciate the time and detail it took for her to compile this, to do this, to release this! The film is a masterpiece, rich with symbolism, clearly made with a love for a culture, and a people. The artists that were featured on the album were in the film as well for their respective parts! Why? Real artists, like real leaders, know you build as you climb. You leave keys, maps and ladders so that those after you have a path and a way up and out!

I watched this film with my daughters. I watched as my youngest, fascinated by all things creative, watched in rapt attention. I watched her see herself on screen. And her eyes lit up. It was the same light that I had once I found out I could create worlds from thought–the first time a saw a Black Barbie doll. It was a stirring that I am sure my baby girls felt as they watched this woman they had only seen in sips and pieces create a lovenote for them.

Especially for them.

As I heard the words of Waran Shire come through the vessel of Beyonce’s voice, it was a confirmation of the power of words and the visibility of myself in print. I sat straighter as I watched. I sang and danced around my living room, feeling myself light up from the inside. You see, according to African mythology, all the stories of the world belong to Anasi The Spider. In being a storyteller, in being a writer, I am only doing what my ancestors did. Gathering wisdom, gathering strength, and giving it as gifts for those who need it. I am doing my celestial assignment. I am doing what I was purposed on Earth through the mind of God to do. And for that reminder, I am grateful.

We as a people needed this film. We needed to see ourselves as we have always been. We have always been great, despite people and time and circumstances! There is never a bad time to remember who you are. There is, and will never be, a bad time to remind your children who they can become.

For this love letter, thank you, Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, mother of Blue, Rumi and Sir. Thank you.

Note: If you enjoyed the film, please consider becoming a supporter of the poet Waran Shire (she did the poetry for Lemonade too!). All her work is on Amazon, especially her most noted, Teaching My Mother To Give Birth. Thank you.

Shepherds By Other Names (for Cori Bush)

Written in the celebration of Pastor Cori Bush, in her defeat of long-time Congressman Lacy Clay on August 4, 2020. She is the first Black congresswoman from Missouri! Activist. Mother. Warrior. Servant. Thank you for everything, Cori. We love you. -JBHarris

Cori Bush Ousts Veteran Congressman From St. Louis, Says Voters Saw A  Candidate 'Willing To Fight' | Here & Now

It is the shepherds

whom protect the flock.

Some inherited, some stray

some lost from owners

who valued not

what they had,

but always…there are shepherds.

Guiding with wisdom, light and staff

they, have made protection a duty—

with humility fuel to do

all which is is good,

to honor He whom sends,

appoints such help.

It is the shepherds

who tend when none

are watching,

feed when no one

is able,

and stand when

all and every

falls around them.

They guide.

They cry.

They hold.

They assure.

They become pillar—

both wall and window,

able to sustain

the weight and light

of vision.

To shepherd is to be a hero.

A shepherd is a hero.

(c) JBHarris, August 2020

[image from wbur.com]

In Remembering John Lewis

I as well as the rest of the nation, are reeling from the loss of Congressman John Lewis. And after doing so, I feel now that I can put words to my mourning. I can put feeling behind action. I can begin to unpack the loss, so that hope can be repacked. So, over the course of the next three days (starting Monday, August 10th), I have made a three-part elegy for him.

Part 1: In Remembering Lions

Part 2: Crossing Muddy Waters

Part 3: This Bridge Called His Back

It is my hope in celebrating his life so publicly on this platform, all that follow after this thing called ‘good trouble’, will be reminded of the legacy laid before–which is now both map, light and path. The reward for a hero is rest.

To that, I say rest easy, John.

In Defense Of ‘WAP’

Note: This is review is for grown women only. I knew what WAP was when I saw this image. Why? Cause I’m grown. Check the notes at the end. You’re welcome. -JBHarris

I am not a virgin.

I know how babies are made, and where they come from.

I like sex.

Now, with that out the way, I thank you that your misogyny hasn’t overruled your common sense! I also thank you for continuing to engage in this discourse. At this again (I am a year from 40), I know what I like and who I like it from. Also, the concept of dancing to sexy music is not a new thing. I mean, I listened to Lil Kim and Trina when my mom wasn’t home during my last two years of high school. So, when I heard WAP at work two nights ago? I vibed to it, and was mad I couldn’t be anyone’s Meg Thee Stallion! But let me not ahead of myself…

My mother and father taught me to not and never be ashamed to be Black. My mother never told me to be ashamed of my body, even though my mother is of the generation that still call Black girls fast–and I, too, was warned about the ‘danger’ of being *’fast’ or being ‘a fast-tailed girl’**. It was work to begin to love my body, and all it could do. It was a whole other struggle to remind myself that sex, and liking sex doesn’t make me anything but a sexual being.

In growing up as Black and girl, whom will become Black and woman, there can be this almost oppressive chastity imposed on you! To own your body as a Black woman is a revolutionary act! It a declaration of your personhood and ownership–complete ownership!–of your body. There are still people (read: men and ‘conservative’ women) that think to own you body, and to take pleasure with it, automatically makes you a whore! Slut-shaming is trash LD/DAP energy. I said it.

The video is a declaration of the ownership of the female form! I still have no idea why Kylie Jenner was in it! WHY?! Other than for the reputation her sister has and it being a declaration that she is DTF. But, I digress.

I have no idea why sexually confident women scare people! In the two days this song and video has been up, the complete backlash is almost comical! Too $hort can talk about pimpin an Cocktales, video vixens have been the ornaments to all hip-hop videos, NWA has a song called ‘My Penis’, but let a woman declare just how bomb her body is! Let her declare how well she can use these hips Lucille Clifton talked about! Let a woman declare that as Meg said in Captain Hook ‘I like to drin and I like to have sex’, now she is undesirable?

Yet, there is a large swath of these so-called outraged men that still watch porn, by the ‘services’ of women and have ‘known’ more than a few hoes in their ‘player days’. But, you want the woman you want to be pristine, low body count and just do ‘hoe shit’ for you? Do you hear yourselves?

In literature, there is this idea called primo genture. This ideology comes up alot in Shakespearean plays. The idea is to police and control female sexuality, you can then assure legitmate heirs to a line. Notice the legitmacy of an heir falls to a woman–even though she can neither determine when she gets pregnant, or the sex of the baby. We need only look to recent history to men–married men!–whom had whole families outside of their ‘legitmate’ families! What does that mean for them?

Oh, I forgot. Men are supposed to ‘sow their wild oats’, right? Get all that hell-raising and bed hopping done with before getting married. I cackle laughing at this every time someone mentions how chaste a woman is supposed to be. Yet, this wisdom is never expected from men.

The fact that WAP exists, and I’m SURE is on many a playlist the kids can’t listen to, and been ‘tried out’ by now, I need ya’ll to grow up. If you don’t want to listen to it, don’t. If you think Cardi and Meg are too much–don’t listen! But don’t come for those of us whom have done the work of loving ourselves, including those of us who know we have WAPs, and like using them from time to time. Use that energy to take down the president who likes to ‘grab women by the pussy.’

Women are allowed to own their bodies, their sexuality and express that however they see fit. Societal approval is not needed for a woman to be seen. A woman need only a mirror for that–and the right to not be judged because she looked, with the audacity to like what she saw. And twerk in celebration.

Note to help you not be a prude:

Shameless Plug #1: Read Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women A Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall.

Shameless Plug #2: Read by miniseries from last year FOR A FAST GIRL. Click here to start that.

Shameless Plug #3: Listen to my podcast, The Writers’ Block (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play). For the month of May, I did a miniseries called For The Love of Hip-Hop and I talk about sex, women and hip-hop on the third and fourth show.

Shameless Plug #4: Listen to the Sexpectations podcast hosted by Nicole Powell.

Revolutionary Warfare: Remembering Toni Morrison

“Don’t die with your dream in you.” -My mama, Bessie

I first met Toni Morrison in my Sophomore Spanish I class. There was this girl who sat behind me, Lolita (No lie, that was her name!), and she was reading this book with a purple cover. I asked her what she was reading. With all the Black girl swag she could muster, she said, “The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.”

I am ashamed to say that I had no idea who she was. I knew who Maya Angelou was, but had no idea who Toni Morrison was. I remember asking her to see the book. She obliged and let me read the back. I purposed in my mind that I was going to read this book. I was going to find out who Pecola Breedlove was.

From then, it was on.

My ears were keen to pick up on anything that Toni was doing, anything that she read, recommended or spoke on. So, when Pieces I Am debuted in May 2019, I purposed to watch it. Through other demands, I wasn’t able to see it in theaters. When she died 5 month later? I felt like my grandmother had died…all over again. It was on August 3-4, that I was able to have time and space to watch it. And I am glad that I did.

When I saw her face, heard her voice, I cried–and the film was only 5 minutes in. In hearing her, hearing her story and journey (even thought I was familiar with her voice and story), I cried. It was an affirmation, a coming home as Black, woman and writer. It reminded me that I was always a writer–a storyteller, and the footsteps I follow in are not new…but worn.

As I finished by undergrad at UM-St. Louis, I took ENGL 3870: American Literature After 1865 (Shouts to my mentor, Dr. Kimberly Welch!). This class–I am ever grateful for. Not just because I got to meet Dr. Welch (the first Black English professor I had at UM-St. Louis), but the first book we read for class was, Beloved. It took everything in me not to shout like the little Black Baptist girl in me wanted to! I was studying my shero. I was studying a woman that I had admired since I was 15. Whose books and words and imagination told me, showed me, the possibility of language.

Just like Nikki Giovanni does…still (Have you read EGO TRIP by Nikki?! You need to. Go do that now!).

And to study Beloved right after she died, with Dr. Welch telling me to go to grad school, with listening to her voice on film–it was a hug. It was that nudge that all writers have (I believe) when they are on the precipice of something great–to keep going.

The tears came.

The sobs racked me.

The grief shook me.

I gave over to the power this gift has, and purposed to never hide it again. Afterall, if you surrender to the air, you can ride it. That’s what Toni said.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 5-How Do We Get Back?

This is not an easy question.

We as people–especially girls–have been taught that to be in love is to suffer. It is to be in pain, and then your prince or king will come. In dismantling this facade that Struggle Love gives, you have to replace and supplant what we have been taught. We do that by pulling this thread: What does healthy love look like?

Healthy love does not mean enduring to the end of something. Love is a journey, it is healing, it a source of hope! Healthy love looks like boundaries, accepting limitations and realizing what you deserve! The broken record that begins with “You have to endure until it gets better,” or “A man just gon be a man,” or “This is as good as it will ever get,” has to be broken!

I believe this teaching begins to be supplanted when we as partners or potential partners decide what we want. And what we want has be definite and defined by what we want, and will not accept! We must have a criteria, and the criteria cannot be shaken for the want of being chosen!

Struggle Love has its roots in trying to be chose!

We begin to believe that love is to be worked for, suffered to get, and worked (often one-sided) to maintain. This is not so! Healthy love, giving healthy love, starts with you, dear one. It starts with who you model yourself after! What relationships you see around you, and what you aspire to become!

I know that not everyone sees these healthy examples around them. I get that people believe abuse is love–because it’s all they know! I know people see relationships every day that seem toxic that somehow magically become healthy overnight. I assure it, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It never happens overnight.

Image may contain: text that says 'Teach your daughters loyalty isn't how much pain they can tolerate from a man.'

The Bible tells us the older women are supposed to teach the younger women. You have to understand, what I am still learning, there is a portion of my experience a younger woman might need. Even if she may need it so she knows what not to do! We as the older women must be guideposts–for our sons and daughters! We have to give them what they need–regardless of our shame!

It is our shame at this generation of children need in order to realize what love is, what love is not, and what it should never turn into! Let us normalize the word “no.” Let us normalize what manhood looks like, and men having emotions! Normalize the intuition of women: the ‘something told me‘ is your first alert system! Normalize the acceptance of something when it can no longer be repaired! Normalize peace and being alone over the desire to be chosen–by people thieves wouldn’t trust.

Normalize respect for one another.

Normalize honor–without the need to test the boundaries of it.

Normalize being together–without testing the boundaries of what it means to be together.

Normalize what it means to be in love, and give that love back.

Normalize expressing counseling, and building save spaces in your relationships.

Normalize knowing what you want–and walking away from what you don’t. Anything you have to fight to get, you will have to fight to keep. Question is what are you willing to give of yourself to keep something that might kill you?