SABEM The Wrap Up- Feeling Like ‘Endgame’

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“Part of the journey is the end.”

-Anthony Edward ‘Tony’ Stark aka Iron-Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)

 

The Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing, than the beginning.” Here, I am inclined to agree. This part of my journey took twenty years. The guesstimation for a generation is about 20 years–18 is still considered and adult, legal and sentient. This portion of my life is over. I am now a dual-degreed and making my own way in the world. Radically believing in myself.

I had to fight the voices that come up with such celebration, wondering what other people would think of say. I had to remind myself these people do not matter! They will always have something to say. Partly because it’s me, the other part is people need something to talk about. Always. But I am in process of forgiving my own doubt, my own hesitations, or believing other people’s dream for my life rather than my own.

I understand what I am building, what I desire to do, will require tenacity, patience and care. I realize that there is a portion of me which will be out of step with the world around me; I will always have a tendency to see beyond what other people do. I had to become okay with a strange type of duality. I had to be okay with doing the practical and the magical!

The practical has the day job, pays bills, and is a bomb partner and spouse. The magical still dreams of making art, writing books, and sacrifices sleep to build the things she sees! The magical is so incredible that you will  chase after it–it is the pot of goal at the end of the rainbow. I am chasing the rainbow…and have caught one.

It is easy to go ahead and be angry, be mad, and lament for time lost. But, chose not to do that. I am choosing to celebrate today. I am choosing to make this a point of light and transition today. I am choosing to breathe deep and go forward. I will not entertain the madness of people who have no aspirations of their own. I will not feed in to the ideology of “You can’t eat with this degree.” I have found the thing my heart has longed to do, continues to do and needs to do.

The next stop, the next leg of the writer-teacher-scholar journey is graduate school. I am blessed to have started by professional network. I have a main mentor, whom looks like me. I have access to women whom can answer my questions, and point me towards organizations that I need to join or be aware of. I have been given opportunities to do what I have been graced to do–know to do. There is a power I have gleaned now which now allows me, frees me, to be both Alpha Femme, and a lady. This thing, this degree, is a polish. An addition to the uncovering of that which it is I want, and desire to do.

This is the end of a part, not the whole. The whole is still being revealed, still being shone, still processing–in sharper focus than it was before. The feeling of the insistent now, the restless now, is ebbing. It doesn’t gnaw as it did before. The bites aren’t as hard, my flesh not as fulfilling to the fears housed there. I am more the woman I was supposed be than I ever was. And now, right now, I can breathe deep. And wait for what’s next.

Something is already next.

I am a mother.

I am a writer.

I am a wife.

I am a creator.

I am a scholar.

I am an activist.

I am an oracle.

I am a teacher.

I am a warrior.

I am a survivor.

I am the mother of dragons–and I breathe fire.

The Day Harriet Tubman Died…

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“I go to prepare a place for you.”

 

In the most excellent now,

The journey of 300 trips,

From North to South.

Thousands of nights

And the guided by moons

And Suns,

Our greater mother

And greatest protector

As awoken to see her last

Sunrise.

 

On this day,

Answering questions,

Giving smiles and self

Her body slows

Eyes heavy.

 

But she fights.

She waits.

The air in her body heavy and laboring.

 

The world around her,

Apart from her,

Will ask for her

Need her,

Seeing her as superhero

And angelic.

On the end of this day,

When beans picked,

Visitors and family fill

Spaces, furniture and hours.

Windows are open,

Only to shut again, as

She goes to her room.

Body and soul,

Matching cadence

Of those needing rest.

 

Step by step,

She lays on the clean bed

Made and kept for her.

 

The breath that tasted

Possession by force,

Seeing death, chaos around her

Immeasurable grief,

Called to the law of the Lord

For strength and guidance…

That breath slowed.

 

Her eyes heavy.

The rest is coming.

The rest that is needed.

The rest that is owed to her.

 

The murmuring of the house

Loud in the ears which are shutting,

As her breath,

The same breath she held to swim

To hide,

To gather strength for the journey

That breath is fading.

 

In that body,

Cared for, carried by

Breath for 9 years

Less than a century,

Seeing the fall of a institution,

Which thrived, fed on

Blood, life and bone

Of a stolen people.

She saw the

Dividing of a nation,

Still, and now, trying

To find it’s way back

Together.

The breath, this dynamic cadence,

Was giving way.

 

Her eyes shut,

The Great Chariot wheels

Louder, beckoning for

The Conductor to come.

Yet, she is held by the love in the room.

The ancestral core, shedding, stirring

Ready for the last sojourn, to follow

That same North Star,

In the same endless sky.

 

She is leaving.

She was, leaving.

And in the leaving,

The comfort is still coming.

 

The Comforter still in the room,

The rushing mighty wind

Filling the same space,

That held her by love,

Kept her by power and duty.

That same breath tells all those

Waiting for the last blessing

The last words,

The last right to her,

She does what all

Black women do.

 

She gives herself before she leaves.

 

“I go to prepare a place for you.”

 

This place, this place

Giving from mother to daughter

Given from daughter back to mother

To be held by mothers to give to the daughters

To be carried by wind and earth

To remind those whom are to come,

Are here, will come after

That someone will be there

When we got there.

 (c) JBHarris, 2019

This piece will be included in For A Black Girl collection, to be published in June 2020.

 

Selective Outrage Is Tiring: Leave Lizzo Alone.

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Today I found out Lizzo’s real name:  Melissa Vivane Jefferson.  I found out today that the rap group she was in had an affinity for the Jay-Z song Izzo; she started calling herself Lizzo.

Cool. Chic. I could rock with it.

The thing is, I don’t really get into a whole lot of this ‘new rap’ but I like Lizzo. She doesn’t look like or sound like the type cookie-cutter rapper forced onto the greater streaming public. I sing ‘Truth Hurts’ loud and often with my 10-year-old daughter. I actually love ‘Good As Hell’ and added ‘Lingerie’ to that special playlist. I love her confidence, the embracing of her body, including her sex appeal.

I sometimes envy her confidence. Then I remind myself to own my own magic. And I do so. Thus, the magic replenishes.

Which is why I am confused as to why the world is mad–that fish grease heated!–because she twerked in a revealing outfit at a basketball game. I, personally, thought it was hilarious! I mean, she did the thing my mother says often:  “If you gon watch me, Imma give you something to see!”

She’s young. She did it. With her body, with her confidence, she twerked at a basketball game. And it was fine. In the most extreme circumstances, it was a shade inappropriate. I wouldn’t have done it. But, where was all this outrage when the very married Ciara and the gorgeous Megan Thee Stallion where a whole two-woman twerk team in a parking lot? Where was all this ‘outrage’ with the outfits the cheerleaders/dancers wear?

People kill me with the outrage when it comes to Black women and the ownership of their bodies! You are ‘mad’–legit upset!–because a grown woman twerked at a basketball game? Y’all are upset, cursing and hella uncentered because a fat, Black woman did what she wanted to do with body she owns.

Do not insult my intelligence by dressing this up as ‘inappropriate’ or ‘poor taste.’ Aight, fam. When looking through my social media timeline, all I could do was shake my head. The writer and feminist Bell Hooks, says that patriarchy can be wielded by anyone. ‘Patriarchy has no gender’ she says.

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Lizzo, in speaking about about this trivial craziness, said that the world hasn’t seen a body like hers “doing what it wants.” I completely agree. I love that she wears what she wants, when she wants and embraces every part of her, that is her. Lizzo is the big girl whose confidence that envy. Who loves all of herself, and does what she wants, with the body she has with no regard for who does not like it.

The world hates Black women like this. The world hates Black women that do what they want, that shun magical/exceptional Negroism. The world hates Black women own, move and do. The world hates the Black female form which refuses to be policed! It hates women which do not conform, who do not shut up, who embrace there sexuality, play up their sexuality and do not think it strange to twerk in public.

The world hate Black women whom own all they are–especially if they aren’t size 2 or above a 12. All depictions of sexy, desirable Black women–wenches or Jezebels–are not built like Lizzo. The men who like women built like Lizzo are made fun of in public. Women like Melissa Vivane Jefferson are relegated to Mammies:  asexual, modest, unseen.

Leave Lizzo alone. Let her be. Let her twerk. Let her own her body. 

Maybe if you do that, we can take one more brick out of the wall of patriarchy! This wall which can divide; makes us second guess ourselves; dim our light to affirm partners content not to see us; to make us feel like the only way women can feel desired, or seen or sexy, is associate–shamelessly correlated–to how big my breasts, belly or ass is. The patriarchy that does not value me, does not see me, content to judge me because I (literally) don’t fit.

Let her be. So we can be.

Twerking ain’t the issue. And if you believe that it is? You’re the issue.

Graduation 2019–Reflections

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To be read at my Graduation Dinner:

 

I believe there is a pattern to this life. It has taken me twenty-one years to arrive at this point. Twenty-one years ago today, I was a seventeen and in the first semester of my Senior year at Jennings Senior High School. By 11:00 AM the morning I was to commit my father to Christ and ground, I was clad in the same warrior black as my mother. And today, I am clad in that same warrior black, with the colors of my father:  like all heirs, the children of Kings wear when fathers are absent. It would be fitting that the same time my father was in funeral salon, in this final transition, so will I cross over.

In this ceremony, the emotions are not adequate to convey! This has been a journey which has tried and tested me as I had never thought. It has forced me to question which is greater—desire or comfort. This Bachelor’s degree is a culmination of what I wanted as 16-year-old girl. This is a key, a map, and a light to where I must go next. Today, I am taking the time to celebrate that which I have fought to possess! Something which other people believed I needed to get, and helped me to attain. The level of gratefulness that I have is immeasurable; tempered with humility.

These sixteen weeks, have been confirmation of everything I have wanted to do, and given hints at whom I will become. I have begun a professional network, gained a mentor, and become part of the esteemed International English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.

I am now on the path to destiny.

                What has been shone to me in these sixteen weeks are these natural gifts of speech, language and thought are weapons of a formidable sort in the hands of an artist! Writing is an art and art is to be both worked out and manifested. My hope is that I honor all talents bestowed upon me and through me be a full satisfaction.

From the shores of a home I have never seen; from the soils of deltas, swamps and plantations; from grandparents barely educated, whom were wishing and pushing for better hope carried in the bellies of their children—I am aware this achievement has not been done alone. As this journey continues, I will not be alone.       

Today, I have surrendered to the air to ride it.

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Week 16-The Freed Self (The Final Of Finals Week)

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“Choose yourself. Choose yourself. Always bet on yourself.”

-Billy Porter, Tony Award Winning Actor

 

This week was my final week of my undergrad. It was bittersweet. It was amazing. It was a reminder there is more to be done. I found a job, I start the week of finals week, and I think I already hate it…

Why?

It’s not what I want to do, but it’s a ‘right now’ job. There are still bills to pay, children to feed and gas to put in my car to get back and forth. Yet, my heart is not there–and already planning for grad school. My next meetings with my professional next works. The books yet to write.

The brand I am building…

I have decided to pursue writing, to give my all to it–to do what will feed that need to create. There are a myriad of things before me to choose from, to develop. I have decided graduate school is what I want to pursue. I want to teach college courses. I want to hold space. I want to be a gatekeeper.

I will be a gatekeeper.

As my time at UM-St. Louis is ending, I am 1 final and 1 group activity from graduation. I am indeed almost there! My professional network is forming, expanding already. I am looking at Low-Res options for my MFA, or MA’s. I even have my thesis! I have waited so long to get to this point where I can say ‘almost’. Where I can say ‘I am almost there.’

‘I am almost there.’

There is no longer nebulous and foreign. It is no longer this place of mourning or regret or complete fury at its lack. I had to remind myself the job is not a career, not my trail or path anymore. I am no longer a nurse, nor do I have a desire to be one. I am a different type of caretaker.

This week when doing my review for Dr. Welch’s class, we played Are You Smarter Than A 15th Grader?–or take on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? I wore my BLACK AUTHORS MATTER shirt I got from a Writing Coach called the LiteraryRevolutionary on Instagram. I said this before the review started:

“Okay, before we get started. I want to take a station break and remind you in the words of my girl Morgan Jenkins, the author of This Will Be My Undoing, and Medium editor who said, ‘If you only read White authors you are not well-read.’ So I want to remind you Black Authors Matter.”

I don’t think I would have had the boldness to do that had I not had this semester and personal writing experience to draw from. That act, amidst a sea of non-melaninated faces, was revolutionary. It was a reminder to be and remain visible–as both writer and teacher. The fear of not being successful at this–this writing, teaching, speaking–is over.

Abolished.

Ended.

Killed.

Dead.

I know that which I want to do, and the opinions of others are not a factor. Nor are they, will there be a problem. This semester has allowed me to radically believe in myself. In every gift. Every dream. Every talent.

This new space feels amazing…it is amazing.

The journey to get here is nothing short of miraculous. But, it is the miraculous things which require the most magic. Other things are handled, will be handled with this Black Girl Magic.

Oh! The world about to get all this Black Girl Magic–ready or not.

Ready or not–Here She Come.

Let’s Talk About It: Tiny & T.I.

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TW:  struggle love, pain before love, toxic patriarchy

This week, the entire internet is a blaze over Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk. I did my best to stay away from this because I think this is a conversation is overdue. I also am aware of the cultural implications of this conversation.  I knew that the moment I, as a divorced Black woman with two children from a failed marriage, all the hounds of Hotepean Hell would come after me. But yet. this is what I do here. I speak. This will be no different.

I know women like Tameka Dianne “Tiny” Harris.  I have been a woman like Tameka Dianne “Tiny” Harris. Everyday I am graced to walk towards 40, the more perceptive I have become. I see the things at 38, that I could never have seen at 18 or even 28. I see life as the gift that is, and value whom I want to keep in mine. So, when I saw this Red Table Talk with Clifford and Tameka? It was like looking into a mirror.

The one thing I do like about Red Table Talk is Jada Pinkett Smith as allowed, held space to have hard conversations. However, here? With this one? I think she missed something. Too often in African American/Black communities, Black women and girls are prized and chosen, seated as wives or queens due to how much we can bare. How hard we can work. How much we can hide the depth of our pain, cover our own rage with make up, a clean house and healthy children.

This is a most curious type of auction block.

Everything that can be quantified to us as women. You must be esthetically pleasing. Tall, but not taller than him. You must be able to work as hard as a man, be satisfied with less, be able to clean house, have kids and have your breasts, your ass and belly look unaffected. Everything has to snatch back, and ready to still sate every ache in a phallus! Now, by no means am I, will I say, these attitudes are present solely in African-American homes and communities. They aren’t, I assure you. But I can attest is my personal experiences, failures and realizations. It is through those realizations, I make my case and give my empathy.

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There is something in Tameka that I have seen in myself in the grip of an abusive relationship. This breaking and holding together, is done in cycles. Where you believe so much in a man, so much, that it kills you. This is not an exaggeration! My girlfriends have a name for this:  struggle love. 

This is the love that we idolized, and told is inevitable as a women and girl-children. This type of love, we are told, is based on this scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:7:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

It is this scripture that allows women to stay after it’s time to leave!

Those of you that follow me, know that I am a women of faith. This piece is not an assail or assault on Christianity. What I want you all to see is, struggle love–this love that prizes the ability to suffer greatly first and always–is not God. And I am tired of being told, or hearing women say that it is! There is no part in scripture that prizes the inflection of pain on another person as a way to prove that you love them. When pain is found is scripture it is due to, or a part of, a process which has an end!

Suffering is not supposed to be prized! It is a tool to reach, remind and instruct! It is not a prize!

My ability to endure the insufferable doesn’t make me a prize. It makes me a mammie! My ability to be consistently uncomfortable does not quantify me as a woman to be prized above all others! Can we stop doing this? Can we free our daughters from the chains of believing someone the love has to hurt them, that life, that relationships, have to try you with volcanic fire in order for to be considered as girl friend or wife? I understand that relationships have ebb and flow; relationships are constructed of and between two people trying to make a life together. Each valuing something different or wanting something more. The idea being that what they feel for one another should be support, strength and refuge. Suffering can be a part of that due to the fallen, selfish nature of human beings. However, my ability to suffer should not be the factor that makes me a desirable partner. Do not intentionally inflict harm upon me to see how fast I will heal!

I am worthy of love, of care, and of respect. I am worthy to be seen, to be valued and cared for. I deserve a relationship that will hold me to account, assure me of my safety and grant me space to grow and to become. I am worthy to be loved; that love is not proved through how badly I can be hurt.

Through the podcast Expeditiously, Tameka said something that startled me, and confirmed one reason as to why she may stay. She said an aunt once told her to “Marry for security, not for love.” When I heard this, I almost screamed. I understand the reason why her aunt said this. I get it:  men are taught to be protectors and providers. Money is a tool which allows both. Yet, with everything this man has done in the course of their relationship, can this protection and provision be so comfortable that she will endure it? Love that makes you suffer to attain it is manipulation. God loves you no matter what you do. In that relationship, love is first and love is paramount–and He is present no matter what and where you are.

Love is first. Healthy love is first!

There are things in this life which are more important than financial security. We have moved beyond the point in society where women need men for social acceptance, and financial security. Do I believe that relationships can become better, the people in them change for the better? I do. I believe people have the ability to do better, especially for the people they love. I believe that if two people are willing to make something broken work, it can. This comes from accountability, recognition of what was lost or broken. And that takes work.

Struggle love is greedy, one-sided and viciously selfish. It takes from you, and is enraged when there is no more to take; angry when the willing well is empty–having drank all from it. Struggle love is narcissistic, seeing and feeding all it wants. Even when Tameka spoke on the podcast, he cut her off. As a writer, she sounded what can only be described as ‘backed up.’ On the show, she vacillated between being over it, wishing her husband would be honest and accountable; to stoic–just letting him express himself.

When I told my first husband our relationship was over, he seemed shocked.  I had done all I could do to love him, honor him, and be the dutiful wife even while he refused to be a husband to me. It is not wisdom to say in these situations. He refused all avenues which would help us fix what was wrong and he refused. But yet, he still wanted to be with me: ‘I want my family’. he said. Yet, he was unwilling to anything which would care for it. I had no more, of me to give to him, to fix the us.

I had no more of me, to give to him, to fix the us. 

I refused to die with a man that would not build his life with me. 

I have been where Tameka has been, more than once. I have seen the people in my life–men and women!–having to sit where she did on the promise of ‘it’ll get better.’ Sometimes the better is the day you decide you can do no more. God hates divorce, yes. He also provides a way of escape to things which overwhelm, threatening to kill whom He loves.

Don’t die with life still in you, believing better will come. Better sometimes, sometimes God shows up, the universe makes itself known when you listen to the inner self that tells you in the still small voice, ” I have done all I can, with all resources given and acquired. I will trust in what will come after this ends which will grant me what I deserve. This ain’t it. It cannot be it, and I must go.”

I simply must go.

In the words of my sister, the beloved Kelly Heflin, “Don’t tell me to struggle for love, and tell your daughter something different.”

 

[image from Facebook Watch]

 

 

 

 

 

English Majors Over Fall Break-Road To MFA (Week 15)

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“Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor.”

-Michelle Obama, former First Lady of The United States of America (from her book-BECOMING)

 

Fall Break has been a time of the deepest reflection. It has been a time of examination, hurt, and exhilaration. I slept in, binged on YouTube true crime channels, and talked to my Mama.

Always a good thing. 

I talked to my best friend. I dreamed. I wrote. I declared. I slept some more. I even found a new job! But, with the new job on the horizon, I understand that writing is still going to be what feeds me. And I am okay with this…

But the one thing that I know is this:  I am good at this. I am good writing. I am a good writer. I am choosing love this part of myself and embracing it. There are portions of this writing journey, of this transitioning, that has challenged me. It is requiring me to believe in me–in parts of me that I had only believed in before.

Before.

Before. 

Before I knew what I wanted to write, how I wanted to write and even the school I wanted to go to. I knew that writing was what I wanted. The world of The Arts was what I wanted. What I needed. I knew all this…before.

Before. 

And now my before is now my past, and now to be found again. I had to fight to become the woman that I am now. I have had to remember the things I am doing now, the things that need to be done now, are being done. There is a strength that has come to me, through me, for me, that I can only affirm is divine. It is formidable.

I am becoming formidable. 

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Graduate school is on the horizon.  And still fighting momentary or lasting Impostor Syndrome. It is transient–but the thing is? I remember to breathe in, own my space, and realize that what I desire to do–I can do.

I. Can. Do.

One of my girlfriends in my writing world is Hannah Drake. She reminded me (and everyone else that reads her work!) is to handle yourself like ‘a mediocre White man.’ The Grande Dame herself–my personal Shero!–Shonda Rimes, said that if you are doing something, never call yourself aspiring.

If you are doing something, never call yourself aspiring. 

When I thought of that, when I mulled that over, it freed me. I can’t explain to you why it is–but it did. It allowed, has allowed me to embrace my creative force–and not be ashamed. This thing I do with 26 letters in unique and powerful. I own that. I embrace it. And–I harness it.

This week reminded me not to be mediocre. Not be scared. To see–really see–what it is I want; without being ashamed to go after it. I get that being bold, woman and Black is threatening to some people. But that is the world’s problem–not mine. Not anymore.

The cocoon is broken. I am earning my butterfly wings.  I shall be free.