The Radical Anyway: Slings And Arrows Of This White World

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In the age of Homecoming, Lemonade, the ageless Michelle Obama, and Black Girls Rock, this shit is enraging. How is Taylor Swift Artist of the Decade?!

The decade?! From 2010-2019? Decade?!

Fam.

This shit here, is one of the reasons I listen to more 1990’s rap and hip-hop than anything now! I am over the American Music Awards. Completely over.

In hearing this news, I cannot express to you how I had this thought, “How thee fuck is this possible?” But the 38-year-old Black woman, whom has a mother 30 years older answered. And she said, “These folk see what they want to see. Anything else is unseen.”

Was I surprised? No.

Was I shocked? No.

In hearing this news, I felt the same way I did when I saw Adele win Album of the Year for 25, and broke it in half to share it with her. That wasn’t sweet! That shit was insulting. Don’t you dare insult me by telling me you will share the an award with me. Especially, when I know my work is better than yours!

Yet, this is what it means to be Black, woman, and creative in a world that delegates you to other, sex object or unseen when ‘too powerful.’

All awards represent confirmations to the work you have put together. The hours of work, doubt, sweat and the sheer force of creative will. But trust me, I get it! This nation loves White women! They have to be protected, lusted, lorded and affirmed. Their sex and race together are touted as perfect! As if they created by God first and only! It is only right that you give a White girl this type of affirmation!

Now, let me be firm and summer sky clear.

This piece is not to bash Taylor Swift. I, personally, am not a fan of hers. I don’t listen to her. I don’t have an opinion about her one way or another. It is this system by which I am throwing haymakers at!

The system!

This system that is comfortable, so comfortable with the erasure of anything non-White, no matter how average, is suffocating!

Simply suffocating!

I understand systemic racism is more insidious than people imagine. I get that there are White folk that consider themselves ‘good’ and ‘non-racist’ or ‘having Black friends’ whom have no utter idea what it means to be looked over because of how you are socially classified; having work and efforts ignored because you don’t fit.

I get that the preservation of the White face of a nation founded in murder, usurpation and oppression will stop at nothing to bolster, root, cement power by any means necessary. That facade cannot be broken else the game is had!

I get it. And I am mad. And I am tired.

It is not wrong to want recognition for the work you do. It is not wrong to want an earnest look at your art, music or writing. It is not wrong! The thing that is disconcerting, damning even, is believing someone that is not of a dominant culture, has nothing to add to the overall culture.

Erasure is a natural resource of this nation. This is just the latest insult to those whom desire it not to be.

It is times like this, where I remember the rich conversations with my writer girlfriends. The doubts present. The hesitation that had to be assuaged. The support poured into those that needed to ‘create anyway.’ The affirmation that we give to one another, binding up the wounds made by the consistent erasure of a culture content to siphon from you–but never see you!

Yet, we do so anyway. We write anyway. We create anyway. We network and support anyway. We get into ‘Formation’ anyway.

If the believed-greater are so confident in their power, then they can withstand competition. The doors what we are not allowed into, we will break down or make our own!

Black is always seen, and nothing it touches can be unseen. I refuse to be unseen. Not anymore.

[image from Google]

 

 

 

 

 

Week 14-Planting The Roses (Fall Break)

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“I think God gets pissed off when you walk past the color purple and don’t say nothing.”

-Shug Avery, Alice Walker–The Color Purple

 

Whew!

My Fall Break started with my oldest child being ill. So, my Fall Break officially started at 11:30 am Friday, November 22, 2019. This is also my maternal grandmother’s 91st birthday. I will be graduating on the 21st anniversary of my father’s passing. This semester has been chock full of hard decisions, scary thoughts, and the baby steps towards changing my whole life.

I am that much closer to my dream of completing my MA/MFA. I have met incredible people, started my professional network, and gotten my foot in the door with organizations which would allow me to work in a Creative Writing sphere.

I am a part of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society.

I am researching Low Residency options for graduate school. I found out that my dream school from 20 years ago offers this option!

I have the option of getting into New York University. For graduate school. The joy? The absolute joy I have thinking of that–realizing that what I want, what I have worked for?

I can see it.  I can see it.

So for these 7 days? I am going to reflect. I am going to rest. I am going to recoup. I am going to write.

And…I am going to dream.

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I started writing at 8.

Ms. Constance Kelly at Lowell Elementary School, in Room 203 told me to keep writing.

Mrs. Annie Green taught me to respect my thoughts and write them down.

I gave up the dream of being a cardio-thoracic surgeon at age 12, to follow what I knew I wanted to do.

At 16, I wanted to go to NYU.

I knew what I wanted to do. I knew.

I knew.

Nursing was never my heart, it never was the forever. Words were. Writing as been what Queen Elizabeth I calls ‘a full satisfaction.’ This gift has been with me since my mother and father taught me to read at age 4. It is something about these 26 letters; about language; about this magic of teeth, brain and tongue that I chase.

That I love.

That I have to have.

The best lover I have ever had is the [American] English alphabet. No man could ever match that. I think when I ignored that passion, the thing most in me–of me–to do?

God was upset at me. I really do.

Remember the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew 25:14-30 King James Version)

One servant had 5, and made it 10.

One servant  had 2 and made it 4.

One servant had 1–and buried it. And the master cursed him for it.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

This one talent–that I thought meaningless, that I thought I could cover with what was safe–I covered.  For other people. 

This experience, this journey, has been extraordinary. It has reignited me in ways that made me forget I was 22 years past 16. It made me forget that I am going to be 40 soon. That my dream, that writing, is not a hobby. It is a gift. It is a call…and I have not always respect that.

Due to what people thought.

This week? I am forgiving myself.  I am celebrating my 4-year-old self who loved books; the 5-year-old me that wrote her name to get a library card. I am celebrating the 16-year-old girl that knew she wanted to write. And wanted to go all over the world to see all see could. I am forgiving the 18-year-old girl that tried to please people, and chased something that didn’t belong to her.

It was in my late 20s-early 30s when I embraced the title of writer fully. More than I had due to the benefit of age. This is what I do; it is not an avocation. I am a writer- or a writer AND.

I am going to celebrate that this week…and plant my roses. I’m resting. I earned it.

 

The Holiday Help List

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The holidays are upon us again! Although this is the time of year where we celebrate family, traditions and that immeasurable thing known as time. But in the age of the President of Maximum Suntan, with MAGA hats and matching beverages, let me give you 5 tips that will allow to survive encounters with people you are related to, in close proximity to and may have to be polite to in order to prevent a fight from breaking out.

 

1.)  Be gracious. My parents are Baby Boomers:  manners are everything. The appearance of being mannered, having cooth, or decorum means everything. If you are in the presence of racist/fascist/phobic family members and friends? You can be polite and not engage in the conversation. You can be polite and decline the invitation. You can even be polite, pack your plate and leave. Remember the words of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens):

“Don’t get on the level of stupid people. They will beat you down with experience.”

 

2.) Set boundaries. It is easy to get embroiled in madness with people whom have not done the necessary reading to participate in certain conversations. With you are in a setting like a company party, friend’s house or close family, make an internal decision about what you will and will not discuss–this includes politics.

Make these boundaries, adhere to them and when they are violated? Voice that! Don’t allow people you are in social proximity with to dictate your thoughts, comfort, or make sport of your anxieties.

 

3.) Secure a ride to an event or back from it. One of the things which is common to do during this time of year is to carpool. In this time, with the diverse nature of other people’s petty, don’t be a victim of that. It is not cute to get to a venue or event and then be left when a verbal altercation breaks out.

I have seen this.

Don’t be victim of this.

As a woman in America, especially with rape culture, Brock Turner mascots, suspicious ride-shares and the time change, it is best at all possible that you choose your events you attend. Choose your transportation–and have a reliable back up, just in case. Lately, I go to events in my own vehicle. And normally, since I no longer drink, I am the DD (Designated Driver).

 

4.) Don’t be pressured to go somewhere you know will cause you to lose peace…or freedom. I am no longer moved my invitations and RSVPs. I am no longer moved by who thinks I should be there, where and doing what. I do no stress myself about holiday parties at jobs, events, or for people I don’t like! Plus, the way that I am set up? I can give you an hour of grace till I just HAVE to leave. And I do not defend President Maximum Tan. So to keep my job, and freedom (it is the age of BBQ Beckys, and just Regular Triflin Beckys), I leave before anything can pop off. No one needs that…

If all else fails? Ask this question: “Who all over there?” or the variation “Who all comin’?”

5.) “No” is a complete sentence.  I understand that the holidays are time to spend with the people you love. I get it! But I also get how the people you are related to are toxic and triggering. Don’t fall for the lie of “We’re family! You gotta come by!”

No. Thee. Hell. I. Don’t.

The word “No” is a command, verb, predicate, and a whole ass sentence.

Places that I don’t want to go, I don’t go anymore.

If I said I wasn’t going, then I’m not going.

There is no more convincing, pleading or bribing. I AIN’T comin’.

‘No’ is a complete sentence.

 

Your peace, your space, your mind and heart are invaluable. Preserve them all costs. The holidays are a time of reflection, contemplation and rest. Don’t willingly go into the mouths of lions because they are family. Or call themselves such. Use wisdom. Be bold. Be gracious. And if need be–be out.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: FUBU Movies, Remakes And Issa Rae.

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It is no secret I am a fan of the dynamic, richly talented, Issa Rae. I believe she is amazing, insecure is brilliant and I am here and present for her next movie.

Shameless plug: GO SEE THE MOVIE THE PHOTOGRAPH STARRING HER AND LAKEITH DAVID IN FEBRUARY 2020. BLACK LOVE MATTERS!

Now, with that said, let us continue.

Issa Rae is known for her quotes related to the power of the grind, how the hustle is ongoing, and sometimes the best networking is done laterally. She has said (as it relates to networking) to ”see whom is along side you, who is just as hungry as you.” With that mantra, she has taken her Awkward Black Girl series–originally on YouTube!–and parlayed this into a full-fledged acting/producing/writing career.

I am proud of her.

I am so proud of her.

With that said, I am tired of the Black Culture Collective coming for sis about trying to remake the FUBU classic, Set It Off. Mother Vivica A. Fox said she shouldn’t remake it and something akin to ‘Getcha own shit.’

Well, damn.

With that said, I know what it is like to be a writer/creative person and see something in the media that you want to put your stamp on. I get it! I think one of the reasons her desire to redo Set It Off has pissed so many people off is the films in the *FUBU canon are–hell, sacred! They are movies that depict Black life, with believable Black characters, whom are visible and believable to an audience that doesn’t just consist of Black people. This phrase–FUBU Movies–I got from Gabrielle Union.

Don’t sleep on Sis; she’s a brilliant woman.

I get that Issa Rae wants to revamp it! In the age of remakes, live-action fairy tales and the juggernaut of the MCU (that sometimes strays from its own source material!), writers like to revamp and reimagine. I get it. However, the nerve I believe Issa Rae has now hit, split and frayed relates to visibility.

Why would a Black woman want to redo a movie made popular and successful by Black people? 

This goes into a studio executive believing that Julia Roberts should have played Harriet Tubman. No, I’m not joking. I wish the heavens that I was. Click here to see that.

As  hard as  Black people have worked to even be in the entertainment industry–let alone films!–we want some things to just be ours. Left untouched. Wholly classic. No remakes.

Set It Off is a FUBU classic. People want it left alone. With this in mind, as talented as Issa Rae is, I am sure she can add to the existing canon, versus trying to recreate a portion of it.

For all of you who think writing and creation of content is so easy, you do it. Meanwhile, leave sis alone about this here! We all have to do better to get visible. The creation of Black content for film is bigger than Set It Off. Trust me.

*Some of the movies that are included in the FUBU canon are (list is NOT exhaustive!):

Paid In Full

Clockers

Boyz In The Hood

Set It Off

Bring It On

Menace II Society

ATL

Do The Right Thing

 

From The Crates: Intimate Partner Violence

There is something heinous dwelling in a person when they can take the life of someone they were once in a romantic relationship with.

The fact these men, these recent murderous human beings, could take the lives of women they say they love is monstrous. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be glazed over or explained away.

It is deeper than a character flaw.

It it broader than being labeled abusive.

Women have the right to autonomy and self-preservation. We as women have the right to say, “This situation is toxic, harmful and detrimental to my well being and safety. I will not allow it to continue.”

It is beyond wanting a ring back. It is more than vouching for an evil person’s character when they know how to act in public. Every time this happens to a woman, there is a power that leaves the world. There is an essence, purely and beautifully female, that leaves the world. And for what? Only because a man could not trap, trick or own her? For that cause she must perish? And by his hand?

When will we as women matter?

When will our safety matter?

When will our cries, bruises and worries matter?

WHEN WILL THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PERPETRATED AGAINST BLACK AND BROWN WOMEN MATTER?

It is beyond wanting a ring back and cannot be cheapened to that! The fact there are men and women that adhere to this logic have no respect or acknowledgement of their own power, autonomy or self-determination!

We must value women, Black women especially, when they say abuse is happening to them. We must not continue the lie that is toxic and hyper masculinity. It is killing us. They are killing us!

How long will blood be the demand for those whom cannot fathom they are not the chosen? Yet, in not being chosen, their maleness doesn’t die. Perhaps these perpetrators, these man-cloaked animals, will remember a “No,” will not kill you, nor define your worth as a man.

Only you as your own man will. The power of that determination solely marked and forged by your character. Perhaps it is a show of the fallen world where the one whom is to protect, love and shelter, in his twisted form, only kills steals and destroys.

-(c)JBHarris, 2018

Week 13-Belief In The Radical Self

Note:  This’ll be a long one. Get snacks.

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“Remember, all writing on some level, is prophetic.”

-Dr. Drucilla Wall

 

So, I got my cap and gown.

I got the stole that shows I am a daughter of a Kappa Alpha Psi–part of the legacy of the ‘Divine Nine’. I cried when I got it and showed my mother. Whom tried not a cry I’m sure. It made me miss my father so much. But what struck me was what my father said to my mother often:

“One day y’all we just sit around and talk about me.” And he would laugh. Often times, I truly do. And I tell my mother, “I’m telling my Daddy! Wait till I see him next!” But in that, this was the same man that made me amazing, and formidable, whom thought I couldn’t do it. Whom thought my talents were better suited to medicine.

Yet, here I am. Writing. Healing. Reminding other people to live.

I’m going to teach. I am going to instruct. I am going to be a gatekeeper, a way-maker and a light. This is something much more than I could have ever done as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Yes, I wanted to be a surgeon.

This week, I had to wrestle with that–these two selves.

The portion of me that has always been creative, and loved words. Who wanted to be a college professor NYU. Who wanted to write for (never failing) New York Times. The self that knew since I was ‘making books’ at age 7, keeping my hardback copy of Sherlock Holmes (given to me by my father, mind you!) with me in my backpack, knew that writing was what I wanted to do. I knew that I was a writer. That same radical belief in self that Howard O’Brien (known through the world as Anne Rice) had.

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I thought about how I lost that. I wondered how I lost that. I wondered how I had been so willing to give it up.

This is the trouble in being a young, gifted and Black. People automatically want to steer you from the Arts. They disavow what you are naturally drawn to, enforcing their own selves upon you. I then realized when I lost it: when my father died. I was 17.

I was 17. Angry. And a high school Senior. My father died in December 1998, and I graduated in June 1, 1999, at the age of 17 years, 11 months and 23 days. I hadn’t applied to colleges anywhere! And I applied to nursing school out of necessity–of not wanting to be home. Nursing was what my father thought I should do. I had told him at 12 I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore, that I wanted to be a writer. The moment he told me, ”You can’t eat with an English degree!”

I hated him. I really did. I was livid!

How could the man whom had a father  that was damn near illiterate, with a mother with a third grade education, tell me I can’t write? How can the man whom he confessed his family laughed at him for an hour in my grandmother’s front room, tell me I can’t write?

Shouldn’t go to school to write?

Why would he tell me I couldn’t have what I wanted?

And he died with me hating him; the man that made half of who I am. I  was in that vortex for about 3 years. From 18-21. I stayed with a man that I never should have spoken to just so I wouldn’t have to be alone.

Nursing, medicine, never felt natural to me. I could do it, because I was smart. I could make the information stick–and spit it back. I could memorize, mimic and repeat. But it wasn’t a perfect fit. Not like words are and could be. I was taking 2000 and 4000 level English classes to take the edge off my nursing prerequisite classes! Who does that?! 

Me. ME. 

I needed the words, the writing to not go mad.

When I became a mother, I latched on to nursing because my ex-husband wasn’t reliable and I knew that he wouldn’t be the father he needed to be.

Spoiler: He still isn’t.

Nursing would allow me to write. You see, I was always going to get back to the writing–that is who I am. On a basal level:  I’m a writer. Nursing would give me the flexibility to write. The financial stability to write. It was my current husband that told me, upon seeing all my work, “College is too expensive to not do something you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.”

This is when the ground started to shift under me. And from that shift, I couldn’t give my focus back to nursing. I couldn’t do it. And when my financial aid ran out? That clearly was God’s way of telling me, ‘This is as far as I will let you go. You literally have run out of room.” In that devastation (my housing was tied to school–if I couldn’t pay for school I had to move), I turned back to writing.

I got my footing back.

My beloved cousin, Jason (whom is more brother than cousin at this point), told me, “You’ve always had that fire. If anyone was going to tell the family what they were going to do, it was going to be you.” And I grinned. One of the reasons why Jason and I are so close is because he, too, is an artist. He, too, is one that desired to do what he wanted regardless of who thought what! Jason was an anchor–and I loved him for that.

He believed in me. Always.

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From the footing, from the regaining both sight and confidence, I know–more than I did at 16–that I am a writer. Words are what I do. And I do them better than the average person! I own my swag. I’m not afraid to brag!  I worked hard to get back to this point.

I remember there were days I would cry because all I wanted to do was write. I wanted write. I would cry for it like it was my only love. Only other writers know that kind of pain. Only other artists know what it’s like to be bottled up, stopped up, and unable to get what is inside of you out. 

Think of it like Denzel Washington (Blue) in Mo’ Better Blues when he blew his horn when Spike Lee’s character was getting beat up in that alley. That’s what it feels like. Audrey Lorde said that one is only given a little fire:  you have to believe you have it though.

And this week, I believed a little bit more that I have it.

I am going to decorate my cap, a picture of Jean Grey as Phoenix, with her face brown with these three quotes:

“If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”- Toni Morrison

“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”-Audre Lorde

“If they don’t let you in the front door, go around to the back. If the back door is locked, buss a window and jump in.” – Dr. Richard L. Bush

There are three weeks between now and the next step–that being grad school. The GRE. An MFA. Writing samples. Doctoral programs. Professional Mentorship. Going to Las Vegas for my first Sigma Tau Delta meeting next March.

It’s time I soar. But to do that, I had to give up all the stuff that weighed me down. And sometimes that is the hardest thing to do…the weight can be comfortable. But that don’t mean it ain’t heavy. The weight held my wings…but not anymore.

I fought to get these muscles, this sight, this talent back…I’m not giving it back. I’m not turning around. I cannot help but be excited about where I am going next. I have surrendered to the air–and will ride it.

Here goes everything…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex Trafficking Is Not An Urban Myth

 

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*Follow The Ideal Firestarter for *The Trusted Four.

TW:  sex trafficking, rape culture.

 

Cyntoia Brown-Long was a victim of sex trafficking. She spent almost half of her young life in the Tennessee Department of Corrections for killing a man. Please don’t think that the glow up on social media is instantaneous. I promise you that it isn’t.  The scary thing is that 1 in 6 women will a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. What is not often discussed is sex trafficking, also known as human trafficking.

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It can happen in public. Private parties. From random hook-ups. on BackPage. And on any social media site! This is not something that women make up, that they lie about people exaggerate about.

There are still people in the world that still buy women, still buy people, and are willing to trade in flesh–by any means necessary! There was a recent case in the Midwest (in St. Louis) where a woman was almost taken from a supermarket!

There was a man whom was following her through this store, and when she left, she saw that same man in a white van, driving towards her. This woman was a single mother, out at the store, in a major US city. Minding her business and was almost taken from all that she knew!

It can happen just THAT quick.

You don’t know what terror is until you have been a woman and followed for by someone you don’t know–and won’t leave you alone. What’s more? When you retell this experience to don’t believe you.  Or think it’s not possible.

The fact of the matter is, sex trafficking/intimate partner/human trafficking can happen to any woman! What’s more? It is more likely to happen to Black and Brown women. All it takes is for someone to orchestrate a situation for someone to be caught up in!

A girl answering a modeling ad–alone.

A young man going to a party with people he doesn’t know, with no idea where it is.

A group of girls going out and one guy just won’t leave her alone.

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Are you feeling shooketh? Good. That  means you’re paying  attention. Look at these stats, just from Chicago:

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Exploitation is always lucrative; there is always money in oppression. This is no different. There is nothing so prevalent, so pervasive, so great a commodity as unseen, unvalued people.

It just so happens that the most unseen commodity is minority women. For more confirmation, read This Bridge Called My Back. 

The nasty part? This wouldn’t be pervasive a problem if it were not for the evil women that sometimes head these syndicates (remember the scandal involving and AKA advisor in Atlanta!)  or participate in them.

Not every woman is to be trusted.

Not every woman that smiles, is smiling at you–they are smiling because they caught you.

Beloveds, don’t get caught. Listen to your intuition. Know your surroundings. Realize the exits in a place. I’m not saying to be paranoid, but be aware. Please be aware.

Think of getting a Trusted Four. This something I found on social media today.  Peep this image:

 

 Be safe y’all. As my good girlfriend said, echoing her father, “Don’t get lost.” But if you do, let someone find you.