Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair

This photo came through my personal Facebook timeline this morning. I remember watching the verdict for the man that murdered Trayvon Martin with my new husband in my college apartment in 2013. I remember I had my hoodie on and cried. I remember how we sat there, him on the sofa and I couch and watched.

I remember how I wouldn’t feel that same level of rage until Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered one summer later.

My father was over six foot tall and ebony dark. He told my cousins the best way not to get stopped by the police was to not wear baggy clothes or hoodies. But, because I am a child of the hip-hop phenomena, I always wore hoodies. But, in baggy clothes, you wouldn’t know I was female unless you knew. Meaning, there would be something about my countenance or mannerism that would suggest I was female.

That being said, in the 6 years that have passed since Trayvon’s murder, my heart today is sad. Yet, motivated. I said on my personal Facebook this quote:

“If I gave into the rage, I could not breathe.”

And it’s true.

If I were to focus on every negative attribute of my life that intersects Black and trauma, I would never have hope. I would be bitter. Evil. tSad. And most of all? Unaware!

That’s what trauma-focusing does. All other aspects of life become alien to you. Associated with other people. Less real, and unattainable by natural means. You become both devoid and immune to light.

One of the joys of writing, of creation, is being able to take the dark out of your own self, and expose it. Wrestle with it where people can see. Wrestle so people can know it is not just them that may feel this way. This means like architects, we are obsessed with light. With making the hidden seen, or remain unseen. Or as Theolonious Monk and other musicians of his era would have called it ugly beauty.

The loss of a child is tragic. It seems much more heinous when done by a system called to serve and protect. As a parent, when you feel the world can no longer protect your child, a special disdain develops. You and them need to be a part of the world, but you remain hypervigilant. All while staying in invisible monsters they hide from–as well as your own.

Yet, the sun still rises most mornings. Rain water still makes flowers grow. There is still hope. From that, we can grieve, cry and laugh. Lord knows,

In Memorium: To The Dudes That Saw There First Pretty Black Girl In JET, & All The Black Girls That Wanted To Be On The Cover of EBONY

 

Image result for jet magazine

I remember my mother subscribing to EBONY and  ESSENCE Magazine when I was a girl. I remember I would pour over these magazines before I would give them back to my mother. I would even carry a copy of either or both of these magazines in my backpack or purse. They would be devoured at lunch, after classwork or waiting to be picked up by my parents after school from 6th-8th grade.

Image result for ebony magazine

 

EBONY was a part of my middle school girlhood. I was a part of the ritual of going to beauty salon with my Mama. It was part of knowing who was doing what, and how many people we could identify! I remember what it meant to pick that up, see it in my house, and even in my classrooms at Yeatman Middle School on the Northside of St. Louis, Missouri in the St. Louis Public School District. I even remember some of the guys in my classes sneaking looks the JET Beauty of the Week!

That is how far back it goes. And this was only the mid-1990’s, fam!

Image result for ebony magazine

 

And this week? I find out that EBONY and JET are firing freelancers, getting rid of other staff and these historic portions of Black media are…going away. These publications are one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer. Why I wanted to be a journalist. Why I was a fierce reader. These publications, shaped my Black girlness and emerging womaness, while collecting my collective ethnic, cultural history.

To know that this is being erased, taken from collective Blackness is the resurgence of all things melaninated, dope and from and in front of Black Jesus?! This ain’t fair!

Image result for ebony magazine

 

THIS IS NOT FAIR!

Roland M. Martin was talking about this on his YouTube Channel today. We know the Johnson Publishing Company, the family company that owns EBONY and JET, has had financial issues for past few years. This is no secret. But! The news that is being unveiled  now suggests that the company which has a 70-plus year history, is about to fold! Like how can this be happening!

Roland Martin was saying that there are a lot of Black media groups that have not made the adjustment to podcasting; consolidating with other media groups; valuing the building over the product the building produced. But, there is a truth to this. But the fact is we need our histories too! We need our legacies preserved too! We need to adjust with the times, too!

Twenty-five years ago? I snuck these magazines in my backpack! Now, download this from the site and follow 9 other podcasts just like it! On my iPhone! Does that mean I don’t like the physical copy? No. I still by physical magazines! But it’s the convenience, dear ones.

Image result for jet magazine

 

Just like this blog is for you right now.

But, my heart, dear ones, is grieved. I am so grieved! First the HBCU’s and now this. First the GoFund Me’s and Crowdfunding for Bennett College, and there’s about to be no more EBONY or JET in same year Blackness is about to be supernova?! This is a hellafied Faustian baragain, y’all.

Bruh, I am looking forward to being on the cover of a magazine of and because of these 26 letters I whip together all the time! I wanted my face, my staff’s face on the cover of EBONY! That is the one magazine everybody Black still reads and their grandmother and ‘nem keep in the curio cabinet! That is cultural history, beloveds.

 

Image result for ebony magazine

I don’t know how we come back from this one. But, I don’t want any more Black creatives or creative outlets to take unnecessary losses, dear ones. We keep saying what we do for the culture–then let’s start preserving it.

 

 

 

 

Birthday Chapters: #38.

img_2031
“I will come in, and leave, as power.” -JBHarris

Can you believe it? The kid is not a whole grown up and almost 40. I’ve been saying I was 38 for the last four months though. Which is hilarious on some end. But the thing that i have learned, going into this next chapter of life are these three things.

 

 

Value of your whole self. I’m learning to celebrate everything that is me. I am becoming happy with me and all that I am accomplishing. I am learning to celebrating  the wins. I’m celebrating the fact that I am not dead. I get the losses, and I accept the time that I have lost. I have a greater value of time, my time. I am a woman. Women value their time, their wins, and their talents. They make, take and hold space. I have finally learned to value me. 

 

Strength is not determined by pain suffered. I don’t think that pain should determine strength or love. I have decided that the pain I have endured doesn’t make me the quintessential ‘strong, Black woman.’ I am a strong woman because I know what it is like to suffer, but also have the strength to rejoice. I know what it is like to be broken, and remain that way–thinking that is week. Believing being broken is a condition to favor. I know what it is like to need help–by admitting that you do. I have learned that being a woman, a Black woman, is to be able to breathe, to express, and even when to rest. I have learned I deserve love, because God is love. I deserve love because it holds up the world. I deserve it not because I had to be proven or emotionally battered to get it. I deserve it, because God gives it to me freely. I acknowledge my wounds, I won’t worship them.

 

Life is glorious. A friend of mine told me that I was always too excited about having birthdays. Never! I almost died as an infant. As a child. And at the hands of someone that said he loved me. I am excited about this gift called life. I am excited for what it holds. What is all set and planned for me. I am still excited about the process of getting there. This life is amazing. I have 37 chapters done. By virtue of blessing and tenacity, I no longer fear what talents I have. I no longer fear the ambition. I plan on making 40 look amazing!

Happy Birthday to me and all my Birthday Twins!

JUNETEENTH In The MAGA Era

 

There are some things that even the woke ally cannot wish you.  Do not tell a Black person, whom is a direct descendant of chattel slavery, Happy Juneteenth.  Stop. Do not do this. I’m not going to ask again.

With that being said, this Juneteenth feels a little different with Orange Thanos in office. It feels like we have to fight a little harder to be seen. It feels like I need to be that much more Black to counteract all the toxic whiteness and malignant red caps. It feels like every thing Black has to be preserved, illuminated. served and strictly defined as ours.

OURS.

This nation is the diverse, beautiful, luminous place that it is, because of the minorities that were either kidnapped, enslaved, conquered and mistreated. From that muddy, rocky roux–we have a myriad of traditions that are now classified and quantified as childhood memories. Especially for those of us whom are African-American.

In this era where the insecure majority feels as though it has to stomp out anything that is not white or conforming, Juneteenth is our reminder as Black/African-American people that we cannot die. We will not die. Our power, our survival has been in traditions and support. It has maintained our sanity and our love for one another. It encamps in the lives of us their descendants to remind us of our own power. The strength of the combined force of time and tradition which yields legacy. It is this legacy which allows us a people to keep going. It is this living history that lets our children know that there is still joy and love and light in the world–and they are owed some of it.

I am in favor of all things being equal, but there are some things that I refuse to compromise with or on. And there are things that these MAGA sycophants are not going to take from me. They aren’t going to make me shrink. They aren’t going to make me think being Black is bad, dangerous or something to apologize for! A red cap is a white hood is a crooked badge is a Johnny Reb is a plantation overseer.

Juneteenth is our holiday. Is our day. Is our history. Our ancestors survived so much worse–we will endure this too. And at the end of this? We will celebrate the end of this tyrannical dynasty too. Just watch.

 

 

 

My Heartbeat Bill, Part 3

*NSFW:  These screenshots were taken on Saturday, May 11, 2019. These were taken from my personal Facebook page. I have known this person for some time. While I am not shocked at her comments, I am distressed at the lack of compassion shown by her. For those that need support, my inbox is open:  theladyofharris@icloud.com   -JBHarris

 

I kept the secret of me having an abortion for over a decade.

I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my mother or best friend. I didn’t tell anyone else I had dated. I told my OB/GYN  because it pertained to my health. My first husband was so nosy, that he sat in with me on these Well-Woman Exams when we were together. So, I had to tell him.

As of this year, the child Dominic and I had would have been 18. My tribe, at age 37, would have been three. When I got pregnant to term with my oldest daughter,  was 26. With my youngest daughter I was 27. My kids are now almost 12 and 10. The woman that made this post cannot image the vitriol that is rolling off this page. The palpable hatred and condemnation I felt reading this was one of the reason why I thought God didn’t love me and may never love me again. It is this vapid, dissociative empathy that I believe causes people to turn from God. In so doing, they are sent out to fight the world–and their demons–alone.

Alone. 

Again, if you have never been faced with an impossible, fucked up decision like this, you cannot weigh in on these types of impossible fucked up decisions. I understand this is social media and this is the price you pay for free speech. I get she has a right to be passionate about her beliefs and faith. I get that. I became pro-choice after my abortion. I could no longer wag my finger in the face of someone else that was in the same situation I was in. That doesn’t make me any better than the next girl that had a horrible decision to make.

I believe that the people that feel as she does aren’t pro-life:  they are pro-birth. Forgetting that children need food, clean water and shelter. In some circumstances even if the woman were to have the child, church’s laity or their leadership will shame this woman AND the child! Furthermore, if you have never had a child die of a disease like Tay-Sachs (where the child will die before age 5), you cannot possibly weigh in on genetic testing which may rule out your predisposition to pass on this disease.

Moreover, when I was pregnant with my youngest? They thought she had the genetic markers for Trisomy 21:  Down’s Syndrome. I did a amniocentesis to make sure if she did or not have it. The clinic I was at sent a genetic counselor in, and told me that if I wanted to not keep the baby, I didn’t have to. I was about 4-5 months along.

I chose to keep that child–whom is now 10. And she didn’t have Down’s Syndrome.

As I said before:  everyone has dirt on them. But you don’t get to bury someone else with it. As a person of faith that makes you a hypocrite and a Pharisee! You have to take the beam outta your eye FIRST.

I meant what I said in response to this post. That was  about the only thing I could do!  I meant that I am glad people’s hearts are being revealed with the passing of this bill. I am glad that she said what she did:  I see her heart. With that vision, that let me know the love of Christ that is supposed to be evident in her–clearly didn’t make it to this post.  Does that mean I don’t believe she doesn’t love God? No. I’m saying you can’t see God anywhere in this.

My Mama says it like this:  “Be careful what you say to people, because you never know who you might need.”

As I read it, I debated making a part three to this series. I debated to truly respond to this. It’s her page, she’s an adult. She can say what she likes, how she likes. This post wasn’t aimed at anyone. But, in the interest of being forthright, I had to respond to it. Here and there.

I really had to.

It has become far too easy in this nation to shame women. It is easy to let toxic masculinity influence legislation over the female form. Just like this bill does. I believe that real, healthy patriarchy encourages and protects women. Real masculinity isn’t intimidated by femininity.  It values women. Toxic masculinity and patriarchy seek to rule over women to the point the have no personhood or power.

Why is it okay that the right to have a child, should be determined by people whom have no biological capability to push one out?

If legislation like this is okay, then why is it that men–whom have the biological component to determine conception and sex of child–how are they not charged in a ‘commission’ of this type of crime?

This is where her rant falls short–it has no backing or bottom. If pre-martial sex/adultery is wrong–let it be wrong for women and men. I am tired of the brunt of decisions like this expected to be carried by women. For another woman, to say this? And stand on it? I mean–what can you do with that?

I give her the love of Christ, and keep moving. I don’t verbally spar with the unequipped. Lunacy doesn’t have ears. Again, we all got dirt. But, I refuse to bury someone with it. Otherwise, the world is a cemetery.

[images from author’s photo gallery]

My Heartbeat Bill, Part 2

*NSFW:  This piece was written in response to the passing of what is commonly known as the Heartbeat Bill in the state of Georgia. This is/was my real life experience and account. If you find yourself in need of support in regards to a similar circumstance, you are free to email me at theladyofharris@icloud.com. No woman should be shamed by her decisions.

-JBHarris

Image result for broken heart

 

I went to get an abortion on a bus.

 

I was told  to eat something before the procedure so I wouldn’t get or be sick. I took an apple with me that morning, when I really wanted a banana. I thought eating a banana that morning would tip my mother off that I was pregnant. But, days before, she told me to have a seat at the table and get a piece of paper.

My mother is a 40-year nurse. The first part of her career was in Labor and Delivery. She knew I was pregnant, I think. I think she wanted me to just tell her. I had asked her i there was a way the body could have it’s hormones so outta whack that you get sick. “Have a seat, okay?” My mother never said, “Okay.”  She told me the only way that could happen is illness or pregnancy. I wrote that word and my ears burnt. It was the want of not disappointing her that pushed me to remain silent. It was the disappoint I knew would come from my family that made me stay silent. It was the condemnation I thought I would get that thought it be best to be silent.

I was the Golden Girl, you see. Pretty, smart and going to do so much. So much potential. I wasn’t supposed to get pregnant before I had a career or a husband. Yet, that happened. It was judgement and my own condemnation that kept me quiet. And for years after. I walked to the bus stop in the same hoodie I went to Dr. Ferris’s office in. I took the #41 Lee bus to the #70 Grand bus to the clinic. I had my purse and the money for my abortion inside it. I was told to bring the money in either check or money order. No cash.

I ate my apple on the way to the bus stop, as if I was preparing or a dark-op mission. No emotion. The only thought was, “Go and get it done. Go and get it done.” I had already cried. I kept crying. I cried the night before. I held my Bible, and I cried. I told God I was sorry. I asked Him to forgive me. To help me. I told God this:

“If you don’t allow me to have another child, I understand.”

I walked to the bus, feeling knowing, that this was the first and last time I would let this happen to me. I thought that if I never got pregnant again, I wouldn’t be mad. I couldn’t. I thought God forgave me, and I was prepared to never be a mother–to never be a mother. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a Mama then. I was murdering a child–an innocent. And I was prepared to give up the ability to have a baby, because I was letting this child die.

I walked from the bus stop on Grand and Forest Park. I remember how hungry I was. But, I was on a mission. I had to get this abortion. Nothing was going to stop me. The clinic had a talk wrought iron fence about 8 feet tall. At the gate, there was someone standing there. It was an older White woman in a dress, with a hat holding a sign that read:  THEY KILL BABIES HERE. I don’t remember her facial expression, but I remember she didn’t move towards me. And it was quiet. It was a group of people on the parking lot, but no one bothered me. I was lucky. I had seen enough documentaries, national news and Law & Order to know abortion clinics do get bombed. That providers are, can be killed. I knew that girls in my situation could be hurt, even killed. Yet, I went in.

The security officers greeted me, asking for my ID and appointment time. I gave them my ID and walked through a metal detector. Dominic said he would come with me, but I didn’t believe him. But I called him, and told him I was okay. I wanted him to be there. I didn’t want to be alone. I was still so sad that I used birthday money to do this.

I was there all day. All day.

I remember being herded into this sitting room with all these other desperate-looking women. I saw mothers with their heads wrapped up. I saw best friends being supportive. I saw an interracial couple–I fixated on them. I wanted Dominic’s arm to wrap around me like this blond young man did for his girlfriend.

I had to get height and weight. I had to pee in a cup, again putting a white cup in the mystic microwave to make sure I was pregnant. What was the most disturbing part was the ultrasound. There was this brunette White girl in a white Planned Parenthood t-shirt that escorted me to this room with stirrups. I remember they had to do a vaginal ultrasound to see how far along I was. She asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound. I turned my head, “No.” I heard the heartbeat, tried to block it out. The mission was to get the heartbeat out of me. I had to keep the mission, like all warriors. I couldn’t let my heart betray the mission.

I remember waiting, and being herded from room to room, with more ugly upholstered furniture. I was cold. I was quiet, I spoke to no one. I was, tried to be grave quiet. I was finally funneled into this room with like 6 other girls. The medical assistant was a Black girl in red scrubs that told us how to prepare for our procedure. She gave us all a gown, a pad with a big Kotex pad attached on the side and a medicine cup with 2 pills in it. One pill was to dilate the cervix. The other was a pain pill. I think it was a Percocet. While I was getting dressed, I noticed the room was filled with girls that looked like me. All Black. All pretty. All pregnant. All soon not to be pregnant.  One girl that sat on the couch in a gown was so pretty. She had a short cut, classes and had her legs crossed on the couch. She said this was her second abortion.

Second. 

I couldn’t imagine  doing this more than once. When I asked, I said it was my first abortion.

First. 

Saying that word made me feel sick. I wanted to hurry up and do this and leave. I waiting in the room, cold and half naked, and alone. When my name was called, I was lead to this small white room with a blue exam table. I was told to lay down and relax. There was a woman that stood next to me as the doctor came in. The older White man balding and white hair with glasses. He sat between my legs with the stool provided. I was told it would feel like ‘a deep pinch’. She held my hand, this angelic looking woman with glasses. I held my breath and she held my hand. I looked at her hand as she held it. I felt something cold and metal enter me, and then pull something out.

I was told the procedure would ‘evacuate the uterus.’ My baby was sucked out of me and was no more a part of me. The doctor said I did good, and I was done. He left and shut the door. The angel that held my hand asked how I felt. “Fine.” I said, being relieved and cheery. I sat up on the table, trying to swing my legs off to stand. I almost fell.

I was lead to a recovery room to rest for a few minutes before I was allowed to get dressed. I laid there, on this hard blue cushioned chair and thought. The same nurse came and got me to let me know I could leave. I could get dressed. I was herded with another girl into this living room area to discharge with aftercare and medication.

I had no insurance. I walked to this window, and was given a brown paper bag with an antibiotic in it with pain medicine. “For the next two weeks, showers no baths.” She sat at this small desk below the this open window. “Take one of these pills everyday until they are gone.” I watched her fill out my paperwork. “You need to come back in 3 weeks for a follow up appointment.” I had no intention on ever coming back. I smiled and took my bag and left.

I left. I wrapped my hoodie around my waist. I went home.

I didn’t see Dominic for a week. He said that he tried to come see me, but security wouldn’t let him in. Knowing what I know of him now, he’s an utter liar. He may not have even come there, let alone called to check on me. I remember I had sex with him during the time I was supposed to be abstaining, and taking these antibiotics. I wanted to feel wanted. I wanted to feel like he loved me. And my body? I think Winter Santiaga from Coldest Winter Ever said it best, ‘it felt like dropping a pebble in the ocean.’

I stayed with Dominic a year and more after that. He said that he owed me a baby. He told me that he loved me. We tried to move past it, to forget it. But I couldn’t. I cried in his arms one night, just wailing. I realized what I had done–what he convinced me would be best. After everything I had done, endured with him, I expected him to marry me. I wanted to be his wife. He promised me it would be better. That he would make it up to me. The thing about that? I refused to be caught up in this again. I got on birth control–and stayed on it.

Every month I got my shot (this contraception shot called Lunell). Spermicide every time.

When we broke up a year later, I hated myself. I did. I was so sad. I had given up so much to be his girl. But this? My baby? Our, no, my baby?! Ah, nall. It wasn’t until I met the Able Unshakeable did I know just how broken I was. And how empty I became, and how unloved I was.

Don’t judge a woman that had an impossible situation, with an impossible choice, with impossible outcomes. Before you condemn her, or send her to Hell, think about if that was you or someone you knew.

Everyone got dirt, don’t be so quick to bury somebody else.

 

[image from bbo.co.uk]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Never Was A ‘Tiger’

 

Image result for tiger woods medal of freedom

I remember when Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods really became a household name. I remember during my high school years just how cool it was to know there was dude that was Black, golfing! GOLFING! And was like, GOOD at it!

I remember the Masters Wins. I remember the ESPN interviews. I remember when he didn’t call himself Black, but Cablasian. I remember when ‘Fuzzy’ Zeller said he hoped he didn’t bring fried chicken and collard greens to the Master’s Dinner.

Catch that.

I remember how my Dad would make off-hand comments about Tiger, and him not wanting to admit that he was Black. I remember how that irked him. I remember how he never really would say that he was Black. I remember that troubled me, but I couldn’t identify how. It was as if Tiger thought he could transcend race because he played a game better than a bunch of old White men that lust after their exotic maids.

As much that is said about Jackie Robinson, you must give him this. No matter where Jack went, according to accounts and his widow Rachel (now in her 90’s), he was Black. And unapologetic. He was Black in Cairo, Georgia. In California at UCLA. In the Negro Leagues as a Kansas City Monarch. He was Black in Montreal in the MLB minor league for the Brooklyn. He was Black as #42 (2B) in Ebbets Field. He never had the gumption, or the option, to deny any part of him that was Black. Or Black and male. His college education, speaking ability, military record, speed in cleats didn’t diminish the fact he was Black.

So, why did Tiger think this wouldn’t happen with him? How did game change–for him? What really made him think these stodgy, old White men would change–for him? We know that some White athletes disassociate themselves from the plight of their non-White teammates:  see Tom ‘Eptiome Of Mediocre White Male aside from my former brother-in-law Rob Bilbruck’ Brady. He is on record, with a MAGA hat in his locker said this (taken from The Intelligencer in December 2015):

“I haven’t paid attention to politics in a long time. It’s actually not something that I really even enjoy. It’s way off my radar.”

Now, to be fair, I have linked the article for you to see the entire exchange. But, I find it interesting that he wouldn’t go to visit President Obama after a Super Bowl win. However, got mad at his predominately Black teammates when they didn’t want to visit the White House to see Orange Thanos.  Then, he wanted to invoke the responsibility of his teammates to go.

Herein lies the disconnect.

My problem with Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods, whom is the son of a Black man, is you do not get to disconnect your Blackness from your social awareness. Your Blackness is your social awareness! I can take–nay, expect!–stupid, vapid comments from athletes who are better suited to be QB’s on the latest version of Madden! I can handle that, because his privilege is an insulator–impervious to logic.

The fact that Tiger Woods, went to the White House to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from a man that  is misogynist, clearly xenophobic, and a sympathizer to a/the white supremacist cause?

That let me know that he has no longer decided to rent a room in the Sunken Place. He bought property! Funny thing, though.  This same award that was given to heroes and artists, is now given to him. I can only see as a a noose he can wear and show off to people. Sometimes, it be your own people, man.

I said what I said.

[images from fox8.com and nymag.com]