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.

 

 

 

The Before- WHEN THEY SEE US

TW:  The Central Park 5; Police brutality; Industrial Prison Complex; Mass Incarceration

 

The miniseries ‘When They See Us’ started airing on the streaming service, Netflix, in late May 2019. 

The first time I remember distrusting the police I was about 10.

I was about 8 when The Central Park 5 became a national news story.  I remember going with my father to the grocery store in Cahokia, IL (about 40 minutes from where we then lived). We were headed home, and we stopped.

My father wasn’t speeding. He was the only adult in the car. And we had groceries. He was driving a black GMC  pick-up. The officer asked him to step out. He did, and what I vividly remember is the officer, whom was shorter than my father, white and blonde and mustached, asked who the other adult was in the car. I remember my father, in all his 6’2″ could muster, said, “She’s 10.” The flashlight he shone in the car might as well have been the damn sun. He asked what the glass bottle was, because it was drank out of, but capped. He was a fan of Mr. Pure juices, and that’s all it was. I remember he didn’t come back right away.  This pause I am sure now was to make sure the truck he made payments on, registered to him, wasn’t stolen. I think the officer said something like “Take care”, returning my father’s ID and freedom to him.

At 13, after my cousin’s encounter with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, I was done. I saw my cousin illegally searched in my maternal grandmother’s doorway. I remember wondering, “Why is this happening?” My father was there and saw them, and told them to get out. These two white, plainclothes officers, were insistent. They wanted my cousin. My father told them to get out. They acted like they weren’t going to go. But they did. He yelled at my mother for opening the door and summoning my cousin to it. He told me then, “Jennifer, if the police call you to their car don’t go. They don’t have any right to bother you unless they have a reason or a warrant.”

I remember my Dad telling my cousins (John, whom they were looking for; Joshua, whom they weren’t)  they would have to run to my cousin Joshua’s house–about a 10 minutes away. I stood on the red gray porch of my grandmother’s porch and looked back in the yard to where they were. I thought my 13-year-old body would be a big enough, wide enough, strong enough to protect them both. When we got to my Mom’s car, I remember calling the police ‘motherfuckers’ under my breath. I remember praying that they not be caught. I remember and officer in a red shirt, jeans and a ballcap pointing to the side of my grandmother’s house like a wolf after sheep.

That feeling of outraged helplessness I have never lost. Ever.

I saw the police as necessary evil. I never wanted to be in the presence of police officers, but I would watch COPS, and Homicide Life On The Street (the precursor to any Law & Order). I remember my Aunt Linda (John’s Mom) watching Hunter, and L.A. Law. The disconnect of wanting the good guys on TV to win and distrusting the police who I saw I couldn’t reconcile.

From this, and my complicated relationship with dealing with big blue gangs, we have When They See Us.  Have I seen it yet? No. Will I? Yes. Will I have something to say? Yeah! I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. The thing is, I want y’all to hear my heart. This review won’t be  haymaker to law enforcement (even though I still feel FTP is always going to be a war cry for me). I want those of you that follow this space to know that 10-/13-year old girl is still within the 37-year-old wife and mother. Those experiences have allowed me have the frank conversations that I can around and about police brutality. Those experiences fuel activism and pushes towards the support of police reform.

When They See Us is a reminder just how close trauma is. How malignant it is. It is also testament to how broken the system of law and it’s enforcement truly is. There is no amount of social undoing, op-eds or charity work that will allow Linda Fairstein, Elizabeth Lederer or the gang known as the NYPD to fix this. That’s the thing about history and recording trauma. As long as someone knows what happened, someone else will know too.

[image from Netflix]

When Mama Can’t Protect You-Part 1 (Prelude To ‘The Talk’)

TW:  Police brutality, police abuse, wrongful arrest

 

This came through my personal Twitter timeline on Father’s Day of all things. And I was inconsolable. In looking through this thread, all  I could think is, “This could have been my daughter. This child is my daughter’s age.” I make no qualms about my valid, palpable distrust of law enforcement. I make no reassertion that I am changing my mind about that. I have not trusted law enforcement since I was about 10, and I’m almost 40. With that being said, I make no bones about my Mama Lion nature for my children. In reading this thread, my heart sank. I wanted to stave off having ‘The Talk’ with my oldest daughter. The same daughter that is beautiful, intelligent, and stands 5’6.5″ at age 11 1/2.  I am aware that the world will not always see her as a girl. As an adolescent Black girl.

When I saw this thread, and really began to digest what had happened to this child without her mother present, left me horrified. The rundown was this:

A group of Black kids were playing on a movie parking lot. The police saw them and told them to move along. The kids grumbled and muttered but they go on. Nicole (the woman in the screenshot), heard screaming. She looked up and saw one of the officers dragging one of the child to the car. There are more cop cars that appeared (Nicole said it was 5-6 cars). She gets out her car and asks what is going on. The cops tell her to move along. She sees on child in the car’s backseat–handcuffed. The other girl was shaken and about to be arrested as well. Nicole advocated for the child, and confronting the police officer. The handcuffed child did not have her phone, and it would seem she was arrested for ‘loitering.’ Nicole gave this child her phone to call her mother. The police said they were going to release her to her mother. Nicole continues to advocate for these children, and speaking to the girl’s mother–she waits for her to get to the area. Another older couple is parked nearby watching. The handcuffed girl’s mom arrives, and wants to know what happened. Turns out, the girls are arrested without being Mirandized, or without a guardian present. Once that’s pointed out, the officer tells Nicole to leave. She doesn’t. The girls are released to their mother/aunt. Nicole gives Mom the name of lawyers that she knows. 

As a mother, I was horrified. My husband and I have gone round and round about how to handle raising our girls when these situations exist. I know that the world doesn’t see Black girls as girls–especially if Black girls are tall or in any way shapely! I never looked my age from 11-17. And my mother had to gently tell me that I had to watch how I dressed because I didn’t look my age. Not to leave the house without my purse that at least had my school identification. I knew that the police wouldn’t think that I was 13, 14 or 15, unless my parents were with me.

With this though? I thought I had more time, at least one more year to allow my daughter to be protected completely by her Mama Lion. But that shattered yesterday. This is the paradox Black parents have:  we know the world sees our children as never being such. But we know they are. I have talked to my husband about our daughter having a cell phone. He said she was too young. I disagreed. I tried to tell him that the world is such that she needed access to us in case she needed us.

This is another reminder that she is becoming more and more visible on the real world’s radar. It was a reminder that if something like this happened to my baby, I would want someone to help her. To see her. I would want her to know how to handle herself if an officer stopped her, and had no right to do so.  I know that in having this talk, The Talk, with her, a portion of her innocence is, and will be gone. And there is nothing I can do about that.

 

 

Someone Please Go Get Kanye! Now.

The founder of For Harriet, Kimberly Foster, said it best:

“We have been talking about Kanye’s downward spiral for five years. When does a spiral become who a n—- is!”

From that life quote, we have this. Aside from the con artistry that is the church he is running, this is a level of strangeness I couldn’t ignore.

Like, bruh. I cannot with dude.

Stop blaming this nonsense on his mama being dead or his non-therapeutic levels of lithium or his sleep deprivation. Young fresh to deff ‘Ye, has now transformed into an ASN. Wanna know what that acronym means? Here you go.

Kanye is now an Ain’t Sh!t N—a.

This is no longer up for debate. Don’t at me! Don’t email me! I said what I said.

I am far from a prude on my worst day. That being said, like what you like. Flat out. Bedroom behavior ain’t no one else’s business anyway! However, when people make dumbass statements like this?! As a Black woman, I am tired of the men that look like my father saying how less than desirable I am.

Like, DUDE?! Who TF asked you do weigh in on sexual prowess?! Kanye, fam, let me tell you something. You married a girl that was ranthu by Brandy’s little brother! That Reggie Bush smashed! Like?! Don’t come at Black women as it relates to this.

‘Ye! Yo, you the one said that that you had to take all these showers and prepare to be with Kim Kardashian! Like, where did this come from, sir!

I don’t remember since Kanye has been famous him being seen with anyone that wasn’t light-skinned (like Amber Rose) or just White! Sex is a sensual act anyway, but let me tell you a bitter truth that I heard in middle school and through high school. It was relayed and rumored that White dudes would eat you out and White girls would give head. I heard this at 12! So the fact Kanye repeated something he may have heard in public school almost 30 years ago? I’m not surprised at.

I’m not shocked that he said this either! He’s been on this campaign of trying to be the White OJ was before the death of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson! What better way to do that then to praise or possess the closest thing to affluent social capital (aka: A White girl)? What other way to tell the people around you where you have casted your lot than to denigrate those you seen as less than? The quickest punching bag for men like Kanye West is Black women.

This off hand comment reduces us as Black women to parts and their function; the rating of her sexual self (is she a freak or not); the reasons why she is not desirable and should only be used for satisfaction.

I’m done being shocked at what this dude does or says. This is who he is! From his musical gifting and talents, he’s trash. But this is a level of trash that solidifies just why I don’t fool with him anymore!

The killer part? I wonder if the Black girls he was with before would give him a glowing review on his cunnilingus or coitus skills. Or does he just come up short.

The Journey So Far: ‘SUPERNATURAL’ & All Dark Literature Everywhere

When I heard the boys (Misha, Jensen and Jared) on Facebook announcing the badass ride of Supernatural was ending this season, I was shocked. Now, I know all good things must come to and end. I get that. The magic that is Eric Kripke and Sera Gamble had to end one day. However, as a girl that grew up on horror/dark literature, in some form or another, I am sad.

Dude, I remember when the pilot aired! It was 2014, and I was 22, not even 23 yet. I remember that I thought the show would be awesome. I was dating a dude that would become my first husband, yet in love with someone else (No, look at the Able Unshakeable on The Ideal Firestarter for more of that saga). However, I had a raging crush on the treat that is Jensen. Oh, shug, Jensen and I go waaaay back!

Season 11 promo

While he was on Days of Our Lives as Eric Roman Brady (whew, Lawd!) he was the first man I had seen without a shirt. I was 15. I followed him through Days, Smallville, and those awkward haircuts and clothes on Dawson’s Creek. Bruh. I was a fan. And there was no way that I was going to miss him on this show! I had resigned that I was going to love it, because if he was in it?! I was going to be good–that was a foregone conclusion!

But there was something about this creepy little show on theCW. Keep in mind, I like horror as a genre. I don’t really like or do gory stories. I like how stylish the promos looked. And Jensen was in it? Oh, yes please. From the pilot, Season 1, Episode one. I was hooked. And I’m a car girl at heart? Yes! That 1967 Chevy Impala was everything. I told my then boyfriend/now ex-husband, that I wanted that car as wedding present. As a side note:  Jensen made me forget all about the Able Unshakeable. But that’s a story for a later date.

From demons and rock salt, to being vessels for Lucifer and the Archangel Michael,  to time travel, Sam and Dean Winchester have been a part of pop culture for almost twenty years! Get into that! To have them gone? That’s bizarre! I used to watch this show with a friend of mine, and the day I watched Route 666, I called her at work. When she picked up, I screamed this in her phone: “Dean likes chocolate!”

“What?!”

“Sis, Dean likes chocolate!”

Yes, Dean had a Black girlfriend. Dean knows about this Black Girl Magic. If you been watching you know and knew that! But let’s keep it moving. Could seasons be infuriating, yes. Did it sometimes feel like you were playing an RPG and getting sucked into the side quests all the time? Did I get mad and stop watching for a while? Yes. Bruh, I was such a fan that I didn’t work on nights it aired!

But, I loved the writing. I love the depth. I loved the stories. I loved the world that Eric Kripke made and maintained. I looked forward to the show because sometimes I had to look up what they were fighting or the lore they were using. I loved the show. It made you think. It made you root for them. I cried when I found out that it was Mary who was the hunter, not John. I lamented for Sam that went through so much after he lost Jessica. I was made that Dean was a total slut for a while (did you not see Seasons 3 and 4!).

But it was always the story. Always the story. Once this show is gone, then what? I know there is AHS, and that is amazing. But this show? This one? With the diversity of music, people (where Black folk just ain’t props! And Sterling K. Brown was on in Season 2, never forget!). I mean, it was good! I remember fretting when the rumors started that show might be cancelled after 3 seasons! No lie, I loved when I was this underground show that not everyone watched. I loved that it was a secret of sorts.

They have changed so much!

Now, having to say good-bye to my boys? That’s tough. But, as ever the fangirl, I’m going to watch Season 15 to the end. I have to see how it all ends. It is rumor to air in October which is kinda tradition; it normally airs before Halloween. But, this one hurts the dark leaning, lusting fan girl in me. There is still nothing sexier than Dean Winchester wielding a firearm. Don’t debate me. This is never up for discussion.

Get ready, loves! You know the rules by now. Driver picks the music; passenger shuts his cakehole.

Note: Thank you, Carver Edlund for sharing Sam and Dean with is. Yes, he made the cameo as Chuck the Prophet.

The Power Of ‘POSE’

Image result for pose fx

 

Author Note:  I am a cisgender heterosexual woman. I am  married woman to a wonderful man. I am also a mother, wife, best friend and I have made all digital spaces a safe space. All inboxes are open for love and support. -JBHarris

 

First: Billy Porter… is everything I need in this show!

I have known about POSE from the marvelous Funky Dineva (Quintin Latham). I have been following the marvelous and talented Janet Mock for years, and the utterly incredible Jahaira (if you follow no other YouTube Channel, follow JahairasMission and Funky Dineva!). From their seal of approval, I fell into this marvelous, marvelous how.

On the blog The Ideal Firestarter, this month, theme is community, and its representation. This show here?

Chile!

I have cried. I laughed. I have quoted! I have run the gamut of emotions that I could only have now that I am a mother myself. And this music?! Girl! I am 38 in a month, and this music gave me all kinda memories! I remember being in my grandmother’s kitchen listening to my Aunt’s boombox to Majic 108. I mean, this show is gritty, diverse and above all–well-written.

This is why community, representation and diversity is important! With that creative roux, all and any story can be told.

There are no caricatures in POSE. These people are real, flawed and complicated.

Season 1 was set in 1987. This means in Jenn Harris history, I was 6. This was when Michael and Janet Jackson where new and amazing. When Whitney was young, and when HIV/AIDS was appearing. When in some circles it was still called GRID. These stories need to be told by those whom where there, and can no longer speak. The highs and utter lows, need to be recorded. Toni Morrison says this is the needed, dirty, unseen work of writing. We record. We reveal.We make space. We give voice.

POSE has done that. It has given me a real-time look into a world that I was too young to understand or affect. I remember Ryan White. I remember Pedro Zammora on The Real World San Francisco. I remember the protests and the fear as a kid. Hell, I remember when Ryan White died! I remember the protests on C-SPANN and CNN! I remember the AIDS quilt when it started! I had a knowledge of how wrong and mean the world could be. POSE has allowed me to look at a world that was, to be able to interact with more of the world as it is.

From watching Blanca interact with her kids, building a life and a legacy for herself? I want to do the same thing. Every good mother wants their children to excel, set standards and protect them. In Desmond and Ricky,  I saw the boys I played with, grew up with and are no more. In Angel, I see so much of me when I was a bit younger. In my early 20’s. Unsure. People-pleasing. Knowing how I was, and not quite knowing how to be that.

Image result for pose fx
Cast of POSE, Season 1

Yes, I have a privilege being of being a Black, straight cis woman. I have no right, nor place to claim or appropriate a life that doesn’t belong to me. But, I do have this. My best friend and I call it this:  ‘bringing you in the room.’ This simply means to introduce a person, a space or concept or something that needs attention brought to it.

POSE on FX is one of those things I am choosing to bring in the room. As writer, cis woman, and spacemaker, I must! The writers are brilliant! The actors are amazing! The director, producer and supporting staff and content creators are phenomenal!

The content is potent and needed! All stories are valuable, and we need to know why–someone needs to record them. There also needs to be people bold enough to put other people–whom may not look like you–in the room.

Get the keys, loves and get to unlocking these doors. And like my Daddy said:

If they won’t let you in the back door, go around to the front. If the back door is locked, buss a window and jump in!

 

Shameless plug:  Season 2 of POSE starts June 11!

 

[images from Wikipedia and them.us]

“Blackness Is Ongoing.”-The Power Of This Will By Undoing

I am in this space of radical love and self-acceptance. In my devouring of the fire of Feminista Jones; the medicine at the shoulder, knee, yea, hands of Toni Morrison; I came across the sister oracle, Morgan Jerkins.

This book had been on my radar for over a year. It had been in my literature orbit, and hidden among other Amazon needs. However, now, this time, I bought it.

What I got in the about 8-hours of the author herself, was a dual realization of my power as a Black woman. And the invisible chains that held, pulled and sought to destroy me.

I found myself nodding when she talked about the paradox of being a smart, quiet, Black girl. I teared up remembering my middle school self: smart as hell, awkward, with parents that prized grades over social status. The struggle with sexuality as a Black woman versus the idea (even appearance) of being fast. I was mad as fuck with her as she relayed her frustration with college acceptance; the loss of her father and hiding in the depths of academic success. I clasped my hands, as if she could feel them, when she talked about her faith. I even teared up at her *manifesto in Chapter 9.

The power of this book is it’s willingness to confront the joys and struggles of being a Black woman. She rips off the Band-Aids with laser precision and pulls no punches.

While reading it, I found Morgan on Twitter. I tweeted her about how the book effected me. How I wished I had something like this 25 years ago when I was a girl and trying navigate woman spaces I was thrust into. I had to examine myself and alla my stuff as the choreopoem goes.

In, with, that examination, came a strange empowerment. The further acceptance of my Blackness. Of forgiving women in my family whom did only what they knew to do in order to keep me safe and tame. I no longer felt that my experiences were alien.

This book was a reminder of self, my entire self. Of allowing my daughters a freedom I never tasted. I was reminded my soft heart and quiet nature were never a detriment, but a tool. I was reminded just as Phylicia Rashad said:

“Your whole self is such a treasure.”

I had forgotten that. Like any good writer, Morgan made me remember. For that, I am thankful.

Thank you, Morgan Jerkins.

*The manifesto in Chapter 9 is one of the boldest, most vulnerable things I have read pertaining to loving yourself as a Black woman. I am glad I have this book on Audible so I can go back and reference it on blue days. The days where my magic, my swag or my sway feel less than. Where I feel less than. Where I am low, in need a level of refilling God-deep. One of the joys of being a writer is you get to see and feel deeply. With that depth, the refilling, too, must be just as deep.