The Power Of ‘POSE’

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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.

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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.

It Is Just So Damn Black: HOMECOMING A FILM BY BEYONCÉ

I have always been fascinated by African-American oral history. I have been a writer, embracing that title, since I was 8. In looking at this documentary, this all-out love letter to Black America, Beyonce outdid herself.

Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter is officially a fuckin’–a motherfucking–icon.

The documentary is two hours of behind the scenes, unabashed, full-throttled Blackness. I was brought to tears no less than four times. The most beautiful thing? The quotes used by other icons of Black history, including Alice Walker, WEB DuBois and my beloved Grandmother Oracle, Toni Morrison.

I knew I was in for something special when the documentary opened with this quote:

“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”

(This quote is taken from Song Of Solomon, quote and book by Toni Morrison) 

Beyonce talks about her pregnancy, how rough it was, and what the comeback from those health issues meant. She talks about her desire to have gone to an HBCU and why those experiences at an HBCU she witnessed growing up still mattered to her. In bringing all that love and representation, how could you not love this woman? How could you not desire to gas a Black woman up? Support her? Treasure her? Protect her?

Imma say it:  how can you see HOMECOMING and call a Black woman a bitch?

How?

*40 TRACK ALBUM. And. A. Movie.

 

What I did not know, until Beyonce’ revealed it, was she is the first African American woman to headline this show, since its inception in 1999. For more scale on this achievement, and at the same time this now perceived unimaginable thing, I graduated in 1999. Officially twenty years ago this June. Twenty years ago, Beyonce was still part of Destiny’s Child. No iPhones. Dial-up internet. CD players. Sprint still cut your bill off for having a past due balance of less than $5.00. In twenty years time, it is hard to imagine any venue that Queen Bey hasn’t headlined or conquered!

Have I been a fan of Beyonce? Yes. For a while now. However, seeing her in this light, with this confidence, sense of self, and this power? It is incredible. As a woman of faith and ambition, to see Beyonce traveling in these creative realms wielding executive power while being Black, woman, mother, wife–reminded me that I can keep going.

That I can indeed be what I cannot see–yet.

There is a power to this documentary that you have to be Black to feel and understand. You gotta get that this was for US. Beyonce gave this to US. The world can enjoy it, but it doesn’t belong to the world. This was her reminder to us that she is still here. She is still paying attention and ain’t going no where. It was a love letter to Black America that, in the midst of all this chaos, all this murder and mistreatment, that we are LIT–and don’t act like you not. Lena Horne said that you aren’t born second class, that you have to be taught that. As WHO RUN THE WORLD was performed as only Beychella could turn it out, I thought about what Phyllicia Rashad said, “Your own self is such a treasure.”

As the documentary ended, I thought of my mother. Who was invested in me when I wanted nothing to with myself. Her anchor quotes to me where these three:

“Let no one change who you are.”

“Be yourself.”

“Don’t die with your dream in you.”

Alice Walker said, “Our mothers and grandmothers danced to music…not yet written.”

The music is being written…and so are the lyrics.

Get ’em, Bey.

Queens do King level isht.

Dear Wendy

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I haven’t watched the show in years. It gets old hearing about the garbage activities of famous people. It gets tiring of hearing you, as Black woman,  gleeful revel in the downfall of other people. While I do not revel in what is happening to you, one can only say the karma along what is happening to you is akin to Lady MacBeth. It is poetic.

Woman to woman, lemme tell you how raggedy this is. You have touted your marriage for your entire career. Admirable, yes. Not everyone needs to know everything–I completely agree. You are a mogul in the public eye. So I get how no one needs to know everything, sis. I get it. You have every right to protect your family–but this here?

I have no sympathy for your, Mrs. Hunter.

None.

You have sat on your perch and watched the other people’s relationships fall apart and given your unsolicited advice. Now that all your funky laundry is being seen and smelt? You want to deny it and shroud it in shenanigans.

Sis, come on now. WE SEE YOU!

We saw you fall out. We saw the broken shoulder. We saw you disappear from your show for weeks.We know that Kevin slick treats you bad. Like, c’mon sis! C’mon! Be honest with us! Let us know what is going on!

Yes, we that believe are going to pray for you, it’s the right thing to do. But the fact that this dude had this broad (this whole woman!) on the side for at least a decade eating and living out YOUR BAG?! And he had a baby with her?

SISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Like, the book from this ALONE is a NYT best seller! You don’t owe people anything, shug. But you need to understand some atonement is going to be necessary. Some cleansing is going to have to happen. Like you showing off your ring saying, “Don’t ask me about my marriage until you see ring off my finger! And it ain’t goin no where! Not in this lifetime!”

Wendy. Nall.

Every woman that has tried to hang on to a relationship which was burning down around her has done what you are doing! We save face. We lie. We hide to regroup. We pretend the world isn’t noticing how bad we are. We fortify the lie with our own belief. Yet, people see it.

Wendy, the world sees this. We see how he did you, Sis. It’s not right. It’s not okay, and you have a right to privacy. However, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander! You made tea bags and big cups what you do. But don’t be surprised with that tea being sipped is brewed and steeped in the things that are happening to you.

I wish you well, Ma.

Let him miss you. Cut the check. And let him roll over and realize the bag he secured has a hole in it.

With Love,

JBHarris

It’s Not Just Danai: The Casual Erasure Of Black Women

 

The utter uproar comforted me.

The original Avengers Endgame poster, though our beloved General Okoye was pictured, the dynamic Danai Gurira was not credited. I was comforted by the reaction that Twitter and all of social media had in regards to this. With that outrage and pushback, the poster was corrected. Marvel Studios clearly thought this was an oversight.

Aight. I’ll allow it.

A Black woman was erased, in front or our faces, and the world damn noticed.

I wish the world would keep this same energy when it comes to the presence of Black women. I wish that we were noticed, and when we vanish–even before the eyes of millions, that we are missed.

It has become so easy to miss Black girls. It becomes too commonplace to notice (or not notice) our broken bodies. Too often seen as victims. As the steady suffering. As the mules of the entire world.

This past week, I was in a debate with a dingy Becky that thought the new Iggy Azalea (I cannot stand Clifford Harris (T.I.) for making this damn dame relevant!) video was the best thing ever. I watched it when the sound off because adding sound to that travesty would have caused me to cry. Not only is this dame in a funeral setting, she seems to be rejoicing because a Black woman has died (!!!) and is doing a Second Line!

The whole damn video is an appropriation. The whole damn thing.

It is bad enough that our shine as Black women is stolen, swapped and swagger-jacked on a daily/minute-by-minute basis! The killer part to all this–no one seems to notice this isht but Black women! The capitalist-consuming world wants everything Black, except from Black people.

The natural endowments I have as both Black and woman can be seen as obscene until on someone else (vanishing). My skin tone is what some White girls aspire as a tanning option (erasure). My style and fashion sense can be used as a window display or on a blog and not even given proper credit (paying attention yet?).

It’s not just Danai. It won’t just be Danai.

We know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes? The best thing you can do is give honor, credit and merit where it is due.

And I mean this with all my St. Louis, Missouri accent–“You see me, mane. Don’t act like you don’t.”

 

 

From The Facebook Mental Health Help Desk

 

 There was a post that came across my Facebook timeline that said the following:

 

 

 

 

When I saw this, my heart sank.  All I could think about was my own childhood, and when I was telling people as a 10-year-old girl that I was depressed, no one believed me. I thought about the increased number of little Black children that are ending their lives. Yet, everything on this post was something that I had either heard or heard second hand be said when it relates to the feelings and emotions of Black children.

Black children are consistently told their pain, their trauma, their emotional well being doesn’t matter. That is is trivial. Ergo, they are trivial. They are not taken seriously even in the face of evidence to the contrary!

Look, I get it. I had parents that worked all the time to take care me and my siblings. I had a grandmother, whom was sometimes less than warm, and aunts that worked because they had families too. Everyone is so busy trying to make it and survive you don’t have time to see what may be going on around you! Previous generations didn’t have the luxury of calling their anxiety ‘depression’. They didn’t have the luxury of admitting their minds were playing tricks on them, and the world had gotten so dark that suicide became an option.

Live. Work. Take care of kids.

“If they ain’t dying, starving, dirty or bleeding to death, they’ll be alright.”

With the rate of suicide among African-American children on the rise, posts like this–even in jest–make me wince. They make me uncomfortable because it peels back layers of Black culture we don’t discuss–and use humor to cover up. I remember hearing things like, “Only white people get depression!”

Pause.

No. We get depression too, but we don’t get the luxury of a diagnosis. The goal of a diagnosis is to point a clinician in the  right direction in order to help their patients. That means medication if need be or the most blasphemous term to Black folks:  therapy. We don’t get the justice a diagnosis grants. We, especially Black women, are told to keep going. We get told little Black boys only get to be tough or happy.

Black people are not allowed to be totally human. If we are allowed to embrace all of ourselves, even the broken parts, perhaps these generational traumas can heal. Instead of  being things to laugh about on social media, and whispered about at funeral repasses.

 

 

 

 

[image from comicartfans.com–Lucy is a creation of Charles M. Schultz, creator of Peanuts]

Of Future’s Past

Ciara, Russell Wilson, Future

For a dude that calls himself ‘Future’, homeboy loves to be in the past.

The relationship guru Derrick Jaxn touched on this on his YouTube platform. He said that Future is the embodiment of a bitter ex every good woman has.

Let’s just review, shall we?

Ciara and Future were together, had a baby and broke up in 2014. He also has children with at least 3, 4 other women! At last count, he JUST got another woman pregnant! Like, Ciara was a good one even getting with man that clearly had no idea, or no direction other than which way his penis pointed.

After calling off their ‘engagement’, Future has had nothing to say positive about his ex. Like, nothing! In the interview that surfaced online, you see that he is MAD that she is moving on with her life. You also see what only women whom have dealt with this type of man can see. I call it ‘bitter disbelief’.

This man literally cannot stand that Ciara, Mrs. Russell Wilson, has gone on with her life–and doing better than most of these women he got pregnant! She’s not blowing his phone up. She’s not asking him for isht other than to be a present father. No more. No less. In the interview, on the heels of his new  album release (The Wizrd), he says this:

“He do exactly what she tell him to do,” Future said of Wilson and Ciara’s relationship. “He’s not being a man in that position.”
“He not tellin’ her, ‘Chill out with that on the internet. Don’t even talk to him, I’m your husband! You better not even bring Future’s name up!'” Future went on to say. “If that was me, she couldn’t even bring his name up. She know that. She couldn’t even bring her exes’ names up.”
He added, “Don’t give that s–t no energy.”

All I can do is laugh at dudes like this!

If he wasn’t trippin off her, why say anything? This is slick manipulative, and further indicates that all he knows how to do is make babies and problems! This is a man that doesn’t understand what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Future thinks so much (or little) of his ex that he cannot seem to realize how she lives her life without him in it is none of his concern!

Toxic masculinity is a helluva drug.

The fact that he would even say what is his quoted to have said pertaining to how Russell Wilson interacts with his wife?

Boy, bye.

Please stop.

And to Russell’s credit, all he has done is love his wife and raise their children. And as far as ‘he’s not being a man in that position’? Imma need him to explain what that means and does he know what to do as a man in his position? According to Ciara, she sends their son from Seattle to Atlanta and baby Future is at his grandma’s house!

Like?

Make it make sense, sir!

There is an element to this dynamic that makes me think Future may be abusive. He may be the type of man that needs to be ‘respected’ and ‘unchallenged’. I’ve dated those and even married one. These type of men figure the best way to handle a woman, or to steer a relationship is to control a woman.

Pro-tip:  That never helps. That never works.

Future really has no idea how to value a woman without feeling like he has to dominate her. Most men like Future have no idea how to value a woman because it has never been modeled. It’s never been practiced and its never been something which has been taught! It’s not that ‘he do everything she say’–he respects her. He listens to her and makes her a priority.

This is why the male species  gets mad at Gillette commercials:  when you show a weak man where he messed up, and he does not have impunity to do as he  wishes, he freaks out.

Future, grow up.

Let Ciara be great…and #LevelUp

 

 

 

 

 

[image from E! Online]