Revolutionary Warfare: Remembering Toni Morrison

“Don’t die with your dream in you.” -My mama, Bessie

I first met Toni Morrison in my Sophomore Spanish I class. There was this girl who sat behind me, Lolita (No lie, that was her name!), and she was reading this book with a purple cover. I asked her what she was reading. With all the Black girl swag she could muster, she said, “The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.”

I am ashamed to say that I had no idea who she was. I knew who Maya Angelou was, but had no idea who Toni Morrison was. I remember asking her to see the book. She obliged and let me read the back. I purposed in my mind that I was going to read this book. I was going to find out who Pecola Breedlove was.

From then, it was on.

My ears were keen to pick up on anything that Toni was doing, anything that she read, recommended or spoke on. So, when Pieces I Am debuted in May 2019, I purposed to watch it. Through other demands, I wasn’t able to see it in theaters. When she died 5 month later? I felt like my grandmother had died…all over again. It was on August 3-4, that I was able to have time and space to watch it. And I am glad that I did.

When I saw her face, heard her voice, I cried–and the film was only 5 minutes in. In hearing her, hearing her story and journey (even thought I was familiar with her voice and story), I cried. It was an affirmation, a coming home as Black, woman and writer. It reminded me that I was always a writer–a storyteller, and the footsteps I follow in are not new…but worn.

As I finished by undergrad at UM-St. Louis, I took ENGL 3870: American Literature After 1865 (Shouts to my mentor, Dr. Kimberly Welch!). This class–I am ever grateful for. Not just because I got to meet Dr. Welch (the first Black English professor I had at UM-St. Louis), but the first book we read for class was, Beloved. It took everything in me not to shout like the little Black Baptist girl in me wanted to! I was studying my shero. I was studying a woman that I had admired since I was 15. Whose books and words and imagination told me, showed me, the possibility of language.

Just like Nikki Giovanni does…still (Have you read EGO TRIP by Nikki?! You need to. Go do that now!).

And to study Beloved right after she died, with Dr. Welch telling me to go to grad school, with listening to her voice on film–it was a hug. It was that nudge that all writers have (I believe) when they are on the precipice of something great–to keep going.

The tears came.

The sobs racked me.

The grief shook me.

I gave over to the power this gift has, and purposed to never hide it again. Afterall, if you surrender to the air, you can ride it. That’s what Toni said.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 5-How Do We Get Back?

This is not an easy question.

We as people–especially girls–have been taught that to be in love is to suffer. It is to be in pain, and then your prince or king will come. In dismantling this facade that Struggle Love gives, you have to replace and supplant what we have been taught. We do that by pulling this thread: What does healthy love look like?

Healthy love does not mean enduring to the end of something. Love is a journey, it is healing, it a source of hope! Healthy love looks like boundaries, accepting limitations and realizing what you deserve! The broken record that begins with “You have to endure until it gets better,” or “A man just gon be a man,” or “This is as good as it will ever get,” has to be broken!

I believe this teaching begins to be supplanted when we as partners or potential partners decide what we want. And what we want has be definite and defined by what we want, and will not accept! We must have a criteria, and the criteria cannot be shaken for the want of being chosen!

Struggle Love has its roots in trying to be chose!

We begin to believe that love is to be worked for, suffered to get, and worked (often one-sided) to maintain. This is not so! Healthy love, giving healthy love, starts with you, dear one. It starts with who you model yourself after! What relationships you see around you, and what you aspire to become!

I know that not everyone sees these healthy examples around them. I get that people believe abuse is love–because it’s all they know! I know people see relationships every day that seem toxic that somehow magically become healthy overnight. I assure it, it doesn’t happen overnight.

It never happens overnight.

Image may contain: text that says 'Teach your daughters loyalty isn't how much pain they can tolerate from a man.'

The Bible tells us the older women are supposed to teach the younger women. You have to understand, what I am still learning, there is a portion of my experience a younger woman might need. Even if she may need it so she knows what not to do! We as the older women must be guideposts–for our sons and daughters! We have to give them what they need–regardless of our shame!

It is our shame at this generation of children need in order to realize what love is, what love is not, and what it should never turn into! Let us normalize the word “no.” Let us normalize what manhood looks like, and men having emotions! Normalize the intuition of women: the ‘something told me‘ is your first alert system! Normalize the acceptance of something when it can no longer be repaired! Normalize peace and being alone over the desire to be chosen–by people thieves wouldn’t trust.

Normalize respect for one another.

Normalize honor–without the need to test the boundaries of it.

Normalize being together–without testing the boundaries of what it means to be together.

Normalize what it means to be in love, and give that love back.

Normalize expressing counseling, and building save spaces in your relationships.

Normalize knowing what you want–and walking away from what you don’t. Anything you have to fight to get, you will have to fight to keep. Question is what are you willing to give of yourself to keep something that might kill you?

…And Just Like That, She Is Forty Minus One.

Happy Birthday to all my Birthday Twins! According to the Original Firestarter, My Mama, I was born Wednesday, June 24, 1981 at 10:37 am. If you desire to send all bday money, you send it to my CashApp: $JBHWrites. Thank you, dear ones!

39. I have made it to 39.

I am a mother, a daughter and a friend. This birthday feels different. It feels different, because it is different. I survived the onslaught of COVID-19, with my mental health and body intact! But this birthday is different.

I am getting extra tattoos. I am piercing my belly button again. I am embracing my sensual nature, and respecting (read: re-establishing) my boundaries. I am falling in love with me, and my own company all over again. Yet, I am doing it in a way I could only have done at this age. I am no longer keen on male company, and I am not dumbing down for it. I have found that I am a fan of a good wine, and Megan Thee Stallion.

I am writing more, and building a legacy for me and mine. I am appreciating my mother more, and her bed still has magic in it! And I do not know what I will do without her when the day comes I can no longer call her–or find her—on this side of the grass.

The previous 6 birthdays, I have been someone’s wife. I am no longer that. That wound is fresh, pulsing and I am still healing from that. It is a beautiful thing to be able to write in this time as well. If I couldn’t get all of this out of me, I would definitely be in a much sadder state.

In this birthday, the last of my 30’s, it feels different. I’m moving different. I’m looking at my life and raising my kids different. Everything is different! I went into 2020 with all these plans and expectations—and weights. I will not dwell on the demise of my second marriage, for 2 reasons.

1.) Ain’t no body got time for that. We are getting divorced. We are not friends. Nor do I purpose to be.

2.) Mr. Harris deserves to live his life without his ex-wife dragging him through the internet.

I’m much classier than this. I’m a lady (most days). Despite rumors to the contrary.

But the thing is this, I’m not terribly scared to turn 40. I’m not rushing it either! Trust me! I am thinking now about what I want the second half of my life to be. I am thinking about how I am going to be a better Mama. A better friend, and I am loving sleeping alone again! I am healing up, Oracles. I am enjoying time with my kids, and writing, and even have taken up gardening.

Yes, gardening.

I refuse to get a dog. And I hate cats, and the scary thing—in the next 5 years, I will have an 18-year-old child. And I have to get her ready for the world. I am absorbing all the time with her and her younger sister now.

What these first almost 7 months of this new decade have taught me is I am tougher than I ever thought. I deserve more than I ever put up with. I have learned when things are over, they are just over–and some men just can’t handle you; though they love the idea of you. What I have learned in this now 39 years of living is all wisdom is gotten at a cost: youth.

There is more I desire to do, that I must do–and I am excited. Besides, the adage is, “If she’s fine at 40, she’ll be fine forever!” And I plan on aging like Dihann Carroll!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

In Memoriam Of The Charleston 9

It has been 5 years since Dylan Roof walked in the Mother Emmanuel and killed 9 people at a prayer meeting. I remember watching this on national news, and my heart breaking. BREAKING in my chest. At the time, my [then] husband and I were pastoring in Ferguson, Missouri–trying to figure out how to be married, clergy, activists and sane a year after Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered not even 10 minutes from our apartment. 

What Dylan Roof did was evil. The absolute level of evil is for God discern when he closes his eyes for the last time. As for me and mine, my [then] husband and I kept pastoring. We kept serving, kept loving the community we were in, and trying to do what God told us. In 5 years time, what I have seen is two fold: people running away from anything Jesus-related, or they are clinging to it. 

The folk whom are running from it, say they have abandoned it because it is a ‘White man’s religion.’ Forgetting that Jesus isn’t White, the Gospel went to Africa before it went to Rome, and the ‘fishers of men’ didn’t speak English at a native language. I say all that to say this. The White Evangelical Church has a lot to explain. A whole lot! Once more, it has taken the death of a man who was innocent to have dramatic, world-wide effect. You have to understand, as a woman of faith, the housecleaning that is happening in the faith community is overdue! It is overdue! Do you know how hard it is to preach this gospel with the assertion that most people believe that Christ is a ‘white man’s savior’? Let’s not even get into what it means to be a woman doing this work! 

In the light of this resistance–this once in a generation resistance–it seems fitting that this memoriam would be commemorated! However, the best thing about this? The White Evangelical church is having to deal with these chickens coming home to roost, dens of foxes in henhouse, and packs of wolves in sheep’s clothing. What reassures me that a reckoning has come is when WHITE pastors are confronting racism in their respective denominations. 

One of those pastors is Pastor Judah Smith of ChurchHome-Seattle. On a June 4th Zoom live, he said these two things: “We have colluded with the culture.” Meaning, there is still a thread of racism (real, palpable RACISM) that is going through the church. But the quote that struck me was this: “We have preached America as if–at times–its is scripture.” I see no lie present in this. None! The church, the one founded by Jesus Christ was NEVER supposed to collude with a culture. It was never supposed to align with one race of people! It was never designed to be a place where all people were not welcome! The fact Dylan Roof did this, killing the pastor of this church, only to have his body taken to internment under a Confederate flag? Insult isn’t even the word. In commemorating this tragic event, it is right that the church–a entity of change, hope, protection and security, begin to examine just how much of Christ is in the church. 

I mean, it was founded by a Middle Eastern man, whom didn’t speak English and was a refugee whose non-English speaking parents teenage parents fled their home to prevent his murder, only to be murdered by this state in front of his mother for being a threat to power—maybe, the legacy of this moment is the change it would bring. Rather, that is bringing. Octavia Butler said it this way, “All that you touch is change, all that you touch changes you. God is change.”

Change has now come.

Solidarity In Blackface: Top Of The List Of What You Need Never Do

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea.

I don’t know if this is the type of thing that happens when liberal solidarity lacks solidarity. I Don’t know if this started as a movement, and ended up a mess—but I know as a Black woman that still struggles to see herself in the Beauty industry, this is a mess. A FRESH FISH GREASE HOT MESS! There is a way to stand in solidarity with Black women, using Black-owned cosmetics from same said Black cosmetics companies, without transforming yourself as a WHITE WOMAN, into a BLACK WOMAN.

This. Helps. Nothing. Please.

Stop. Doing. This. Shit. NOW!

I get it! We are in a time where the earnest thing to do is trying to support. I get that there are influencers are seeing now the demographics they have ignored! I even understand trying to support Black Lives Matter by showing ‘beauty is only skin deep’. But this? Like this? NO. Remember when Kim Kardashian West tried something similar a couple years ago? I do!

Is it bad enough some (not all) white women make sport of making the Black female form a damn commodity?!

Isn’t it bad enough that I, and other Black women that work in white-dominant spaces have to adjust our HAIR to not cause a problem? But Kayla in Marketing can get ‘boxer braids’ to wear to the company party and be seen as ‘edgy’ and ‘trending.’ Seeing your body—that you are taught to either shame or share—being celebrated on someone else what doesn’t look like you, or would call HR on you because you didn’t speak to them; spoke to you in a tone of voice; not considered ‘part of a team’ because you refused to be erased or minimized through the mechanism of microaggressions? But you will get on Beyoncé’s internet and pull THIS?

No, white women—THIS IS NOT HOW YOU SHOW SOLIDARITY!

No, white women—no one is going to hold your hand through this revolution!

No, white women—you cannot just ‘darken’ your skin to show how you support Black women, Black men, and the continued equality for Black people! What you can do is when you get these PR packages from certain companies and you don’t see anything darker than light toast? Call them on it. When you see other MUA/influencers stealing the ideas from other brands (YES, YOU HUDA BEAUTY!)? Say something. Learn how to do more than just make up on women that look like you or lighter! Learn that Black girl skin is just as glorious as yours! How you stand with Black women is you give us space; you give us room to create; you stop erasing because of intimidation; you validate—rather than imitate and steal! And afro wig and Fenty PR 420 Pro Filt’r is not going to fix this one…no matter how many of your non-Black girl MUA’s said it would.

When Is It Going To Be Enough?

Note: I’m finna go in.

This is a mood.

I am tired. I am angry. I am a Black woman in America trying to maintain, live and love while trying not to be killed by the White supremacy-powered law enforcement! I am just trying to live! Why is this so hard for folk?

I am tired on a level that I am sure other activists and writers are–it is outrage fatigue! I am tired of trying to tell the people who desire to kill us, and the apathetic people that watch them do it, to stop doing it! I want to be finally been seen in a country my ancestors built, whose blood is still in the soil!

I am tired, family. I am tired!

Yet, I will not be quiet. To be quiet now is to be complicit. To be complicit is to side with the oppressor. In siding with the oppressor, I come into agreement with the plan for my own destruction! I cannot allow this to happen!

In siding with social change, in championing social upheaval, I can only feel my strength return. I feel my help coming in the form of the energy surrounding and flowing around me. It is the embrace of change, the aniticpation of new hope that allows me to keep going. But even then, my question is–“When will it be enough?”

When will there be enough hashtags?

When will there be enough video?

When will there be enough ‘bad cops’ caught?

When will enough ‘good cops’ speak up?

When will the children and grandchildren whom are descendants of slave owners stop being concerned with the preservation of their power and influence to do what is right? Not even ‘right’–just fair?

When will the burden of dismantling such a system be shared beyond the fear Black/Brown and Indigenous people face?

When will the repeated DEATH of people be enough to change a system?

I mean, if the world still rejects Jesus…I suppose the blood of Black folk won’t fix it either.

Thinking I’m Grown: Shoes (How I Move In The World)

Give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world.” -Bette Midler

I believe this quote with my core self. I believe the right pair of shoes, given the right pair of shoes, a woman can go anywhere and do anything. Especially, if she has more than shoes to open the door.

I’m a tall girl. I have this gift of words and speech. I also know as a Black girl moving through the world with a ‘White girl name’ brings a certain level of privilege and scorn with it. I am grateful for the ability to code-switch. I am grateful for the small privilege being the smart Black girl ‘with the White girl name’ has granted. With that all that said, I know that the right shoes given to a Black girl does three things: lead, follow, kick in a door.

Let me explain how.

Lead. I believe that leaders wear sneakers and stilettos. I believe every arena in this life requires a shoe. You need to be able to transition in order to reach whom your must, where you must and when you must. Not every situation requires Nikes, but it’s good to have a pair. Some people need to identify themselves in the face of the people leading the world. Some people need to see that you need shoes that are durable and comfortable to do not so comfortable work. Like teaching. Or organizing. Or supporting. Or running with the people who cannot run or walk for themselves. Real leadership must be accessible.

Not every situation requires as YSL slingback heel–but it might be dope to have a pair so people hear you coming. There are certain rooms which require you to be similar in order to be noticed—a uniform if you will. There are certain situations in order to be taken seriously, you must be adapt to the requirement of the situation. My sneakers don’t always translate a need or exactly what I bring to the table. Sometimes, to be taken seriously, I change the shoe. Why the shoe? The shoe reshapes the whole outfit! It conveys effort, projects confidence and makes you stand up straight. Leadership requires the ability to read a room in order to get things done as they should be.

Follow. Influential people often leave trails. They leave evidence of success, or failure. If they are exceptional they leave a blueprint as well. They leave you a trail which you are able to follow–but you will need both stamina and bravery to complete such a journey. It’s not about filling shoes, no. One must be able to find and fill their own pair to follow behind. The path towards taking over the world in any arena is not about becoming a carbon copy or imitation. It is about believing in yourself while knowing you are not the bastion of all knowledge! It is about believing in someone else, almost as much as you believe in yourself. You need heroes–not idols. A hero gives space and plans–and idol will never know you are there. Choose wisely.

Kick In A Door. The right shoes have allowed me to kick in doors which I may not truly be able to stay in. I have been organizer and worker, and mogul and director. I have been the one advocating for someone else, making space for another while the same not being done for me. I understand in those acts, at this point, I must be able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in order to do what must be done. I have to lead by example while tempering ambition with patience. I am learning to be gracious in all things, and loud when needed. Some people hate to see you, but cannot ignore the sound of you coming. As I kick in doors, I bring people with me! I learn and build as a climb. I network. I serve. I direct. And most importantly, I remember.

I remember I have not made it to this point alone, and will never be alone. I have learned that “No” is never a final answer, it requires a different approach. It sometimes helps to remember if there is a door which won’t open for you, build you own. You cannot–I cannot–be afraid to either fail, or try. I have enough moxie to know I ain’t about to stop…so I will not fail. Psalms 46:5 says so.

Thinking I’m Grown: Pants (Fashion & Style)


My mother loves shoes.

I, being my mother’s daughter, loves shoes. And bags. I really love bags. I remember my first purse! It was this small canvas bag (a cross-body bag, as the kids would say now) with a rainbow strap. I was 5-years-old. I remember being fascinated by how my mother and aunts transformed from just ‘being in the house’ to how they went outside into the world.

I loved playing in my mother’s heels. I loved playing in her makeup to my own detriment sometimes. I also remember being so mad at my Aunt Linda I put water in her eye shadow and ruined it. Her son, my cousin saw me and I never did that again. Trust, she made sure I wouldn’t.

The thing that made me love fashion though–magazines, Different World, Family Matters and the Grande Dame of 1990’s television, Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies). Now, remember–I’m an 80’s baby! I remember when what is known now as ‘hip-hop fashion’ became more mainstream. I remember wanting to go to FIT because Lisa Turtle was going! I remember looking at the girls who looked like me in Essence, Word Up!, Hip- Hop Beat magazine and wanted to dress like the girls I saw.

I wanted the Tommy Hilfiger Coat, and Nautica jacket and the door knocker earrings. Yet, I had the parents that didn’t let me really have all that. But the good thing is I still had Kim from Different World, and Laura Winslow from Family Matters. And My So-Called Life (young Jared Leto was–ooh, Lord!) made me wish I was a high school sophomore as an 8th grader so I could dye my hair red.

It was 8th grade where I started to put this thing called a style together. Aside from writing, fashion gave me a place to be creative. It gave me a place to make my way in the world–always a wonderful thing. I mean, I wore short and tights together because I saw Laura Winslow and Clarissa Darling from Clarissa Explains It All do it! And when Clueless came out? YAS! I started wearing heels and jeans since I had seen Clueless and My So-Called Life. I mean, it was the mid-1990’s! As Black girl going to public school, you really couldn’t veer too far left or right–but I did. And I have had heels ever since. My go to look before kids involved these things: heels, jeans, a tee and earrings.

Fashion was a my safe place! And makeup and outlet! It was Junior and Senior year of high school where I started to become more confident in what I wanted. This is when deliA’s was still a cool place for girls of my era to shop at (Thank’s Sassy/JANE Magazine!). I wasn’t so concerned about something having a label. I was more concerned about it looking cool. Flat out!

It was after high school, when I really got into make-up. This is where getting ready to go somewhere became an event. Getting ready was an event–just like it was when my mother got ready. I started to get my nails done in a salon when I was 19, and it was on from there! I felt elegant, moreso. To this day, there is something about a full set of nails and a bomb outfit with my hoop earrings which make me feel like I am so unstoppable!

I think once a Black girl begins to develop her own style, it’s like opening a treasure chest. There are features of your own physical form you saw in younger pictures of your mother, grandmother or aunts. It’s like going into a time machine! I remember when wide-leg jeans were in fashion: my mom told me that they reminded her of bell bottoms. My Aunt Linda told me they were bell bottoms ‘they used to wear.’ From the jeans, came the hats, and from the hats, the bags. From there, my mom reminded me of my ‘cute Easter dresses’. I remember how pretty I felt being that dolled up for the holiday. Yes, the shoes had always been a staple.

I found out my mom loves scarves and big earrings. I found out that my Aunt Valarie thinks that every woman needs a signature lipstick. I found out that my mother is a fan of Estee Lauder: White Linen in the Spring and Summer; Beautiful in the Fall and Winter. “Every woman needs a signature scent, Jennifer.” And after a few trial and error, I have 3 actually.

Naked by URBAN DECAY.
Gucci Guilty.
Yellow Diamonds by VERSACE.

Fashion for me was expression of the highest sort. Finding more and more of myself every time I found myself liking a shoe, or a bag, or wanted to change my hair. I found out my grandmother didn’t get her first pair of hosiery till she was in her twenties–yet, my mother made sure when I wore dresses or skirts I had slips and ‘stockings (the old school word for ‘pantyhose’ or ‘hosiery’).

The beautiful thing is now, I get to give that same energy and gift of discovery to my daughters. My youngest already loves shoes. Especially, my heels.

[Image by Typorama]

SHUT UP, BOOSIE!

Trigger warning: Ashy men, Homophobic men, Pick-Me’s, Enabling women, DFFs (DFF: Defenders of Fuckery and Foolishness).

Boosie Badazz Addresses His Issues With Webbie in Lengthy Post ...
I have never been able to take this dude seriously. Less so now.

First things, first: #MeToo.

With that out the way, let me say this: SHUT UP, BOOSIE! And I mean shut the ENTIRE FUCK UP!

Third, now begins where I get to channel all that raw, rolling Jean Grey Summers energy I have been holding on to for the last two days and aim it at Torrence Hatch, Jr.

I want to know who keeps asking this dude poignant questions about things which pertain to life and Blackness like a dude named Boosie has any idea on how to fix anything concerning us as a people?! I just need to know why people keep asking Captain Ashy Iaintshit questions!

Perhaps this is fault of my age and the tendency I have to ignore people whom I see and deem problematic. Boosie, Torrence, Boosie Badazz is problematic. I truly stopped engaging with this traphouse scholar when he made the snide comments about Zaya Wade (again, remember, I do not deadname over here!). I was done with him when he was talking so crazy about how Dwayne Wade should be handling this situation with his daughter.

The thing about the discourse (and I use that word loosely) between him and Dwayne was how devoid it was of empathy and common sense–until Torrence’s mama got on him. Funny how Ashy dudes are constantly corrected or can only be corrected by their mothers? Don’t even get me started on this! I digress. Let us continue, shall we?

I work nights. This is not a new thing. And I prefer nights, actually. Since having children, my body clock has not really recovered. So, rather than fight it–I go with it. Imagine my frazzled nerves when I woke up Thursday afternoon to find out this man–this father of 8!—is on Beyonce’s internet talking about how he pulled out all the stops to make sure his sons didn’t turn out gay.

Bruh.

This ninja is out here paying women to rape and molest (these young men are 12 and 14!) to perform sex acts on his son and his nephew–and he lets them watch porn! Make this make sense! This cannot be agreed with. This cannot be reasoned with. If you subscribe to How To Raise A Black Male Child by Torrence Hatch, Jr–never speak to me again. Also, please have an ice cold glass of Clorox.

If you are a woman who has the pre-requiste of completing of the intro course to I Am A Pick-Me in order to have the background to register How To Raise A Black Male Child by Traphouse Professor Hatch, you are the worst kind of Pick-Me!

If you believe being gay is the worst fate which can befall a Black male child, I need you to never have children. I need you to never help raise your nieces, nephews and you need to just move to the Saturn. Why? That is the only place you can do with this bullshit! He is wrong! No young man–especially Black!–needs to see porn as their only source of sexual education. They do not need to see their value of self so narrow it can only be identified or confirmed by their sexual prowess?

DO BETTER.

And the fact this cat saw nothing wrong with this? The fact so many people agreed with him? The fact that so many people are being silent now in the face of it–is chilling. But not surprising. This culture of “what happens here stays here” is what most Black folk have grown up with. This attitude which both preserves and protects toxic patriarchy because all those need to consolidate whatever power can be gleaned from patriarchy.

Men and their needs, along with the need correlate purpose with sexual prowess, will always be tenants of toxic patriarchy. This mentality demeans young Black men! It robs them of their innocence as well! If Boosie was doing this type of shenanigans to his daughters, folk would have rolled him up and set his house on fire! Why is that seen more as rape than what Boosie has done?

My mind cannot cope, and is still reeling from this.

Hoteps, if this is your king–please come get his ass.

[image from Complex.com]

Thinking I’m Grown: Chest (My Body & How I Accept It)

Terry Lee Laney, Junior, the cousin of this girl with the longest name I knew as a 10-year-old, Sandranita Carson, was the first boy to tell me I was flat-chested. There are dynamics that come in with fifth grade I believe that set the stage for how you will handle transitions anywhere else in this life: differences will always get you seen. It was in Ms. Grant’s fifth grade classroom in Lowell Elementary School that I knew one thing–boys like breasts. Some boy would always be looking at my chest. Why? I was yet to find out. But his cousin, the girl with the longest name that I will ever know at age 10? She was about a C-D cup then! When I was a 10-year-old girl, it wasn’t odd; I knew what breasts were. And I also knew those were things I didn’t have.

I didn’t develop any sort of ‘thickness’ as the kids call it now until I was in my late teens-early twenties. And when I had my first child? That’s when everything began to fill in and round out! I mean I could were the dresses I wanted and there be something there to put in it. I mean, I had no idea how to embrace my body before–so to add childbirth to it?! I was not this vixen I wanted to be.

My favorite aunt, Linda, told me “All you had all your life was legs and ass.” Well, these are facts. Big facts, really. But I had always wanted the hour-glass Mae West figure. I wanted that visible sex appeal–I wanted to be what I told one suitor ‘the waking wet dream.’ But to get there? To get to the point I could own I was sexy–not just beautiful, but sexy–that took for real time. This took embracing ever part of my form and realizing if I never got another thing added to me, I was sexy. I was able to call myself beautiful. I was desirable–and nothing was wrong with me! I was worthy of a healthy relationship. I was worthy of being intimate with a man and get pleasure for those experiences.

I had to determine how I accepted my own body could not be dependent on how the world saw my body. I had to start to love me. I had to love me beyond being funny, or smart or being compassionate. All these things are good, yes. I am glad all these qualities are present inside me to be given to the world. But that self-love–that embracing my own thighs, legs, lips and eyes with everything in the middle? That hit different, fam. Besides, from my personal list? I’ve never had any complaints…