Freedom & Lenses

Note: As of this posting, the world at large does not know the identity of this couple, and maybe that is for the best. I have lots of feelings. LOTS of feelings.

One of the reasons why I like TikTok is because it allows me to respond to news in real time, and find things out in real time. I saw these engagement photos on TikTok, and I still don’t know who this couple is; I don’t know who the photographer is; and there is nothing on Beyoncé’s internet that can confirm any information. After seeing the pictures, I had no desire to see or learn anymore.

Like, nothing else!

There are more pictures than the two I have here, but the ancestral rage would not allow me to post all five that I saw. For the people that know me in real life, know that I have dated interracially. My first husband was actually White, and my children are biracial. I, like Mae West, only limit myself to two types of men: domestic and imported. Even with all the interracial dating that I have done, I couldn’t imagine doing this:

How…HOW?!

Now, I am going to go out on a limb and say that this idea, this theme was HER idea.

When I saw these pictures (oh, they only get worse), I wanted to know how this concept was even uttered, and why he as a BLACK MAN would agree to this! How does the woman you chose to marry, bring this idea to you–you agree to it!–only to know that she was serious!

Think about this now:

You, a Black man propose to a White woman. Your fiancée, a White woman, wants to do engagement photos. You, a Black man, agree. Your fiancée, a White woman, proposes a theme for said engagement photos. You, a Black man, agree. Your fiancée, a White woman, proposes that theme be antebellum slavery–with her as a White woman as a Mistress, and you–as a Black man–as the slave. You, a Black man, whom asked a White woman to marry you, agree to her idea. You as a couple find a photographer willing to do these engagement photos, and you, as a couple, pay the photographer. You, as a Black man with his White fiancée, pose for these pictures. You, as the couple chose the ones you want. Then, somehow, this pictures are released.

Look how happy they are?

The reaction to these pictures on-line is a tsunami! Rightly so! One of the things that I heard more than once is, “There are some Black men that make dating interracially their whole identity.” I don’t see a lie. There are some White women that believe having a relationship with a Black man allows them to own them, collective Black culture, and they can bring White supremacy in their relationship! I really need to know how she is sharing these pictures to! Whom is HE sharing these pictures with! Why was this okay? WHY?

I am a fan of history, dress up and think that engagement photos are a chance to show the personality of the couple. The only thing that I see with these photos is the price of capitalism! I don’t blame the photographer. I am more shocked that he, a Black man, agreed to this–and no one stopped him! No one told him to watch out for Rose, and that GET OUT was right! What disturbs me the most–he’s probably going to marry her anyway. And the slippery slope will begin again. I can tell you right now, he’s going to let her get away with N-word ‘slip ups,’ tokenizing/weaponizing any children they have and saying, “I know my wife isn’t racist because she married me.”

Is this why we can’t be free? I’ll wait.

[Images screenshot from the TikTok account the_savage_lokius.]

Behind the Scenes: The Death Of Peter Parker And Other Fairy Tales (Part 4)

–and I held the mask.

Peter Parker being content

to be both open and secret,

the love unseen because

you could not be what I needed–

but the mask.

Oh, the mask.

Spider-Man to Peter Parker to

Spider-Man, leaving me to love both

lie, myth, and man.

I lived for the kisses in the rain,

upside down, to be held right-side up

making tears as rain–

living for the secret.

–JBHarris, July 2021

Behind the Scenes: The Death Of Peter Parker And Other Fairy Tales (Part 3)

Yet, I die in secret.

Yet, I die alone.

Yet, I die holding the mask of the One

whom promised me everything–

if i could give him anything.

The anything has become time–

now made immortal and absolute

sealed behind the myth of, “Just wait for me”

With the headstone in gravel and graphite

now covered in the same webs

you left me with.

Love in the webbing made indestructible

by my tears, and our youth,

spent dreaming and pining for

he who left me atop a building–safe, sound and high up–

when I asked, “Who are you?”

You only gave only your superhero alias.

Leaving me there because love

held me safe and to you.

For you.

Life was in me and

with you.

-JBHarris, July 2021

Behind the Scenes: The Death Of Peter Parker And Other Fairy Tales (Part 2)

This is a poem from the book “The Death of Peter Parker And Other Fairy Tales.” Mark your calendars for October 31, 2021.

Masks hide many faces, don’t they Peter Parker?

They cover lips that kiss–as well as lips that lie.

What have you given me other

than lies, Peter Parker?

What have you given

me to hold on to other

than what can wash away?

Even memories fade–and in there lies the true justice Plato spoke of.

Ah, justice! This, too, is a lie.

The justice of waiting for you to come back

to me and the me inside of

the Us to make whole together and all at once.

The waking dream of life with you,

to be yours in and out of times,

masks no longer needed–

not this time.

-JBHarris, July 2021

Result Of ‘The Talk’

Note: I am a single mother of biracial children. I have to teach my daughters how to move in the world is Black, as woman, and not die myself while doing it.

The Talk - Race in America

I had The Talk with my daughters, 12 and 13 1/2, while doing 70 mph going down I-70 going to my best friend’s house to see their best friends. I had done all I could to bury the nastiness of the world from them. I tried to keep just how mean the world could be from them, why it can be to them, and what they could do about it.

My daughters are in middle school. And really? Honestly? It was almost too late…I should have had it earlier. This is what it is like to be Black and a parent in a nation that is decidedly anti-Black. You are constantly playing Chess–never checkers. White families can do that, not us.

When I made the decisions to get my daughters cell phones, my mother protested and I screamed internally. I have been her child almost 40 years, and when I was 13–my father suggested I get a pager. My mother said no. Now, 27 years later, her granddaughter have cellphones. And she protested. The only thing that I could manage to tell her was, “The world is crazy, Mama.”

The world is crazy, Mama.

I had already had told my daughters not touch things in the store (“People may think you’re stealing!”), what to do if you get lost in the store (“Don’t go to store security/police, go to someone that works at the store and give them your Mom’s name.), and the emergency contact list (“What is your grandmother’s name/number? What is your aunt’s name/number?”). But when I had to tell them what to do when stopped by the police? I screamed. I howled. When I realized that my youngest daughter is the same as Tamir Rice. When I realized that in September my oldest will be as old as Emmitt Till will ever be, and one year younger than Jordan Edwards–I fought the air!

I felt helpless–for all I did, am doing, to raise my daughters to be ‘respectable Black girls’—a police officer with a God complex can take that way. And never be accounted for. As I sped to my best friend’s house, the safety of her house, husband, and daughters who are best friends with my daughters, I fought tears.

I had to tell them: “Even though your father is White, your mother is Black. And because your mother is Black you will always be seen as little, Black girls.” And then I thought of the 4 little girls, the young women in Birmingham–whom would be the same age as their maternal grandmother, 71.

Again we went over what to do if they were stopped: Don’t go to the car. Make sure they see your hands. Do what you are asked. Ask if you can call you mother. “If you can’t get me, what do you do?” “Call grandma.” My heart, my heart in two places, shattered. All I can do, all I do, is give them what they need to survive. What more could I do? Being Black in this nation comes with the Unwritten: in order to survive, you have to know exactly what can kill you, and who may try to.

We got to their best friends’ house, safe and sound. I collapsed on her table and almost scream-cried. The world I had constructed for my daughters, the last peace that I tried to give them, was gone. The world was in my house…again. But this time, I was Mama. Like my mothers before me, I had to learn how to put down a wolf or a dog–and know the difference. The only thing I found that works, if make my daughters into the wolves…and give them a pack that will protect them above all else.

Behind the Scenes: The Death Of Peter Parker And Other Fairy Tales (Part 1)

This is a peek into my head as I begin writing some of the most intimate prose I have in my writing career thus far. Look for a sample of one of these poems tomorrow. I promise it’ll be worth the wait! This book will be released October 31, 2021. Thank you. -JBHarris

I am no longer Mary Jane. That hurts to admit.

There was a time that I couldn’t tap into this gift, and I was completely distraught over it. I have spoken about this at length in WriteLife. But the thing about it is, the person whom was most influential in the discovery, or resurgence of that gift is someone that I veiled…for the better part of 18 years.

I am a writer. I am a storyteller. I am Black, woman and writer. I truly believe that I need all three of these identities to move in the world. I believe without the ability to write, to channel what I feel into a controlled format, I would be in a lot worse shape. But, let me back up…a little bit.

He knows who he is. I have mentioned who he is. And I talk about him in this book as well. Michael Lynwood Brown is Peter Parker. And me? Well, I was his Mary Jane. I was his…completely. In being honest, I had not, have not, loved anyone else as I have loved him. The hardest thing I have done, one of the hardest things I have done, is to walk away from him. For the sake of being a lady, all I will say is the repeated wisdom of what my best friend in the world told me.

“Love is a check. Commitment cashes it.”

-M. Southards

In processing all of this, in accepting that I waited on a man—that did not know what he wanted—to want me, to see me, to love me–I wrote. What I thought would be 3 poems with the theme of Death, Burial and Resurrection, has turned into a collection of poems.

I refused to let him live in my head rent free.

However, there is an irony to this. “When I writer falls in love with you, you can never die.” I understand that Michael will be a part of my life always (and being the person that he is, I’m sure he’s thrilled about that)–but the veneer is gone. The kidgloves are off, and the best way for me to process this–is to write it out.

In this collection I am having my own personal reckoning–from messy start to clumsy end! This collection is not a dig at him–that is easy. But it is…tacky. This collection is written to heal…for me to heal. I was in love with this man, for the better part of my adult life, and he didn’t choose me! I am healing from the fact that I have been what amounts to a life-handed wife, side chick, professional toy for a man that could not see who I was or would become! Or, conversely–he did see it, and gave me just enough to believe that I would get this happily ever after. I didn’t. And I never will.

I was the MJ. For those of you familiar with this uber-romance between Peter and MJ should be aware of how powerful that is. I was chosen one! For that cause, these poems will be written through that vantage point of a broken-hearted, loving, angry, sullen and even forgiving Mary Jane Watson. As that persona, I can examine exactly how I feel–and maybe how I got there!

I deal with that: someone that I envisioned marrying, and ending my days with…didn’t want that with me. I was asking too much. I was too insistent about it. I was wrong for wanting a plan! I needed to shrink more. I needed to be more of what he wanted–but he couldn’t be anything that I needed.

I loved him from 22…to 39. This book is salve. It is a balm. It is a reminder that my life didn’t start with him…and neither shall it end with him. Tomorrow will be the first poem that I wrote that will be included in that collection. It will be in three parts, posted all day. Enjoy.

How fitting…but I’m a writer! I always get the last word.

HAPPY FORTIETH BIRTHDAY TO MOI! (Part 2)

This year I did something different! I took a cue from Luvvie Ajayi Jones‘s book Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual and wrote on oriki for myself. This is the type of poetry where you celebrate the person unabashedly. Luvvie has a formula that she gives in her book, but I took a little artistic license. This is a mile stone birthday! So this deserves all the flex.

This is 40.

Jennifer Phylon of Houses Bush, Harris and Phoenix.
First of her name.
Daughter of royals-Richard and Bessie (Elizabeth).

Slayer of words.
Builder of worlds.
Alphabet magician.
Practitioner of Black Girl Magic
With Noir Pixie Dust.

Fire-breathing Mother of Dragons.
Space-holder.
Burner of plantations.
Verbal devastator.
Wall scaler and breaker.

Window-busser.
Freedom rider.
Visionary of the imaginary.
Purveyor of full pages.

May the crown
She has earned
Sit rightly and
Firmly on her head.

May grace and mercy
Follow her all
The days of her life.

May writer’s block
Be memory, losing neither
Place or pen.
May words flow like
Water; and hope be
The ink in her blood.

May this only be
The beginning of
Legacy, eternity and immortality.

Long may she reign.

OrikiAt40

Reflections From A Back Porch Swing

This tea is amazing.

He got me thinking about next lifetime things.

Quiet things,

Things that you catch in Mason jars on hot nights things!

Greedy things,

Grown women things,

Red lipstick and talking fast things,

Things that fast the girls do with their

Mouths and thighs things.

He got me thinking about what it will be like to wake up to him every day things,

he got me running around trying to stay fine things,

He got me wondering in the sunshine things,

He got me wondering if I can really love him like I want to love him things.

He got me thinking about how different it would be this time things.

He got me thinking I might just love him things,

He got me thinking about “do I got the strength for an us” things.

start over again things,

Late night call things,

Early morning things,

Making love in the shower things,

Kisses in the back of church services things.

Sneaking off and nobody is watching, but only he can see things!

Thinking about what it would be like to call his name like the angelic host things…

Then I smile

and drink my sweet tea

Catching those

Butterflies in my

Belly both he and the

Night put there

like a good Southern Belle should

-(c)JBHarris, June 2021

#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge-Week 15 (2021)

This has been quiet a ride. -JBHarris 

Lena Horne, the iconic singer, actress, and activist, said that people have to be taught to be second class citizens. I completely agree! I was taught to honor my blackness, never shrink it, Never apologize for it. The thing that begins to shift the minority mindset is just this: stop looking for the approval of White people. 

Just stop. Stop it. Just stop it right now. 

This is not me advocating for prejudice, or prejudice practices to ‘turn the tables’. I am asking you as a minority person–as a Black person–to no longer be defined, determined, edified by the fickle approval of White people. Your life, your existence and your desires are greater than the white gaze.

This is hard to do, yes. But it is necessary! Remember Jordan Peele. Remember Chris from GET OUT. Your life and what you want is not determined and cannot be determined by an evil system in power. This grip has to be broken and it can only be broken by knowledge of self and being cognizant of what it means to love yourself. When these forces combine, it is more powerful than anything else.

#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge–Week 13 (2021)

In making space for minority voices, you must understand how unique that is! You must understand how special that is! And, tantamount to that, you must understand that in doing so you are making opportunities for those that do not have had one! The art of centering minority voices means that you are cognizant of what it means to make opportunities. You are making inroads, windows and doors where there none before! Making these opportunities, maintaining these spaces allow you to demonstrate what it means to not just center a voice, as well as amplify it.

The one thing which needs to be reminded is when you center someone, when you recognize someone (especially if that person is of a minority designation!), you are doing the good work of fighting erasure! One of the ways that minority voices are silenced, moved, or erased is when they are not recognized!

YOU CAN ONLY RECOGNIZE WHAT YOU SEE!

THE SENSES WHICH POWERS RECOGNITION ARE SIGHT AND VISION!

As a minority person who makes space, maintains space, I understand how valuable it is to be seen and to be heard. One cannot exist with the other! In order to center a voice, you have to hear it and see where and who it comes from! This is why centering minority voices is indeed an art–you need the artistic vision to build and the wherewithal to make sure you do all you can to build a platform not just you can benefit from.

Issa Rae said in an interview to look at who is around you–and see who is hungry: those are the people you build with. Those are the people you network with, you pool resources with! This is a process, yes, but it is not impossible.

Think about it:

Who do you see around you?

What do you want to build?

Who do you think other people need to see?

Extend yourself to someone so you can get what you need–so you can be what someone else might need.