The Matter Of The Daughter Of Clifford Harris

The Black body is a constant source of policing.

The Black, female body is a constant source of policing, shaming and control.

I wrote a mini series about this called, For A Fast Girl, earlier this year. Click here for that. It is 5-parts, and I encourage you to read that–and come back to this.

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Welcome back!

When I first heard this story, I thought it was a whole joke. I heard about this, and I thought that people had to be playing. The fact that this happened, this happened to a Black girl, a Black woman–as a Black woman–is triggering! It makes me feel a mixture of rage, sadness, and embarrassment.

First thing:  Deyjah Harris is 18.

On the podcast, Ladies Like Us, Clifford (No, he will not be referred to as T.I. or TIP here) was saying how he goes to gynecologist visits with his daughter. Okay, I can ride with that. Let her be responsible for her own body. My first gynecologist visit was when I was 17. My mother was a nurse, an L & D nurse, and wanted to make sure I knew she knew I would not be under her roof always. Meaning, I got a Pap Smear (part of Well-Woman Exam), and my mom got me a script for Birth Control pills.

Me:  “Mom! But I’m not doing anything!”

Mom:  “Just in case you are.”

That was the extent of that. My mother knew that as much as she wanted me to remain a virgin/wait till I got married/wait for true love. The fact is, I was 17. Teenagers make stupid mistakes! She would rather me be safe than sorry. That, and she didn’t want me to be a teenage mother. This is also the woman that told me, and I am quoting damn near verbatim:  “You better stay a virgin till you leave my house! I’m an old L&D nurse:  I know what to look for.”

 

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Bruh, I was not prepared to test that. So I didn’t.

But no, my mother–MY MAMA!–still didn’t come into that examination room with me. She didn’t ask my GYN if my hymen was broken. She didn’t ask if I was still a virgin. She turned the control of my body, over to me.

Now, I cannot speak for the goings-on at the Harris Household in Atlanta, but the Bush household? My mother was aware of all goings-on as it relates to her daughters. I cannot speak for the quality of motherhood that Tameka “Tiny” Harris has given to her daughter, but I will say this. Tiny needs to remind Clifford that the only vagina he needs to be concerned about is hers. All others–including these outside chicks he’s dealt with!–he need not be concerned about.

Deyjah is grown. Deyjah is 18. Deyjah is in college.

If she wasn’t a virgin (an intact hymen is not concrete proof that a girl has not been penetrated), was was he going to do?

The thing that I cannot ride with is him asking the doctor to make sure her hymen is in tact. I cannot ride with him asking the doctor for ‘his results.’ I cannot ride with the fact that after a birthday party, he put ‘Gyno’ on a post-it where she could see it. The fact that he considers his daughter’s body property? That is unsettling to me.

Here is why.

This behavior is the same shit that I grew up in! And I am now 20 years older than 18. Clifford is the type of dude now that he has all this money, can’t no body tell him nothing! He figures he can move in an around the world as he sees fit, because money (ergo, power) insulates him!

In the clip heard through here through the YouTube Channel, King Of Reads, the played details exactly what Clifford said. And how serious he is about this. Keep in mind, this same energy isn’t given to his sons when they start having sex! I don’t remember any news about Clifford taking his sons for STD testing, or making videos on teaching them proper condom techniques! There is nothing in the news about when his sons break the hymens of other women’s daughters, or other men’s daughters.

The Urban Prophet Nasir Jones, said it best on his Life Is Good album–the track, Daughters: God gets the ‘foulest players, and heartbreaker’s by giving them girls. I believe that. The hosts of the show are heard giggling as he is detailing what lengths dude has gone to in policing his daughter’s virginity.

They giggled.

They laughed, as if they couldn’t believe it

They didn’t challenge this.

 

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Perhaps, they have never been called ‘fast.’ Perhaps they had never been told the body you have is a temptation to weak men, and it is your fault if something happens to you in regards to rape, accosting or molestation. Maybe they have never been the victim of a father telling a doctor to ‘check her hymen’ and ‘give me my results.’ Perhaps they have never been told that the body they walk through the world in isn’t theirs. That is both weapon and distraction. The giggling was acrid.

Toxic patriarchy is acrid. And it grows putrid flowers that have the toxic ambrosia of hubris powered by influence! There is something so insidious about what he did to her; what social media is dragging him for; what the internet is doing–to her.

This type of policing of the female form  is often seen in countries where religious regimes are in power. Where women are chattel, to be possessed–as they are feral, wild and more animal that human.

This ain’t cute, Clifford! This ain’t cute, Tameka!

I know there are people that will champion what he did, what he is doing, and will say those that feel as I do are ‘overreacting.’ Or say, ‘these girls are fast and they need their fathers to be involved in their lives!’ I know there will be people whom will say that I, and those that feel as I do, which will dismiss my opinion. That is their right.

Ignoring something that does not make it more palatable. Does not make it vanish. It does not make it less easy to address. Cancer that you ignore, becomes metastatic–meaning it spreads! Bell Hooks said that patriarchy has no gender. I agree.

I am in full support of fathers being involved in the lives of their children. I am in favor of fathers being knowledgeable of how their children’s bodies work. The world is a dangerous, dark and evil place. But, this? Like this? No.

When does a Black woman own her own body? Someone needs to let me know.

 

[Top image from TMZ, middle image-Twitter, last image-AZ Quotes.com]

 

From Here To Eternity–‘Harriet’ And This Pushback

It has been 24 hours since the release of the Kari Lemmon’s film ‘Harriet’ . In my hiatus from Facebook, I peeked back through my personal Facebook this afternoon. And I wish I hadn’t.

In reeling from what is a powerful movie-going experience, I have seen people, be there own movie/literary/history  critics. This is to be expected through:  this same mob did the same thing when the MCU movie Black Panther was released. Granted, King T’Challa is not Harriet Tubman Davis! T’Challa is from the imagination of a team of writers and artists, two being Stan Lee and  Christopher Priest.

In looking through my timeline, I found a Facebook friend whom is an activist, an agitator and one that encourages people to think and look deep. The things that I saw which were jarring was the historical holes being drop kicked into the movie.

The main historian found was a White woman (Oh?!)

They thought the movie was too sympathetic to White people. (How?)

They didn’t think that Black bounty hunters were a thing, and one young woman tweeted this same historian, asking her about the incident of Black bounty hunters and how rare there were in the time period and location they were at. In turn, this historian blocked her.  (Aight, sis.)

Let me say this. And let me be hella frank.

Movie making, especially for biopics, of anyone–especially period pieces like this—is hard. It’s hard. And then you have this little matter of Reception Theory. Most things in media are run through this lens, consisting of three parts: the age of the audience, the mood by which they will watch/read what is to be criticized, the viewer’s/reader’s expectations.

These things are unavoidable.

Now, with that said, let me offer this as well.

Do I think the historian, or main historians of this film should have been White? No.

Do I think that Black bounty hunters exist, and existed in the North? Yes. I believe this just like my father believed that there were Black people on the Titanic! Just because something is rare, does not mean that something did not occur. The fact this historian blocked someone that asked a question is ridiculous. If you stand by your work, you should be able to answer questions about it!

Do I think that the film is ‘sympathetic’ to White people? Not at all. There is a brutality that is depicted in the movie that breaks up the romanticism some Black folk have with slavery! Not everyone wanted to be free. Not everybody wanted to run. Not everyone was built to run. Not everyone trusted a woman to lead them to somewhere they had never been.

Case in point:

On her first mission in the movie where she had to leave John in Maryland when she found out he had taken another wife. Her brother didn’t want to follow her, because she had ‘spells’, and didn’t trust her to follow her through the river water!  Now, in the myriad of books written about this woman in century following her death, you cannot tell me something like this might not have happened! What is known is in being a Conductor for the Underground Railroad, and one of the few women whom were a Conductor, she put her life at risk over and over and over again!

Let me also defend the this work for a moment. Do I believe more could have been done for the success of the movie? Yes. I think Kari Lemmon’s took artistic license with the movie, and that is to be expected. However, with the tweets of Cynthia Erivo–a Black British woman–regarding Black people in America, while being chosen to be cast as the most famous Black woman in American history outside of Ida B. Wells Barnett, Michelle Obama, Toni Morrison, Mary McCleod Bethune, that, too, is disconcerting.

As a director,  Kari wanted Cynthia. So, Cynthia stayed.

Do I think that what Cynthia said was appropriate? No. Do I think that should have eliminated her from the running to be Harriet Tubman? No.

Cynthia Erivo needs to understand that we as a people, on these lands and shores, do no play about our culture, or our heroes! It is obscene for her to say what she said, and for her to think no one would have anything to say. This is HARRIET TUBMAN we are talking about!

In the historical scholarship, and the researching, and who wanted to be a part of what–we can Monday morning quarterback this all we want. Just like with the Black folk on the Titanic, there may have been people whom did not want to be a part of this project. This is a reality when it comes to literature, art and film. There may not be people who could, and may have pulled out. However, the offers should have been made to historians whom were Black first! This film should have been as Black as humanly possible–from the director and financiers to Craft services. 

With this said, what y’all not about about to do is kill Mother Harriet all over again!  Y’all not about to try and drag Cynthia Erivo for what she said (and has apologized for), and discount this incredible performance. Y’all not about to shade this movie because you cannot fathom that there are folk–enslaved folk– that didn’t want to ‘go to freedom with Moses’! Whom history swore up and down could not have been a woman, let alone a Black woman, whom was a runaway slave!

Y’all are not about to discount this work because there are details thought too broad to accept–like Black bounty hunters. Like God couldn’t have possibly been talking to her during these ‘spells’.

Is ‘Harriet’ problematic? On levels, it sure is. Film-making often is. There will always be controversy. In my opinion, it’s not sympathetic to White people either!

Just like you all come for Kari Lemmons, come for Martin Scorsese when he was using ‘nigger’ boldly in his early movies (namely Taxi Driver and Mean Streets; these are considered classic movies!). That is problematic, too.  Come for your Baby Mommas whom you say is crazy, but you still sleep with her. Come for your Baby Daddy that you say ain’t shit, but you still give him tax money. You go to your problematic job, because they pay you when all matter of shenanigans is happening around you!

Keep that same energy.

Come for those whom are immediately problematic in your circle, before you reach outside of it!

Moreover, let us examine why there are theaters right now–after the nationwide release—aren’t even showing ‘Harriet’! One of these cities in San Antonio!

In the area of media (the arts, film and literature) do lack diversity in the areas of directing, actors and production. This can only be changed through opportunities given to those able to create media willing to support Black art in all its endeavors! For once, can we as a community mean what we say when we say support!

Mean what you say, and say what you mean.

Go see the movie. Go support Black writers and directors. Go see ‘Harriet.’

 

Movie Review: HARRIET

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I will admit this to you, dearest ones.

I wanted to go see Harriet, but I was scared. I was! I truly was. I knew that I was going to go, but there was a fear in me. I knew who Harriet Tubman was. I knew who Harriet Tubman is. I also know she died at 91 on the same day my mother would be born on not even 50 years later.

To be exact:  it was 37 years later.

I have felt a kinship to this woman all of my life!

I wanted this woman, this woman whom I considered a part of my family, of the bloodline that gave me my mother, to be honored right. I needed that. I needed this biopic to be honest, genuine and let’s face it–magical. 

I watched this movie with my daughters, whom are biracial and my husband whom is so apologetically Black. From the outset of this movie, from the music and the first shot of the movie–I wanted to cry.

I wanted to cry because I was transported.

I saw the heart of the director beating in every shot of this movie. The director, Kasi Lemmon, is from St. Louis. As am I. I understand that Harriet Tubman’s womanhood, her humanity, is not often discussed when her biography is told. I know she was married; I knew she was a conductor for the Underground Railroad; I knew she was a Union spy, suffered from epilepsy and narcolepsy from a weight being thrown at her–cracking her skull when she was about 13.

I knew this as walking around knowledge. I knew this woman as if she were my own grandparent. As if she were my grandmother, not the one I had–Arceal.

In seeing this movie, how Kasi Lemmon wove the fiction into the historical into the research, my heart soared! I felt like I, too, was in the movie. That I was transported not even 200 years past the Emancipation, towards and in a world that me being Black equated to captivity. A world where the children that I bore to their White father would have been considered property and their mother property as well.

I saw Harriet Tubman not as just an ‘American legend’, but a damn superhero! There was something to seeing this woman, this woman I had only seen in my imagination and history books, movies provided by my mind’s eye, embodied in the dynamic Cynthia Erivo. In seeing her, seeing Harriet, seeing my ancestor-mother (the woman that crossed over on the day God would give me my mother), appearing in the doors of an Underground Railroad station with groups of people–weary, wounded and tired. But free!

But free! The movie shows her.  

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Her missions, her family, the risks she took, what she lost, the master-slave dynamics and politics–it’s all here.  At the end of the movie, we have facts concerning the rest of her life post-Underground Railroad. Things that I knew, even the raid she headed with the Union Army in 1863!

It’s there. It’s all there. Even if there is some things that are embellished for the sake of movie magic. It didn’t even matter.

It didn’t matter.

I cried.

My daughter held on to me, to hold me up. Every part of me descended from women whom were stolen, men that were lynched, and the people who couldn’t and didn’t read and would die not knowing their descendant would master 26 letters of a language they were not born knowing when my line first started.

I wanted to cry. I wanted howl.

I mean howl like something in me had died…or was aching to get out. Her last words on this Earth, this Earth in those last days she couldn’t or didn’t walk on–yet she traversed, traveled and scorched for so many–she is recorded to have said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

The tears I had swallowed, crested out of my eyes. And I pulled my body straight and I cried. I did the ‘Mama cry.’ Meaning I cried a little bit, until I could cry a whole lot, and keep going.

But thinking, in looking in hindsight, I wondered what Harriet, what my ancestor-mother, the one that crossed over  on the day my mother would be given to me, felt. What she saw. And in the midst of loss–how she kept going.

I looked at my daughters, square in the face, and told them to never let anyone tell them what they cannot do. Ever. It was then where this woman, utterly formidable, became as real to me as my mother, my aunts and grandmother.

This movie, for a moment, gave me a glimpse at my grandmother, my mother, and me. This movie, for an instant, gave me my grandmother back.

Harriet Tubman was a superhero. And it is time the world remembered that.

 

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Thank you, Harriet. Thank you, Mama. Thank you,Grandma. Thank you. 

 

[images from Google. The final photo is Harriet Tubman herself, at age 91.]

Week 11- Take A Deep Breath, And Look Around

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“Don’t die with your dream in you.”

-My Mom, Bessie Bush

My chord for Sigma Tau Delta will be arriving soon. I have to order my stole for my father’s fraternity will be ordered next week. I have my cap, gown, with tassel on said cap, hanging up in my hall closet.

I checked my grades after midterm and I have 1 A and 2 B’s–which may turn into 3 A’s. Right now? Your girl is coasting!

I am 6 weeks out from my degree, going back to work full time, and from taking the GRE for grad school.

This week, I am taking the time to count up the wins. My wins. I’m forgiving myself for what I did, should have done, and what I knew I should have done before now.

Y’all know the story.

I’ve been writing since 8. Wanted to be an English professor at 16. Wanted to go to NYU. Mom said she wouldn’t pay. My Dad died at 17. In abusive relationship for 3 years. At 22, I couldn’t write. Met a guy that started my heart–and gift–again.

Got married to a dude I didn’t really love like I should have. He got mad at me reading for fun, for finishing my education. For keeping myself up. Had not 1 but 2 kids by a dude that–and I promise this is true–had to cheat to get his GED!

My heart wanted to write. But I had to feed my kids. I ran after being a nurse from 18 to 33.

I journaled to keep my sanity.

I took English classes to offset the rigor of the science I took.

And now? I’m back where I am supposed to be. Should have been. Need to be. Needed to be.

I am a woman of faith, so I believe in destiny. I believe in the plan of God for my life, and have seen it work in these last 11 weeks. I have seen my destiny wide, and sweet an.

Friends, Romans & Those Of The Growing Tribe

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Dearest Ones,

On the eve of NaNoWriMo, I come with cool announcements. At the pressing of the universe, I am setting up a mailing list in December. Why? The time has come dearest ones. It truly has.

December 2019 is the foretaste of all things [officially] JBHarris in 2020 going forward. So, here is what you can expect:

 

1.) More Writing.  This is is gimmie. The clip that I am on, I need the space. If you follow the email list, you will be abreast of all updates, new work and release information.

 

2.) Collaboration Info. As you all know I do not write in a vacuum. There are other writers I work with, and want to work with me. So, since you love me like you do, the best thing I could do is to let you see behind the scenes stuff! It’s already lit.

 

3.) Professional Stuff.  There are things that I am working on now that I can’t go into now, but I will next year. I will be freelancing and creating, of course. But there are other professional opportunities that are coming, being given, and that are being thrust upon me. Being apart of the mailing list will keep you abreast of everything.

 

I know that you’re thinking about what I’m going to name this Email list, and what I’ll call this emerging tribe of you beautiful people that follow me. Well, since I am a fan of Cersei Lannister, the Mother of Dragons. And the blog is I Breathe Fire., I’m toying with two of them:

Option 1:   Email list:  The Desk of JBHarris

 

Option 2:   Email List:  The Pen of JBHarris

 

Followers:  Raconteurs. Google it.  That or Dragons. Not sure yet. But watch this space, dearest ones. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

On The Matter Of These 1990’s Remakes….

 

I was born in 1981. When 1990’s began, I was 9 1/2. When the 1990’s ended, I was headed towards 18 1/2. And since then, this resurgence of all things 90210, The Craft, Aladdin, the Lion King, and Child’s Play, I can’t help but feel all my 38 years! I even heard there was/is a Clueless remake that might have Stacey Dash in the starring role!

Moreover, there is a Punky Brewster remake coming with Soleil Moon Frye!

Bruh.

Part of me is enthused for this level of nostalgia, while another wishes these kids would leave our stuff alone!

Not that cartoons and other pop culture is sacrosanct, but there are tender memories that go along with these shows. Not just for me, but other people as well! I mean, I remember when the season finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer aired. I remember where I was when I first saw The Craft, and Scream and watching Aladdin with my little brother and sister.

As a writer, as a creative person, I get why you want to revamp. I get why you want to reimagine something for a new generation.

I also get that it all comes down to money!

But in the re-imagining, it is a further call for writers of color, Black writers to occupy this space with new stories to tell. With other interpretations of things now seen as classic. While at Books-A-Million today–looking for another book mind you!–I saw an entire portion of a shelf next to African-American bios and fiction which was empty. My daughter in all her 12-year-old snark, told me, “Write your books, Mommy, they have space!”

Indeed, there is space.

It’s cool that you all want to redo Charmed, Clueless and Punky Brewster. But just like Wicked is a take on The Wizard Of Oz, give Black writers and creatives the chance to turn the world upside down with a pen too.

 

Diversity, visibility is always trendy.

 

 

Happy Halloween!

 

Trick-Or-Treat!

Here is my take on The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Enjoy, dearest ones. Click here to listen to The Deacon’s Girl.

Click here to follow Nightlight:  The Black Horror Podcast. The podcast is available on Google Play and Apple Podcasts.

 

Enjoy!

Listen to the end to hear the interview I have with the host, Tonia Thompson.

 

Image taken from NASA:  this image of the sun was taken this week! It looks like a jack-o-lantern.