The Ancestors Be Watching: Remembering Ida B.

Pulitzer Prize awarded to Ida B. Wells and NYT's 1619 Project ...
“Those who do the murders, write the reports.” -Ida Bell Wells Barnett

Ida Bell Wells is my grandmother. There was a kinship I felt with her when I first saw her face when I was 9 in Ms. Annie Green’s class. It was this classic photo, with this look of “Don’t come for me, ‘less send for you” spoke to me. At that point, I wanted to know everything about her. And I mean everything. It was because of her I wanted to go into journalism! And I thought she was a superhero!

She was brilliant, was a writer in the time where most most Black folk were murdered for trying to pursue education of any sort! Consider these fast facts about the dynamic force that is (and was) Ida Bell Wells:

-daughter of slaves–and she was born one!

-raised her sister after their parents died of Yellow Fever

-Went off on the principal of the school she was at who tried to talk to her crazy (a WHITE man in a position of authority AT THAT), and put her out of the school.

-she refused to give up her seat in a railroad car BEFORE Plessy v. Ferguson (May 1884, Plessy v. Ferguson was in 1896!).

-One of the founding 4 members of the NAACP

-Investigated lynchings IN THE CITIES THEY HAPPENED IN.

*-She sued the railroad this incident happened on and won a $500 settlement. The Tennessee Court overturned this decision. It was this incident that caused her to start writing.

She wrote for US, mane. She confronted racism, called out the bullshit that is perpetuated through traditional white feminism which lead to the illest thing she did to let these (white) suffragettes know she wasn’t the one. What do I mean? Peep this (thank you to The Atlantic for this piece):

“Seen through the lens of Wells’s life, the history is sobering: When Wells traveled to Washington, D.C., to march with the Illinois delegation in the suffrage parade of 1913, the group’s leaders asked her to move to the back of the parade with the other black women. (She ignored these instructions and took her place with the white marchers anyway, Giddings writes.) In an earlier incident, when Wells was heckled during a lecture in Rochester, New York, NAWSA President Susan B. Anthony leapt up from the audience in defense of Wells, declaring that African Americans faced racism in the North as well as the South—only to illustrate her own point when she confided to Wells that she’d excluded black people from joining her organization or even speaking at its events for fear of alienating southern white women from the cause. According to Giddings, Anthony rationalized that issues of racial inequality could be better addressed once white women had the vote, the ends of her strategy thus justifying the means. (Wells, who on most points admired Anthony, respectfully disagreed.)”

My feeling has always been God knew the fight Black women writers would have and was gracious enough to give us Ida Bell Wells Barnett. We needed her. We still need her. And I am grateful I can put her name in any search engine on any part of the world and she is accessible. So, to have her awarded the Pulitzer Prize almost 90 years after her passing? I don’t know how to feel about this.

As a writer, I am happy! I am glad she has gotten the recognition she deserves. The part of me that is woman and Black is like, “Posthumously?! Really bih?!” Why do I feel that way? This nation loves to honor ‘acceptable’ Black folk, and ignore the living Black folk doing the same work! I am mad at this, fam! I am upset because for all her work, for all her power, for all her talent and insistence on justice, the powers that be decide to award her almost a century of her being in the ground! I feel like this is the nation spitting on her grave, walking over it, and then planting flowers!

But, what do I know? I’m just a Black woman writer–who subscribes to the gospel according to Ida B:  “I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” Sometimes the best way to free yourself, and other people as Toni Morrison says, is to get a pen.

God and Ida gave me one. My job is to keep giving it to other people. With smooth ink, and no chaser.

[Image from TheGroit.com]

Thinking I’m Grown: Shoulders (How I Stand)

I remember the first time where I realized I was tall. Like, when I knew I was tall. Oddly, I was never thee tallest girl in my class! The most uncomfortable thing about being tall was that people were always looking at me. Being soft spoken on top that? I was a magnet for bullying when I got to middle school and high school.

I was more awkward than the Awkward Black Girl the brilliant Issa Rae says she was! I mean I stuck out everywhere! Being a tall girl, with unmanagable hair and glasses didn’t make me forgettable from 6th through 8th grade. I had bigger things to worry about (back then) than fashion and hair! The fact is, I was over or about 5 feet tall in 5th grade. By the time I graduated high school, I was 5’10”.

The other thing that made me so much more self-conscious was the fact I had excema. This means I have sensitive skin, and it is prone to rashes. What I learned later in my teenage years was the condition is aggravated by heat and stress. I had rashes on my body in some form or another on my body from the time I was 5 or 6.

I never felt totally comfortable in my skin. I never felt good enough to truly only my body as it was–flaws and all. And when I began to? I was told the good and better thing to do would be to cover up. I was told that showing off my body (at the time mid-drift shirts had come back into fashion), was not the thing to do. Ergo, ‘only fast girls where things like that.’ Even when I began to go out clubbing and dating, I didn’t wear a lot of revealing clothes! Not that I was a prude with no fashion sense, I wasn’t comfortable–in my own skin, or showing it another.

In being a mother now, I have had to subdue that fear. I had to be able to be confident in myself in order to give the same confidence to my children–namely daughters. I had to realize the mean comments told to me by meaner children, and uglier boys was had to be uprooted. I had to remember that children are children, and children are mean in certain contexts or situations. I remember there was a boy named, Jarron, during my Junior year of high school that called me ugly in the hallway. I remembered this other boy named Tony that called the ‘fashion police’ on me because of an outfit I wore and followed me up the breezeway, pretending to be a siren behind me.

Looking back at this through the vantage point of over 20 years, I can see how dumb these little dusty boys were! I can see how people whom have nothing else to do or which will await them in life, will try to hurt everyone else around them. As they do so, they will think nothing of it. Yet, these are the same people whom will try and friend you on Facebook, or see you at the high school reunion and think nothing of speaking to you. Why? They will claim “That was so long ago! I don’t even think about it!”

Must be nice, I suppose. What you did to someone being ‘funny’ causes someone to kill themselves or withdraw, and then you think nothing about it? It is those experiences also which allowed to keep my friendship circle small, and enjoy my own company.

What being tall, being a target and being awkward taught me radical empathy. It taught me to be patient, and value real friendship. It taught me to stop slouching, especially when it came to my Senior year. It allowed me to think beyond the ‘4 best years of my life.’ This situation, in this body, allowed me to stand up for myself as well–and making my space hard to get into.

[image Typorama]

Pay Chadwick Boseman. Period.

Tony Stark could never.

I was doing all in my power to leave this one alone. I was. I truly was. The world is burning faster than my hands can keep up with! Yet, there is something about this situation which has lit a fuse in me. Not that such fuses are foreign to me–but it’s the sheer fact that it is happening–and I am witnessing this.

As a fan of comics, I went to go see Black Panther opening night. I saw it 4 times. I critiqued it. I wrote about it. And I still believe the White Savior narrative flies in the face of the contributions of Princess Shuri. But the thing which has bothered me about this current situation is what I heard Taraji P. Henson talk about in her book Around The Way Girl.

Hollywood does not like to pay Black actors.

Chadwick Aaron Boseman is the only person I can see ever portraying this current permutation of King T’Challa. This Black man lead and Black ensemble cast in thee Blackest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. This movie made over a billion dollars, and was directed by the stunningly talented Mr. Ryan Coogler. In hearing the may be replaced, our King T’Challa–who gave Cap his shield and came back from The Snap!–Marvel wants to replace him? Why is this?

Money.

Effing Money.

Bruce Wayne could never, you hear me?!

I suppose this is one of the reasons Tobey Maguire didn’t do another Spider-Man movie. Yet! He is still counted as one of the actors who portrayed the beloved Peter Parker on screen! I don’t want Chadwick replaced! I don’t want Marvel to be this stupid! As much money as this movie made ($1.344 billion dollars, by the way!), are you seriously considered not paying Chadwick Boseman! What part of the game is this!  is a form of erasure! You can’t just TAKE T’Challa–and then have someone lined up!

Just how all these super fans were all in a raucous over MJ being BLACK, I am in an uproar because Marvel is considering not paying a major character whom happens to be BLACK! I have a feling if Stan Lee where here this wouldn’t be happening. Where is the petition for this one?!

I’ll wait–because Imma sign it first!

[images from alphacoders.com and Pinterest.com]

30 Days Of Jaye: Final Reflections

This month has been catharic.

It has allowed me to explore further my love of writing, especially poetry. In my personal canon, there are about 300 poems. Some haven’t seen the light of other screens or been published. There was a time when I thought this gift was gone, so it is amazing and humbling to share a portion of my work with you all! I hope that you enjoyed it. I hope that you quoted it! I hope it reminded you of your own desire to write, or reignited a love for poetry. I hope my works were added to your personal library and conversation. I hope you loved the tour around this portion of my writing world, and I hope you will stay. while.

You all are now members of this corner of the universe, and shall always be welcome.

Fare well, dear ones.

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

30 Days Of Jaye: Firestarter

For the other side of my fandom, I founded the site The Ideal Firestarter in 2016–12 years after this poem was written. Click here to follow that portion of Black Girl Magic. You won’t regret it, I promise! Be a cool kid and become a Torch! -JBHarris

she in her essence is

a force of nature,

it cannot be explained

nor contained

she is as sleek

as a fox and faster

than light, she is

a breathing phenomena

heartbreak, pain, and

disappointment engulf her

and she smolders in the

embers and ashes

flames seem to have

engulfed her and made

her no more…then the

stirring begins

seemingly benign breezes

ruffle the ashes that linger

in suffering’s wake…

They begin to enkindle

all the lies lifeless there

the sparks begin to

burst into lingering

lapping flames…these

are fed lustily by breezes

that turn into vying winds

that fuel such flames

the heat begins to restore

her

these combusting forces

renew her, restore and

heal her….

They clear her mind

and enliven her blood

her eyes become sharper

and her form more chic

than before

the resulting inferno

causes her to become

stronger than she once

was

while immersed within

this blaze, her faith

is confirmed and concentrated

arms outstretched and eyes

closed she allows the element

to do its work, for she is a

part if it, as it is a part of her

once she moves from this

cocoon of simulated hellfire

she will be more formidable

than she was before

make no mistake,

she cannot be destroyed

or extinguished, she

will arise as long

as there lies the spark

within her, deeply rooted

she will never be conquered

-Jennifer Bush ((now Harris) age 22) June 16, 2004

30 Days Of Jaye: Elicit

Sleep be stayed…

Give me more of this

that I have wished and given

my soul for,

let the angels bare witness

to my devouring

let my pleadings coat his ears,

my taste on his lips and

rest on all of him that is utterly

male and in defiance of my

moans of cessation

let my no’s be his yes and

take me as I am, as I wish to always be

make me his

let me remain here

let me stay in this inferno that we

have created in these moments and in the ones

that follow

let sleep ever be elusive from me

let me be subject to him

and belong to none but him

let his desire and his lust for me

be my healing balm

let his hands be ruthless in his pursuit of me

in his thrusting in and out of me

let me be his

prayer cannot be used to soothe

such aches and neither will I permit it to

he is all I need

Jennifer Bush (now Harris) age 23, January 26, 2005-personal canon

30 Days Of Jaye: Empty Eyes of Longing…

This one is a favorite as well–haunting and sweet. I was told at this time (a decade and some ago!) to start submitting my work. And I was too scared to do so. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time. But now? The kid is shopping for an agent. This one is found in the Love Songs Of The Unrequited, Volume 2. Click here to pick it up on Amazon and Kindle. -JBHarris

Try as I have to

forget the love that

I no longer possess

it seems that I never

will be able to

such ambitions drive

me to thoughts of what

was, and what the future

may hold

when I think that I have

found solace and the

nuance of and old love

remenants of what my

heart holds dear appear

wishing this suffering

were to end, and it will

only end when I am

in your arms, safe with

you once more

the core of me stirs

at the mentions of

you and my spirit

embraces every new

moment I am fortunate

to have with you

who is before me

is not what my heart

enjoys, I have drowned

in these familar oceans

before…the torrents were

enveloping and unstable,

and the more passionate

the strokes were to free

myself…the more I was

swept away into beckoniing

waves

now that I have felt

firm shore, and the

gentle waves that

have carried me to it,

I have no desire to return

to the treacherous waters

that I know all too well

I have felt the warmth

of the sun after it being

hidden from me in murky

depths

I have embraced this

fledgling stablily as well

as the one that led me

to these healing waters

my mind has not grown

weary, but sharper as

I wonder in this new land

with renewed strength and

vision

I want the one

that has given me

such vigor and

passion, and desire

again, and I will

not settle for less.

-Jennifer Bush (now Harris) age 22–June 20, 2004

30 Days Of Jaye: Incarnate

to be such a restless

creature in the everyday

is one of the perplexing

thing of her

she is never content in

what she has, or what she

may want

she has a constant need

for more, there is an innate

drive within her depths that

even she at her core does not

fully understand

how could she?

ideas of how to be

faster, sleeker, smarter

than the rest rob her

of sleep, when all that

she desires is peace

that far-off foreign thing

an elusive bedfellow

to rest,

not sleep…just to rest

to have the world fall away

and her with it and into it

quiet of oblivion

longing for such a minute

and intimate thing

denied her for so long

for so long

the weight of baring such

strength has burdened her soul

fully, such things costing her the

softness that is possessed of her kin

to no longer fight for what

is rightfully hers to grasp and keep

 to breathe deep…and finally exhale

-JenniferBush (now Harris) age 23) November 10, 2004-personal canon

30 Days Of Jaye: Golden Girl

In looking at the date on this piece, my oldest daughter was born exactly 3 years later. I am humbled. –JBHarris

health and beauty

strength and love,

I have so many things given

to me and to be thankful for

now I’m wondering when my life

becomes mine, if my dreams,

faith and hopes are misplaced, when

will I truly be able to become

whom I was meant, for whom I was

meant for

I have lived for other

people and their dreams for me,

for the better part of my years,

more than I would want to remember

I have fulfilled my obligations as

as child and continue to do that daily

In essence, I have not begun to live yet. When will I?

I must make the

decision to step from my

comfort and dip into the unknown

to embrace the new and foreign

regardless of whom may think what…

I want the only opinion that matters to be mine

I have decided to take off this shroud

that I donned so willingly,

perhaps unwillingly for several years now…

I have stalled my growth in favor of

other’s happiness and comfort

at what cost?

At what cost?

Live in its true intent

and purpose is a journey

one that can be survived, so why fear?

I have all that I need within me

I am able to do all that I wish

with He that Is All

let the whispers and laughs come

let the doubts be raised,

I have oceans to see, stars to count…

I must live…by MY rules.

Jennifer Bush (now Harris) age 23) September 1, 2004– personal canon