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]

 

Always On Pointe, Black Girl…

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“Black women take care of Black women.” -Ashley Yates

 

Always.

she has been the chic,

the sturdy,

the fresh,

and fly one–

trendsetting as sunsets,

as bold as full moons.

Never stopping to check

for whom is not checking

for her.

In this body, walking

through this world as

magic, melanin, and millenniums

the rocks cry out

for me, for us, and the we

hidden in the magic

of our wombs.

It is the grace of our feet

and the rhythm in our sway

which carry us towards destiny

and the legacy meant for us.

Unmovable.

Unshakable.

Believing in us and each other.

Always.

-JBHarris, 10.15.19

 

This poem will be included in the new book–For A Black Girl, release for June 2020.

[image from the Facebook page Black Positivity by Kimmie Carlos]

No More Mammying: Give That B**ch A Brush!

 

 I really want Amber Guyger to prison forever.

I don’t want to hear about appeals, how her Mama feel about her being locked up, I don’t want to hear any defense to her indefensible shit.

Yesterday, after the year-held sigh of relief at her murder conviction was expelled, what followed next was unexpected. As with social situations like this, my social media was alight. My inbox my alerted, and what I saw was a Mammie in baliff’s uniform.

Now, for those of you that are new to this corner of the righteous, woke, well-read Black innanet, there are certain stereotypes which follow Black people:  Mammie (some people spell it Mammy), tragic mulatto, wench, Sapphire.  A Mammie/Mammy is this Black woman that lives to serve, cooking and cleaning and tending White children. They are seen as these superheroes without personal desires, depth or personhood independent of that which is given from a White gaze or narrative.

Yes, Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind is a Mammy. That was her name in the credits. Scarlett O’Hara probably had a wet nurse who was probably a Mammy–and was probably in the personhood of Hattie McDaniel.

But let’s move on.

The fact that Amber Guyger is convicted of murder made me smile and cry. The fact that sis is smoothing her hair after she is convicted of murder or someone that could have really been this Black female balliff’s son? I was outraged. In seeing that, I cried out, “Get that bitch a brush!”

There aren’t enough surviving, ambitious reticent Mammies to coddle all the misbehaving White women in this nation that need release and relief! I refuse to believe that was an accident–and that 15 second clip has gone viral in the matter of 24 hours!

However, the thing that is not discussed, or scrutinized as heavily is the Black Dallas PD officer that defended what Amber Guyger did! As always, the brunt and blame fall to Black women. That is unfair, and is not right and we need to talk about this.

For the Black officer that vouched for Amber Guyger. You are trash, fam. You are so trash that you cannot even be sat out with the other trash! The fact of the matter is he testified as a token–I said what I said. I don’t take it back.

What needs to be discussed is the relationship some Black men have to power especially in the proximity and association to/with white supremacy. As the Urban Prophet TI said, “If the con is good, I ain’t supposed to see it!”

I see this con–I see this.

And I have seen it before! And over and over again!

What is not often discussed is the history of the Fraternal Order of Police. If you know your history, you know that modern policing (and its methods) are based in fugitive slave law practices–namely the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. If you are a student of history, for every press towards the high mark towards equality, the police have done two things:  stymie and enforce. Stymie the progress of minorities (whomever they may be). Enforce the narrative and wishes of their masters–keep all the people that scare us, whom we have harmed, whom we stole from, whom make my wife nervous is public in check–by any (deadly) means necessary.

You need only look at recent history to see that–how the police are used as a mitigating force between the good white folk and the meddling, needy outsiders who trouble the ruling classes for freedom, justice and to the pursuit of happiness.

How dare they?!

This is deeper than any “Blue Wall.” This is deeper than just trying to be a comfort to this murdering police officer! This construct of serving and protecting has racist roots from a poisonous tree! As the prosecutor said before the jury came back yesterday, “Convicting her doesn’t mean that you hate the police.” Just as me giving observation and asking questions doesn’t mean I hate the police.

The fact is, police need policing! The current permutation of law enforcement still needs an overhaul. Is it better than it was a century ago? Yes. But there is still so much further to go. The fact that this bailiff mammied to her, and she is vilified for it is one thing. But the sole onus of the chaos of this trial is not to be carried by this 15 second action! What we will not do is make her carry all this water by herself! The Black officer that agreed to vouch for what she did–saying she did everything her training said she could–needs to be drug a little bit as well!

What we miss in times of upheaval like this is the real enemy is the institutional, systemic and oppressive racism steeped and held in place by white supremacy! Amber Guyger killed a man in his house while eating a bowl of ice cream he bought, while on his couch, minding his business! She gets on the stand and cries (what most basic White women do after they have been caught doing something) and says how sorry she is. And people are supposed to comfort her, because that is what society tells us to do!

No.

Amber stood flat-footed and shot him, so she can stand flat-footed and take these years the jury is about to give her. Don’t be distracted at Sis that smoothed her hair. Don’t be distracted at the turcoat fam on the stand. The game is afoot, Watson. And the con is exposed. You cannot help but see it now.

So since you see it, and I see it, and we see it, then let’s dismantle it.

Learn the game so you can play it better.

The Women You Least Expect

Author Note: I am a cisgender, heterosexual woman married to a cisgender heterosexual man. As a woman acknowledging my own privilege, I can no longer be silent about the murder of transwomen, especially Black transwomen.

I am a fan of two specific YouTube Channels: JahairasMission and DiamondStylz. In finding out these women were trans, didn’t allow me to see them any different. What the vessel of YouTube has allowed is for me to remember this life is not the same for everyone you meet.

In becoming more vocal about this issue was time and personal reflection. I am a fan of Jahaira–she called me her sister in a video she did. I follow Diamond Collier on social media, including the podcast Marsha’s Plate. I adore Janet Mock! And POSE on FX?

YASS. More. Please!

Am I aware of the brutality facing Black transpeople? Transwomen especially? Yes. It is abhorrent to me now as a Black woman, whom is writer and mother, to not say anything! To not add my voice to this conversation. I believe it is in poor taste to love POSE, and not speak out about the murder of Black transwomen.

You cannot have ugly cried when that John killed Candy on POSE and be silent. This is not to say that I’ve been unaware of these murders till recently. No, quite the opposite! What I have done is allowed Black transwomen to lead this conversation. I acknowledge my privilege as a cishet/cis-het woman.

Some spaces just ain’t for me to be the lead voice.

But in listening to Diamond on her podcast Marsha’s Plate, in appreciating everything Janet Mock does, I had a gut check. I don’t celebrate these women as mere Black transwomen. I celebrate them as Black women. That was powerful! In seeing that, recognizing it, I was compelled to say something about the murder of Black transwomen.

With that acknowledgment, I remembered what Diamond said about transwomen needing allies. And, how cis-het women can be trash about being allies. The women whom look like me, whom come to their Black womanhood a different way, need my voice. Not to overtalk or over take, but to add power.

As of this month, there have been 19 Black transwomen murdered in this nation. This is a pandemic! You cannot, should not be allowed to kill someone based on how they believe, need and choose to walk through the world!

I am tired of these arguments that say these women aren’t women, but men. I am tired of hearing transwomen are out here tricking or catfishing men! In weary of the gay-panic defense! Like Ilan Nettles in New York who was murdered: she was clocked by a group of young men and one of those young men killed her! Why? The young men he was with told him that she wasn’t a woman, but a man.

And he killed her!

The disconnect. The callousness. The ignorance.

I understand the part toxic masculinity and patriarchy play in these crimes. Which is why silence about these matters is detrimental! This goes beyond treating someone as you would like to be treated. It goes beyond keeping your hands to yourself.

This pandemic is at fever pitch! Black transwomen are being killed for existing! Existing! And murdered under the guise of ‘I was tricked’ or ‘I’m not gay’ or ‘She a whole man.’ Like that justifies anything!

Pro-tip: it doesn’t!

If I am tired of hearing about the murder of transwomen, I cannot imagine the exhaustion to be a transwoman hearing it! I cannot imagine what it is like to be damn near hunted because of how you walk through the world!

I have never had a moments doubt about being female. I have never looked in the mirror and not seen anything not female. Never. I cannot fathom the pain to look in a mirror and not see who you know are. I cannot imagine, as Laverne Cox did once, death would be the only way the world can acknowledge who you are!

As a mother, all I want to do is wrap my arms around every transwoman that will let me. A hug which will acknowledge and strengthen! A touch that will affirm humanity and visibility. From that bringing in, of us together, my hope is she feel protected. That someone is looking out for her. That I will do all I can to help, assist and support–and know she has a right to exist.

Black transwomen, too, deserve to see the promise of tomorrow! There is enough sun for us all to get some.

[images 1-colorlines.com 2-entertainmentforus.com 3-huffpost.com]

Click here for Diamond’s piece in Essence magazine regarding Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special.

American Girls, Addy & Me

I am almost 40.

This means I am old enough to remember when the American Girl dolls came out. I was in fifth grade and totally enraptured by Samantha. Keeping in mind, the first three dolls (Kristen, Samantha and Molly) were all White. I, ten-year-old girl in St. Louis, was not. It would be 1993 when Addy would be added to the American Girl doll line; with her addition, her story.

I have always played with dolls. My first doll I remember having and taking care of was a female Cabbage Patch doll named Lynn. She was white.

My first Barbie dolls were white.

My godmother got my first Black Barbie when I was in third grade. But throughout my toys in my girlhood, I always had White dolls. There were always more White dolls, and Black dolls were harder to find. If there were ever any.

Seeing Addy as an American Girl, even in reflection, has me sad. I am glad that such representation exists. Yet, my first question is why does she have to be a slave?

Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls—have to be a slave?

We can debate about history, recognition and visibility. We can have the free versus slave argument. We can even debate using Addy as a teaching tool! But the question still is, “Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls– have to be a slave?”

The diaspora of Black people does not have its genesis here on colonized shores, nor will it have its zenith here. Having Addy being this controversial is only a further indication of the chasm that is race relations in this country. The thing which I don’t think we pay enough attention to is the American Girl company was not founded by a Black woman or a person of color. That unique cultural awareness–that mix of representation, honor and sensitivity–was absent.

Just like with the founders of Mattel. The first Black Barbie was sold in 1968–as Christie. But a BLACK BARBIE was not marketed until 1980! I was born one year later. The first Black Barbie I ever remember being given to me was Peaches and Cream Barbie. She was so pretty–but you have to understand. Black dolls, Black Barbies especially were hard to find! I know this was only 30 years ago, on the heels of all things Black:   from Civil Rights, Voting Rights, literature (Roots and Queen by Alex Haley for example), the Cosby Show. Yet, there seemed not enough Black Barbie dolls in St. Louis for every Black girl that wanted one.

So imagine My delight, when I find out American Girl had this doll.

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Who is this girl?

Cécile Rey was the eleventh Historical Character of the American Girls, representing 1850s New Orleans. Cécile was released in 2011 along with Marie-Grace Gardner.

In May 2014 American Girl announced that they would archive Cécile’s entire collection; she, Marie-Grace Gardner, and their collections were archived prior to the BeForever relaunch. Their books remain available for purchase.

Personality and Facts

Cécile comes from a well-to-do and highly regarded family within the New Orleans community. Cécile wishes to become a stage actress, and shows a talent for storytelling, recitation, and poetry when she volunteers her time at the Holy Trinity Orphanage. Unlike Marie-Grace, Cécile is homeschooled.[5] She finds her lessons to be boring and especially dislikes writing. Cécile takes voice lessons with Marie-Grace, but unlike Marie-Grace, she doesn’t feel she’s very good at singing. Cécile is very good at keeping secrets, as she kept both Armand’s and Marie-Grace’s secrets.

Cécile is characterized as being confident, curious, and loving the limelight. She likes to be original. Americangirlpublishing.com describes her as bold. Cécile loves to make others laugh. Cécile is popular and has many friends in contrast with Marie-Grace. Cecile is outgoing and loves parties. One of her dreams was to become a famous actress, and dance at parties every night.

While Cécile can occasionally be outspoken at times, she is also shown to be sensitive and caring, such as teaching Marie-Grace French, spending time with elderly people of color at La Maison, and keeping Armand’s desire to become an artist rather than a stonecutter a secret from Papa. Cécile has also shown interest in distant lands, traveling, and adventures as she loves to hear the exciting adventurous tales her Grandpa tells her and is in awe with Marie-Grace’s experiences.

Cécile is quite interested in clothes and her appearance, and often tries to avoid getting her clothes dirty. For this reason, she’s not too fond of Marie-Grace’s dog Argos, who often has muddy paws.

She is always full of clever ideas and can be quite mischievous.

Her nickname, Cécé, is a diminutive of her full first name.

[taken from Americangirl.fandom.com]

See how deep this goes? See how imperative it is for Black children *to see themselves outside of what is reinforced? I understand not every child was born into such privilege as Cecile but not every Black child was born into chattel slavery either! I can appreciate that American Girl tried to make Addy as connected to her African culture (with her earrings and celebration traditions). I can appreciate that they tried to have Addy be an exception of sorts as it relates to chattel slavery. I can appreciate the effort to try and embody everything an entire culture familiar with erasure would need. The problem is, it wasn’t enough. There was more that was needed.

The doll did not, does not challenge the Master Narrative. Neither should that responsibility be laid on a toy company, or on the plastic soldiers of a doll. Addy began the conversation, but she has only scratched its surface. Leave to a White-loving world to think a Black girl, even a doll, can fix everything.

*-To date (with Cecile included), American Girl Historical Collection only has 3 Black American Girl dolls, 1 Latina doll, 1 Native American doll and two doll which can be classified as a POC.

[images from American Girl fandom]

For My Daughters: Lesson 6-Learn To Rest

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Dearest Ones of My Heart:

 

I want you to remember it is okay to rest. I want you to know it does not make you less of a Black girl, any less driven, because you decide to take a nap. I want you to know that the love you bear to yourself is seen best in how you treat yourself!

It wasn’t until I became your mother that I learned the value of rest. Your grandmother, and I’m sure her grandmother before her, didn’t have the luxury of rest. From that mindset, I would run myself ragged! I would work, and move, and do because that as expected of me! I thought the best way to be the best mother was to burn the candle at both ends. I thought I was doing it right when I would collapse in bed at night! I thought  I was doing it right when you both were fed, clean and clothed–at all costs.

But, this is two-fold.

One the one hand, I learned the responsibility of motherhood. I understood with a keen focus, what it meant to be a good mother. I knew how to sacrifice, how to stretch money, how to be resourceful and how to protect both of you. I learned just how seriously I take my job as your mother!

On the other hand, I ran on less than 6-8 hours of sleep. I got so used to sleep deprivation that rest was abnormal. I ate when I was sad. I ignored my body. I ignored my personal health, because I was taught ‘Black women don’t rest.’ I wasn’t given all my personhood because that was to be vulnerable.

I break that curse over you!

I want you to learn that you are worthy, and if you want to rest–you can. Not only if you want to, if you need to! Stress is nullified when you rest:  your body is in a restorative state. Your body can process what is happening, has happened to it, throughout the day. Rest sometimes is even tears, beloveds; which, too, is restorative. Beloveds, you are entitled to rest.

 

They make beds for Queens, too.

 

Love Always,

Mommy

SABEM-Week 3: Aight, Den

 

“Success is it’s own language.” -LL Cool J 

 

This week was fortifying, family. It affirmed my gift and this talent and this knack I have for language. My 4700 English class has gotten through the marshy nature of Robert Frost, we are moving on to Lucille Clifton. In my 3800 class (the class where I has to finish the last 160 pages of BELOVED in 10 hours complete with reading notes), we are moving on to Ellison and Baldwin. I damn near wept in my Thursday 4700 class.

The representation, the claiming of that free self as Morrison says, is monumental.This week encouraged me that I and do this—better than I thought I could. Better than I thought (thought!) I ever could.  I have been analyzing words, work and language my entire 38 years! This degree is a culmination of this. No more, no less.

But one thing I had to confront was being vocal in class.

I had an issue in class where I knew answers and had keen analysis to several topics, and remained silent. Why? I didn’t want to be seen as the smart (read:  uppity) Black girl. Now mind you, I have been the smart, uppity, Black girl for my entire education. But this time, in my 3800 class–I said nothing. I had internalized that processing which said “don’t show off, don’t answer everything.” Not quite a dumbing down, but damn near!

When I recognized that, I had to snatch it from my psyche! I had to uproot it because it was, IS, toxic to anything I could and would create. I had to remind myself that I was worthy to be visible in this space–intelligent enough to be intersected in this space.

I can be Black.

I can be woman.

I can be vocal.

I can be seen.

I can be intelligent.

I told myself I would never do that again. I vowed I would never humble my tongue in this class again–the white girls didn’t! Even when they were wrong!

This week reminded me as free as I like to think I am, I have to remember I still have a way to go.