Thoughts In A Mirror

For my diaspora family, and all of us of the 6th region. Home for us is a dream…and reality.

I want to go home to my mother

in the land with my fathers rules benevolent

in lands that were wide and gold..

I want to go home where the sun

is a shade of black

I want to go home to

my cousins and my aunts

Uncles, my nieces and nephews

lost the time and chance and I want to embrace them

as only family can

So they can see their cousin

Their niece their daughter

from long across the sea

Through time magic

And will

has come home —

changed and weathered, yes

but home

and I am afraid the when

my feet touch shores that my grandparents

were stolen

from that they may not

know who I am

-JBHarris, 9.18.21

Stand As Ten-Thousand

white women we see you

from how you touch our hair as if we are some foreigner animal and then tan to have skin like us, and call us dirty?

white women we see you

we see you on how you teach your sons to never to touch our daughters but yet your fathers have children who look just like us

white women we see you

we see how you go to voting booths and claim sisterhood and then vote for interest in power that mirror the power that you have been so accustomed to that you are afraid to be without because then that would make you not special-

we see you how you look at our sons

and then cry when they have done

nothing wrong except exist in a space that you thought a black child should not be in-

white women we see you

we see how you excuse your sons to take the rifles of their fathers and grandfathers and then exterminate people as if they are roaches in the kitchen.

White women, we see you.

and then you are mad because we are loud, and yielding in equality of both fought and promised, but you have contempt for us?

white women we see you

we see how you have disgrace the memory of our foremothers whos milk was in forefathers mouths miles as if she were some dumb cow-

White women, we see you.

you see, we have always seen you

we have always been taught of your monstrous natures and to be told or seen

You see this allyship that you want?

Is not easy—wounds generations deep and you all have banded together at every turn for the sake of your own power-

like your fathers and grandfathers and patriarchs before you too desire to write your face across everything that has color in it thinking by doing so do you indeed have conquered would they have not.

And in true fashion

and a true form

we see you

from from ancestral bloodlines

Heavenly windows

Over office cubicles

to the way you cry to HR when we don’t speak to you when we come in in the morning because you cannot conceive that life has not always been subject to you

white women, we see you

It was the mothers of our mothers who taught us her daughters—the real witches who survive being burned, who survive being lynched, skinned, sexed, sold, in and made to be wench and Mammie-to talk to smile while dying on the inside—the matches struck so the heat can pass through time and blood to the unnamed us whom where coming—and now here.

Fend for yourselves.

-JBHarris, 9.5.2021

‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 2: Representation Matters

Three things:

This series is for every woman, and for every girl that still doesn’t see herself represented enough in mainstream media and film. This piece is for every Black girl, whom is now a Black woman, whom still doesn’t see enough of herself to be full. This piece is for my Best Friend, Marissa–the founder of The Awakenings Project.

If you have not read Part 1, click here.

I am a dedicated Blerd.

I was reading by 4, drawing by 6, writing by 8 and writing poetry by 10. I had a father that could quote Star Wars, loved science fiction, and taught me the world was bigger than Missouri. I had parents who never hid the fact that I was Black, whom never taught me that being Black was a bad thing.

I am also a Black woman, whom was once a Black girl, born in 1981. I remember what Disney was like before Princess Jasmine and Princess Tiana! I remember what it was like to not see anyone that looked like me–Black and girl–on television. I remember what it was like before the MCU was a thing, before the cultural event of Black Panther, and before the only goddess a Black girl saw was Ororo Monroe! I remember, and that wasn’t so long ago. With that said, and I say this with love–and the boldness that love gives: Marvel, especially the MCU, has an issue with powerful women. On, and off screen.

It is no secret that most of the female led movies Marvel has produced (before Black Widow) have not done that well. On of them in recent history is Dark Phoenix. In the comic, Jean Grey is an Omega level mutant (Google that), with rich backstory! And they took all that power and hallowed her out–in X-Men 3 and in her standalone movie! Do you know how frustrating it is to be a female Marvel fan and see this? And see it happen continually?! Yet, this plays into the other theme that is apparent in this movie as well–the world will continually try to assert itself among women and girls, telling them–us!–whom we should be.

Through the lens of Natasha Romanov we see exactly what it means to be under estimated, overlooked and ignored. When a girl becomes a woman and does not see herself in the world, how can she know what to become? Even in conversations with other male comic fans, I have heard them say this movie was ‘a throw away movie’ or ‘they should have told this story sooner’. Yeah. About that: PANDEMIC.

Nevermind the fact that Black Widow fits in right after/during Avengers: Civil War. Nevermind the fact that she is one of the more well known Avengers (even though Wasp is integral in forming of this group)! Nevermind there are little girls all over the world that made Nat at part of their girlhoods! You cannot take that from them! In the fallout of the inevitable greed that surrounds these superhero movies and their demand for ROI, we see that Scarlett Johannson is being seen as the villian for wanting her fair share of money from the Avengers franchise? Barring COVID-19, why can’t they pay Scarlett, but you take a WHOLE risk on Robert Downey, Jr? Oh, okay. Separate issue.

Yet, the MCU is now in Phase 4. And the people that should be sticking up for her aren’t–shocker there! However, to me this one of the reason why Marvel will not create/produce more female-lead movies! As diverse as the Marvel Universe (from Marvel Comics, the true source material for all of this!)is, it can be seen and assumed that misogyny is still in the room–right along with racism. These two things are always the enemy of representation!

There is no need to put forward what they do not believe will be profitable!

What can be done? Well, the writing rooms need to be more diverse. There need to be more female directors, producers, storyboard artists, and female characters cannot be ornamental until they are functional for the appeasing for the male plot! We are ornamental with out bodies being the focus, and not the talent (check the evolution of Nat’s outfits).

I want more back story about the Red Room; I want to know where the Black Widow came from. Whom was the first? These are things that I need to know, and are reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show was so much better than that halfway good movie with Luke Perry)! Again, another conversation. Should this be a show? Maybe. But people need to remember the words of Queen B: “Who run the world? Girls.”

So, what do we need to do to run it? Write ourselves in it!

‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 1: Meanings & Themes

Warning: This will contain spoilers.

Also, this series is dedicated to my best friend, Marissa–who’s nickname is Romanov.

I finally was able to watch Black Widow this week. I am glad of this, though. I was able to watch it alone, with all my girlhood, womanhood and writer self all in the same room. In watching Infinity War: Endgame, I (like every other MCU fan) was horrified at the loss of Natasha, rather than Clint, to get the Soul Stone.

Yes, I still feel away about this. But, let’s go on.

I have daughters whom are dedicated Marvel fans, and they were born during Phase 3! So, seeing–knowing!–that Natasha ‘Nat’ Romanov was getting her own movie–and Scarlett Johanssen was going to have Executive Producer credit? With a female director? For a Marvel movie? Oh, yes! Game changing! There is definitely a distinct difference when a woman directs a movie and when a man does. But, this? Oh, but this. Here are some of my take aways–and things that you might not have paid attention to.

1.) The rampant nature of the abuse of women and girls. All through the movie, we see just how easy it is to hurt women and girls. When Nat and Yelena run from the small force of Widows who come for them, one falls off the roof and breaks her tibia. She is told by the Red Room to terminate (kill herself). Though Nat tries to help, her free will has been hijacked. This also speaks to how suicide is till a problem among women, and how we can somehow feel as if no one can help us.

2.) Black women and girls are often the victims of human trafficking. Although the African-American/Widows whom are Black don’t have dominant screen time, but it points to just how easy it is to erase Black women and girls–and how no one looks for us, if they don’t look for us. There is also the creepy and telling line that Drestov says regarding how the world has too many girls, inferring they (read: we) are a wasted resource. Throwaways. Natasha hints to this as well as she confronts him before destroying the Red Room.

3.) Sexualizing of young women and girls. If you have watched the evolution of Black Widow’s outfits through the Avengers movies, you will notice just how her costume changed. How cleavage, and her figure were emphasized. I This movie, the uniforms at it were, are form-fitting, yes–but they are not overtly sexual.

4.) How we (the world) expects girls be self-sacrificing. From the first time Natasha kicks the gun out of the soldier’s hand to protect Yelena, Yelena blowing up the engine on the plane, we see that girls are ornamental, only being functional for a common goal or end. The theme of personhood, freedom, free will and the ownership of self are woven throughout the movie.

5.) We teach girls that pain is what strengthens them. Melina tells Natasha, “Don’t let them take your heart.” This is one of those sayings that I believe encourages girls to stay in tune with their emotions–they make you human. In the run of Black Widow through Phase 3, we do not see Natasha breakdown. We do not see her unravel! The last tears (or first tears) we see of Natasha was when she was crying in this mix of fear, rage and disbelief if was around her sister, Yelena. In becoming a woman, there are outrageous things that will happen to girls and in order to cope–we shut off.

We detach. We stuff down. We shift. We lie. We hide. We run. We self-destruct!

Melina’s reminder, even from this staged motherhood, is a reminder that shutting off never works–and should never been the long-term solution.

6.) Trauma bonding. “I cycled through the Red Room four times before you were born. Those walls are all I know.” When Alexei, Yelena, and Natasha find Melina we see just how trauma is two-fold, yet the same: how we hold together and what holds us together! From Yelena and Natasha fighting in Budapest, Melina alerting the Red Room where they are, Red Guardian bonding all his identity to Captain America (Steve Rogers), and the freed Widows not knowing what to do after being given said freedom. Trauma is unavoidable, unsustainable…but unavoidable.

7.) When women work together, they can do anything. What I loved about this movie–yes, loved!–is the relationship between Yelena and Natasha. I loved how Melina gave Natasha the rundown of the Red Room while prepping her what she’s about to face, and even how Taskmaster–Antonia, Drekov’s daughter–had to be freed from her own father and his desire to dominate women. The takeaway–when women of all walks of life work together–we can topple the toxic patriarchy.

Natasha Romanov deserved, and still deserves, so much more.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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.]

Vaccinations, Reservations, and Innervations

Note: I am not a nurse, a doctor or a scientist. I am woman, a mother, a Black women whom is a mother, who desires you all to be safe and prosper. These are only my thoughts. Thank you. -JBHarris

I am a retired CNA. A Certified Nurse’s Assistant, with the plantar fasciitis, tender left hip, and sore shoulder to prove it. I have seen people die, seen people recover, seen people give up, and seen nurses do all they can to preserve life. My last year of being a CNA was during the initial COVID-19 wave. I started this year with a dying marriage, two children, in a global pandemic. I remember calling my mother–whom had been nurse when AIDS was being called GRID–to ask what to do. I believe it was her knowledge, common sense, and God that kept me through that entire year.

Was I apprehensive about the vaccine? Yes. I will not lie to you. I wasn’t going to take it! I thought the creation of it was too quick (viruses mutate and there wasn’t enough information about any mutations at that point), and I am aware of the history of medical experimentation of Black/Brown/Indigenous people in this nation. I wanted to wait. When talked to my mother, she told me, “Pray, take the shot, and keep going.” This is literally what I did. I monitored my symptoms on TikTok when I got the first vaccine in December 2020. There were thousands of people in my comments of that video whom said that I was crazy, I had been microchipped and there were magnets in it (the same things that are being said now).

I remember when I protested with my mother about taking the vaccine, she told me, “Jennifer, some protection is better than no protection.” I don’t know why that statement made everything click (she is my mother!), but it did. I am a Black woman, raising children in an anti-Black world, and don’t want to leave them unprotected. Then, there was my best friend whom is autoimmune. And her daughter that has respiratory issues. And my daughters whom are best friends with them. Immunity was important not just for me–but for my kids.

My kids. My heartbeat in two places.

I chose to get my children vaccinated because it is my job to protect them. As best as I can, as long as I am able. The week that my daughters got their second shot–completing their immunity cycle–there were 12 children in an ICU in Mississippi. Where my family is from…where my grandmother left when my mother was not even 8 years old. Everything in me shattered!

I came home from their vaccination appointment and my life converged into one point. The million little decisions that brought me to this point–some decisions I made, some I didn’t. This is what I thought: If my grandmother hadn’t left, my family may still be in Mississippi. Had my mother not become a nurse in Missouri, whom married the man that was my father, I would have never grown up respecting science. Had I not respected science, seen it work, I would not have listened to my mother. Had I not listened to her, believed God and her, I wouldn’t have vaccinated my children. These things all connect, dear ones. They all connect!

With the looming onslaught of the Delta variant, I urge you all to be careful. Think deeply,. carefully, about how you are going to move in the world around this. The first wave of this was terrible, and scary. I fear that this second wave may be the same…with far more grave consequences.

Be safe out there.

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 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.