In Memoriam Of The Charleston 9

It has been 5 years since Dylan Roof walked in the Mother Emmanuel and killed 9 people at a prayer meeting. I remember watching this on national news, and my heart breaking. BREAKING in my chest. At the time, my [then] husband and I were pastoring in Ferguson, Missouri–trying to figure out how to be married, clergy, activists and sane a year after Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered not even 10 minutes from our apartment. 

What Dylan Roof did was evil. The absolute level of evil is for God discern when he closes his eyes for the last time. As for me and mine, my [then] husband and I kept pastoring. We kept serving, kept loving the community we were in, and trying to do what God told us. In 5 years time, what I have seen is two fold: people running away from anything Jesus-related, or they are clinging to it. 

The folk whom are running from it, say they have abandoned it because it is a ‘White man’s religion.’ Forgetting that Jesus isn’t White, the Gospel went to Africa before it went to Rome, and the ‘fishers of men’ didn’t speak English at a native language. I say all that to say this. The White Evangelical Church has a lot to explain. A whole lot! Once more, it has taken the death of a man who was innocent to have dramatic, world-wide effect. You have to understand, as a woman of faith, the housecleaning that is happening in the faith community is overdue! It is overdue! Do you know how hard it is to preach this gospel with the assertion that most people believe that Christ is a ‘white man’s savior’? Let’s not even get into what it means to be a woman doing this work! 

In the light of this resistance–this once in a generation resistance–it seems fitting that this memoriam would be commemorated! However, the best thing about this? The White Evangelical church is having to deal with these chickens coming home to roost, dens of foxes in henhouse, and packs of wolves in sheep’s clothing. What reassures me that a reckoning has come is when WHITE pastors are confronting racism in their respective denominations. 

One of those pastors is Pastor Judah Smith of ChurchHome-Seattle. On a June 4th Zoom live, he said these two things: “We have colluded with the culture.” Meaning, there is still a thread of racism (real, palpable RACISM) that is going through the church. But the quote that struck me was this: “We have preached America as if–at times–its is scripture.” I see no lie present in this. None! The church, the one founded by Jesus Christ was NEVER supposed to collude with a culture. It was never supposed to align with one race of people! It was never designed to be a place where all people were not welcome! The fact Dylan Roof did this, killing the pastor of this church, only to have his body taken to internment under a Confederate flag? Insult isn’t even the word. In commemorating this tragic event, it is right that the church–a entity of change, hope, protection and security, begin to examine just how much of Christ is in the church. 

I mean, it was founded by a Middle Eastern man, whom didn’t speak English and was a refugee whose non-English speaking parents teenage parents fled their home to prevent his murder, only to be murdered by this state in front of his mother for being a threat to power—maybe, the legacy of this moment is the change it would bring. Rather, that is bringing. Octavia Butler said it this way, “All that you touch is change, all that you touch changes you. God is change.”

Change has now come.

There Is Nothing But Time Now (Part 2)

The Florence Nightingale Pledge 1893 Art Print by Olga Hamilton
Nursing students before they start clinicals, during their White Coat Ceremony, say this pledge. Don’t you dare disrespect this profession.

I am the daughter of a nurse. A 40-year veteran of this profession.

All I have heard since this pandemic hit is the need for nurses. How valuable nurses are, how they are on the frontline of everything that is happening. So, to hear the tone-deaf Lindsey ‘I Take Two Weeks Off To Self-Quarantine And Come Back To A Job And Check But No One Else Can’ Graham say how much nurses make and how he was against signing this bill because he thinks nurses will quit their jobs to stay home.

Let me help you, Lindsey. This is how a typical night for a nurse goes:

You clock in. Most hospitals have their nurses (and Patient Care Techs/Certified Nurse’s Aides) do 12-hour shifts. You get your report from the nurse’s who are leaving. You and your tech (if you are lucky to have one!) discuss how you want to divide you night. You have to take care of the truly sick, the dying, the angry, the disillusioned and the lonely. You, as a nurse, have pledged to take care of all these people. I won’t even get started on being a Black nurse/nurse who happens to be a person of color taking care of racist patients! It’s a whole different animal to have someone that needs your help and skill to not want it because of your skin tone.

I’ve seen that more than once.

You round on patients. You check nuero assessment. You give pain medicine or management. You reorient the confused, tend to the dying, comfort the lonely and deal with doctors whom are less than helpful, or leave messages praying they get back to them before they leave. And the lights to answer. The charts to start and finish –and the families to remind that all is being done to take care of their loved one.

Being a nurse is superpower.

In my Fundamentals of Nursing class, thing they beat into us is the nursing shortage–worldwide nursing shortage–that was was going to happen by 2020 (Prophetic, no?). Why? The Baby Boomers were retiring. My mother is a Baby Boomer, celebrating her 70th whirl around the sun in March. With the devastation of COVID-19, the call went out to retired nurses and doctors to assist with the efforts to contain COVID-19. When I heard this, I laughed. I laughed loud.

My mother was a nurse during GRID/the AIDS epidemic, Ebola and H1N1. She said she was not doing anything else! I don’t blame her. I have been a CNA/Patient Care Tech for 6 years. My mother and the nurses of her generation and age have done their time on the floor–and are not going back.

One. PAY YOUR NURSING STAFF OR THEY WILL QUIT. This is an unprecedented time, and demands are crazy–so, you need to pay and take care of your staff. Remember I said it. Listen to your nurses and techs.

Two. The NCLEX, because of the emergent circumstances, needs to be free! FREE! There is a desperate need for staff! Graduate the nurses, let them get a 60 day waiver to take Boards (aka NCLEX).

Three. This is not going to go away quickly. Don’t listen to the President. Wash your hands.

[image from fineartamerica.com]

The Launch Into The Deep: YouTube

In my TS Madison voice: “IS IT ON?!”

So…I did it. I started a YouTube Channel! It is the most nerve-racking thing I have ever done. On this channel will be all the dope things you all love me for! The newest thing I saved only for YouTube is:

This is where I expound on an idea for about 10 minutes–just things that are on my mind, come across my desk or may just bother me in general. The One Minute Words which are on my professional Instagram will be there as well! There will even be a mentorship videos as well!

I am stoked. I am excited. There are already videos up! Follow and join the tribe. I even have cool name for the people that follow me: Oracles.

The Good, The Bad & Kobe Bryant

If you think this is going to be a sensational drag, it isn’t. -JBHarris

Image result for kobe bryant

Kobe Bryant is dead. The Black Mamba is dead. Vanessa Bryant’s husband is dead.

I, as a woman of a certain age, can only began to imagine the grief that is associated with this loss of this man. I tried to stay away from this reflection, I truly did. Yet, I feel at this point, I must weigh in. The push to weigh in came from the attacks waged at Gayle King–from Snopp Dogg of all people. Now, I could segway into how hip-hop with the help of some artists have popularized misogyny to such a point that it perpetuates rape culture, but I’ll stay on topic.

What I have seen in the world since the loss of Kobe Bryant is the freedom for Black men to emote, to grieve and be vulnerable. I mean, it feels like my brother died! I saw Kobe go from this hotshot player to this athlete statesman! It was beautiful to see. And in that did he have his own struggles, yes.

Let me say this here and now. Buckle up.

Rape is a crime. Rape is about power and control. Rape is crime that is often underreported. Rape is a crime that allows a woman to feel as if her body is not hers, and her personhood reduced to the pleasure her body parts give. Rape is not a genderless crime:  the majority of victims are women. Rape is a crime that is insidious, affecting all portions of the victims life as it relates to intimacy and consensual sex. Victims are often not believed, which goes to the  This where I also must remind you, dear reader, of three things:

Rape is often unreported/under-reported.

Rape committed on a date, is still rape.

Rape is a trauma.

Also:  #MeToo. With that said, let me say this.

The circumstances surrounding what people believe Kobe Bryant did, or what the believe he didn’t do will always be subject to debate. There are those who are glad ‘A rapist who was a good basketball player is dead’ (this was said by the Uppity Negress Podcast), and there are those that do not believe Kobe did anything to this girl. Let me also say this, and this is all I will say about it:

I have been a woman for some time. I know women lie. I know women lie about being raped. I know that there are those same conniving women whom get pregnant on purpose to keep a man. I have known men that get into situations they are warned about and lie to cover them up, or lie to get out of them. For me, the whole incident is sketchy (read:  her nasty underwear). But the fact Kobe owned up to what he did, the circumstances that lead up to this incident. For that, I am proud of him.

But for Gayle King to be this attacked over asking a question? Asking a question of woman in a similar profession as the deceased? Hold on, fam. Pump your brakes. Nothing she did, or said, warranted death threats!

 

Image result for gayle king IG snoop dogg

I am rarely in a position to be speechless.  The fact Snoop called Gayle King, a journalist and a Black woman, a bitch for asking a question? That’s outrageous. I know everyone is mourning, everyone is mad, everyone wants answers–but the job of a journalist is to ask the uncomfortable. Now, did I think her asking the question about this rape accusation (because he wasn’t convicted), so soon after him dying was in poor taste? Yes. However, this level of misogyny is toxic!

Gayle King does not deserve death threats because she asked a question.

Kobe Bryant’s death does not exempt his life from scrutiny.

I suppose it is the gift of celebrity which society tries to make one immune to any outside criticism. Fame can be the worst kind of insulator that way–it can make one impervious to reality; there’s always someone to augment your reality! But herein lies the problem:  Black women are should not be charged to hold legacies without analysis or critique. Black women should not, do not have to decide between the exercise independent thought and insulation of what is deemed acceptable by the Black collective. Black women do not OWE the world anything. For all we have endured, the world OWE us. Back up off Gayle. Now.

From The Crates: 2014

Things I Ponder:
(c) JP Harris, Feb 2014

It is no secret lost my grandmother three months ago. She was 84. I was asked to help with the program arrangements, and my grandmother’s entire life was reduced to less than a page. Amazing.

I don’t want to leave this life with secrets to be sanitized on pretty paper. I want my children, grandchildren to know my life in scope. I want my experience to be gleaned from, and exercised. I want no unneeded mystique or pretense. Death.is silent in what dreams will come says Hamlet, but I want my loved and dearest to benefit from my years, not be mystifed by them. I wish to bridge the gap time produces between families.

I want to pass into eternity holding on to nothing but the Lord, protected by His grace. I don’t want to have folk police my legacy for fear my.links to another’s life to my life will tell on theirs.

Let my works speak for me.

That Conversation, Week 5: What I Want Your Son To Know

This is the last installment of this series. I hope, I pray, my wisdom (and fears in some cases) have sparked conversations with you and the people you love. If they have, then I have done by job. Blessings. -JBHarris

 

With all the things we have discussed, I believe this last thing will be the hardest. It is an open letter to those of you whom have sons. Not as a warning, not as a vehement, vicious assault. Just as something you may need to know. From a mother whom has daughters, to you as a mother whom has a son.

As the mother of a daughters, I want them to find a someone whom loves them. Loves them beyond their aesthetic, who will support them in all they decide to do. I want them to find a love which is lasting, warm and all theirs. I never want them to believe they have to tolerate ‘struggle love’ to be what they must wade into in order to attain any type of happily ever after. I never want them to have to contend with your son for his affection, energy, love or support. I never want your son to try and manipulate them because they seem ‘too much’ for you and your son feel as if he has to ‘take her down a notch’.

As a mother of daughters, I want you son to realize if he is not ready for a relationship, he need not pursue one. I want your son to know his worth is beyond what antics his body can do in any sexual aspect. I want your son to know girls and women are valuable—Queens all by themselves! I want you to remind your son sexual assault has no excuse, has not basis in society, and is a crime. I want you to remind your son if she tries to take the humanity of a woman is such a base fashion, you will not allow him to wiggle out of what he did. I want you to remind your son that women belong in the world with the same power and equality that he does.

As a mother of daughters, I want you to know your son is fallible–just as my daughters are. They have mood swings, bad days, apprehensions and consequences to dumb actions. I want you to hold you son to a standard! I want you to not make the mistake of rescuing him because ‘he’s a good kid.’ I want you to teach your son there are consequences to their actions. That there are things in the world that you do which can never be undone. That can never be fixed. That cannot be apologized for, buried or covered by money.

As the mother of daughters, I want you to teach your son that actions have ramifications and consequences; time does not erase that, nor does it offer solace for their behavior. I want your son to know that I hold/will hold you responsible for this actions which may be detrimental to others!

As the mother of daughters, I want you to know I have the belief that your son is a great asset to the world. I want you to know I believe your son will be a hero, a world-changer, one that will open doors for women and honor women. I want to believe you will teach your sons that manhood is multifaceted. I want you to raise such a boy to a man that he will see other boys and men being less than their best selves (in modern terms:  trash AF) they will speak up and say something. I want your son to have the ability to be lover and ally and partner to a worthy woman.

As the mother of daughters, I want your sons to be able to realize, if they were to meet my daughters, they have been raised. They are beautiful and formidable. They are empathetic, loyal and deserving of all good things the world offers. I want your son to know, if he were to choose my daughters to journey through this life with, I expect her to be protected, loved and cared for:  if they are precious to me, they must remain precious to him.

As the mother of daughters, I need you tell your sons, I expect the ones that show interest in my daughters to be worthy of them. Your sons will not be exempt from that expectation! Finally, I want you to know, as the mother of daughters, I have told them to leave the table when love ceases to be served. They are owed and deserve love which they should not have to pay for with pain or struggle; neither should your son. I want you to know as the parents of sons, releasing them into the world, I wish them good things. But, I have taught them to be content to be okay with being single–not being defined by their spouses or partners.

As the mother of daughters, I need you to know I would do anything for them. Even protect them from your sons if need be and necessary.

That Conversation, Week 4- Not Every Tooth Is A Smile: The Cost Of Rape Culture

This week’s conversation is written in cis-het terms. -JBHarris

 

In the current culture, there is a shift towards everything mystic, cystral-powered, and the drawing of the what is called the Divine Feminine.Here is a brief definition (taken from Anna-Thea.com):

The Divine Feminine is sacred, sensual and often beyond the realm of day to day living. It’s something that can’t be seen but rather experienced and felt. It’s a healing force beyond the physical world. The Divine Feminine is also the positive expression of the feminine side of us that exists in both men and women. The divine feminine principle is within us all.

(taken from Anna-Thea.com)

My mother, when she went out into the world to subdue it, had this air about her. From the clothes, the perfume to the makeup she wore, she positioned herself in such a way that the world had to notice. It is that same confidence, that I take with me. This sense of self independent of what other people think, know or make up! It is this concrete sense of self that allows me to move through the world as I do. This same sense of self I desire to give to my children–my daughters.

There is a certain magic that allows being woman and feminine as you move about in the world. With that femininity, you see the grinning teeth of rape culture:  the world thinks everything pretty is community property.

As a girl whom was a pretty teenager, whom is now a woman, I can only respond with #MeToo.

What I tell my daughters is as they grow up, they have a right to wear what they want, when they want. No one is allowed to touch you when you don’t want to be touched. Just because you look completely delicious doesn’t mean someone needs to take a bite out of you!

As a woman and a mother, you stand at a precarious intersection. There is information that we know, we may be scared to utter to ourselves–let alone our girl children. I don’t want to cite rape statistics, or become compulsory about checking their phones, or to tell them date rape is a prolific reality. I especially don’t want to tell them most people in the world don’t want to believe when women are raped; there is still a class of people who believe Black women and girls can be raped. I don’t want to tell them there are those whom upon hearing a woman/girl is raped ask these two questions before asking if the girl/woman is a living victim or survivor.

Question 1:

“Well where was she at?”

 

Question 2: 

“What did she have on?”

 

The answer to both these questions is “It does not matter!” Women are not objects! The purpose of women is not to serve the sexual needs of a phallus public! We, as the fairer (stronger) sex, have the right to move and be in the world as they see fit. It doesn’t matter what ‘she had on’. It is that rage that makes your femininity stoic.

Rather than tell such bitter truths to children, you dress it up. You finesse it as best you can. For me, I learned that if I wore baggy clothes to catch buses home from work late at night, no one would be able to tell I was a girl. I learned to always have emergency transportation and a charged communication device. I learned if  I let someone know where I was–so if I didn’t come back, they would know where to look for me last.

This is the insidious nature of living in and around rape culture–it makes you aware of your mortality, your body and how both present/interact with the world. It makes you hyper-aware, scared more than you can whisper. Yet, you have to pretend it doesn’t phase you. The tears women shed over the knowledge we bear, fills ocean–and fills rain clouds which grow the seeds we plant in the lives our children.

My daughters, these fabulous children, I have to equip to deal with a world which shows not every tooth is a smile. And I have to believe the giving of my womanhood secrets, the teaspoons of my own pain, be enough to give them a clearer map. A way forward. A way to be both woman and warrior.

Then, I pray that it be enough.

That Conversation, Week 3: Talking To Strangers

 

When I started school, we were constantly being taught not to talk to strangers. We were constantly taught not to get into stranger’s cars, take things from them, and to tell an adult if someone tried to bother us, to let an adult know. How similar these rules become when you cross from child to woman!

My girls are at the age now where I have to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. I have to tell of the trappings of moving through the world as a pretty girl. I have to make them aware, and unassuming all at once–and it troubles me. Especially when I take public transit, or am out in public. As a woman, I have the accouterments of the realm for assurance I won’t be bothered:  phone, book, sunglasses, earphones. When I was of the age where  I went out every weekend–and my Spanish was better I pretended I didn’t speak English.

It worked.

The goal was always to be safe, get home, or not be bothered. In this age of participation trophies, and continuous yeses, there is a certain ilk of young man that does not like to be told “no”. And in telling them this ancient word that is used to dispatch, they–like all evil spirits—seek to destroy what they cannot hope to possess.

There is a certain portion of the male persuasion whom cannot cope with rejection or being ignored.

They stalk in packs like wolves, waiting and looking for the weak or unassuming, seeing if they can seduced or devoured. When I was younger, my father would tell me if there were a group of men/boys inside a place (like a gas station)  to let him know, or he would come in with me.  Or, the scarier part as a girl between 12-15 is when I would have to pretend I wasn’t scared—when I was. At that age, I knew what sex was. What rape was. What being touched when I didn’t want to be was. I knew all of these things. And I didn’t want these things to happen to me.

Yet, because toxic masculinity is real, and toxic patriarchy makes weak men believe all women are possessions and property, this evil roux births rape culture. In such a world that has such people in it, daughters are sent out into it. As scary as this is, they cannot avoid such evils in the world. If we love them, we have to equip them for this as well. We have to be brave enough to tell these brilliant female children, they walk amongst wolves.

Now, I am a fan of women and girls being able to defend themselves. I am a fan of women and girls always knowing their surroundings, and being aware of who they are with and the places their feet tread. There are conversations I have had with my daughters as it relates being ladylike, clean, and dealing with law enforcement. This, however, is a conversation I dread; only having it in pieces. I have only had the strength to have it in pieces. How do you tell your daughter there are people in the world that don’t see her as a person, but property? How do you remind your daughter to stay close to you in parking lot where there is light, and close your door as soon as your get in without making her feel utterly terrified? Yet, I must. I do. I continue.

I cannot have them go into the world unknowing. I cannot allow them to be in a position where they fall prey simply because they were uninformed! Where or when they didn’t know what to do; how to get out; how to defuse a potentially dangerous situation with an equally dangerous person? How can I let the go out into the world and not recognize their gut feeling and intuition–so they don’t override it? No. I cannot be that lax, or naive. I equip them, piece by piece-for their own good. Even when they don’t know it yet.

In that, I remind them the world can be dark–but it’s better to have a flashlight.

That Conversation-Week 2: The Wisdom Of Better Men

(This is an intimate letter to the Kings that inhabit this Queedom. Read and share.)

Kings of this Queedom:

Toxic masculinity is described as follows:

noun. a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health: Men and women both suffer when toxic masculinity perpetuates expectations that are restrictive and traumatizing.

Let me make this appeal simple for the men of this Queendom:  I need you to raise better sons. I need you to understand being a man is more than phallus antics. It is more than killing bugs. It is more than sporting events, being physically strong and ‘being a man.’ I need you all to understand your sons need to be able to be attentive, perceptive, and be taught to care for women.

Let me say this again:  be taught to care for women. 

Caring for a woman is more than buying her things. It is more than providing orgasms, or masturbating with her body (oh, it’s a thing)! Caring for a woman means that you have to be able to be what she needs, provide support (outside of material things), and have some empathy.

I need you to understand the world is scary, and women don’t always have the ability to ensure they will be okay. With that, what I also must impress upon you is toxic masculinity is not what grows a relationship. You exerting control over a woman, claiming that it’s what men do, is not the healthiest space to be in.

I need you to be mindful of the women in your life whom need you. I need you to check the men in your life who demean women, whom participate in street harassment, or are unable to handle the most dangerous word a woman can say:  “No.” I need you all to understand your manhood, the idea of manhood, is not determined by what the world may think of you. I need you to understand your worth as a man is beyond the mastery of your emotions. The ability as a man to control your emotions, does not mean they do not exist.

Give your son, the young men in your life, permission to emote. To cry. To be human more than once! I want you to affirm your sons in the non-athletic things they do. Dearest Kings of this Queedom,  I want you to give your son the permission to possess all of their personhood. This means being able to be the young men whom will help shape the world. Let them cry, let them draw, let them play football and paint or play trumpet. Remind them that manhood is both collective and individualistic. Collective as they are not the only men in the world, and somethings are just common to the sex. Individualistic because they are, will be, unique to the world; such things are to be special.

What is needed now, what is needed for future generations of daughters is men (and women) whom are able to value all of their person; beyond sexual antics. I need the men of this Queendom to understand women are not possessions to hoard, or projects to critique, but people. I need you all to understand that as a man, you have the unique responsibility of instructing and modeling for your son, and instilling that model for your daughter.

She will need your strength to let her know what reasonable expectations of a partner. Your daughter will need your help to navigate these spaces that require her to be astute as well as charming. She will need your wisdom to set reasonable expectations, how to avoid crazy situations, and to know what love looks like.

Can you do that for her? For her sake, I pray you can.

For the sake of all the world, teach the Princes how to be Kings.

No, Queen Bey Didn’t Have To Stand Up. We Do.

Our Beloved Queen makes even being an a firestorm hella elegant.

With that said, let me say something else first. I didn’t watch the 2020 Golden Globes because I think Ricky Gervais is a more palatable form of the demon Screwtape in the C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Life is hard enough–I don’t need extra shenanigans which is both toxic and crazy-making.

Now, as pumped as I was for Joaquin Phoenix, to win Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for JOKER, I was irritated to know the world seemed to be mad (again) that Beyonce did what she wanted to do. She chose not to stand when Joaquin’s name was announced.

According to The Griot, she did clap, but she did not stand. Beyonce was in attendance because her song, Spirit (from the album The Lion King: THE GIFT), was nominated for Best Original Song. Now, Joaquin stans are mad she didn’t stand, and insulting her acting ability. Okay. Whatever. But here’s what isn’t talked about:  sis had been drinking, and her dress was huge and maybe standing wasn’t what she really wanted to do. The doper part? The writer of The Griot article, Dawn Onley, can tell you:

She and Jay-Z came to the award ceremony with two bottles of Ace of Spades champagne, also known as Armand de Brignac, the champagne company that Jigga bought out back in 2014, according to Cosmopolitan. Their bodyguard carried the alcohol in for them.

So not only did Bey not stand, they were drinking, they were drinking. And they were also promoting their interests.

Win-win.

I get why the world hates Beyonce. And yet, she moves in grace despite of it! The thing that irritates me the most is people believing she should have stood up–because that’s just what you do at these events. She should be grateful to be in this space, right? She should just do as all the others do–Beyonce is in Rome, right? Do as the Roman do, right?
No.
This is the consistent issue surrounding Black people in White Spaces. The expectation is that all be done to the Master’s specificity:  no deviation, no independent thought. And definitely no room for plain ol’ ‘I just don’t want to.’
The other issue that needs to be address–which I try my best to bring attention to constantly–is this idea of invading White Spaces with more Black people! Any space a Black woman or man inhabits is already a Black Space. It cannot just be those at the intersections of Black, wealth and privilege to negotiate the terms of acceptability. It cannot just be expected that the interest of the unfortunate many be delegated to the advantageous!
We all can do something–we need to stop expecting other people to force that visibility.
Besides, Black women been standing/serving/fighting since our feet touched the waters of these shores called the Americas. I wouldn’t have stood up either.