The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #3: If You Would Pull It Back, You Would Have A Relationship.

At this point in my life, the women that I confide in are in two categories: Mother figures and Sisterfriends. One of my sisterfriends is the remarkable, beautiful and completely savage (she describes herself as a ‘manicured pit viper’) Kelly Heflin. I have been a part of her world–happily–due in part to my own wit, love of fashion, and the same substance I believe all women have that have gone through the loss of fathers.

And in that power, with that wit, I call her my sister. Shouts to Kellz!

With that, she never ceases to amaze me with the level of nonsense she reveals from her inbox into the waiting Facebook world. From this, I have seen my sister be called everything that could enter into the heart of a petty, jealous, acrid man. I have seen the messages that she was bold enough to share (because, Kellz–and I love she!). The thing that is so confounding about this, is their reaction to her reaction to not wanting to be treated as anything less than what she was taught she was! Her answer to that, which is my echo, “If you wouldn’t let your daughter settle for it, why would you want me to?”

I agree, Sis. I agree!

I should not–will not–lessen myself to the point of being gaslighted for the sake of ‘having someone.’ Why should I? Who is raising these men-impostors?! Who started this lie that in order to have the woman you want you have to break her like a wild mare? Why is a woman to be broken, to be made whole to and for a man? Let me give you some Bible, because the I know the Hoteps are trying to formulate a way to ‘check’ me.

Note: I write and sign checks; I am never to be checked.

Or, as my ex-husband said: “You can’t handle when a man like me puts me in your place.” My retort, like a reflex, was “Where is my place? What is my place?”

Women are the last divine thing to look God in the face. Think about this! So, if I–like you–am a divine, sentient creature, why should I not be treated as such? If we go through Genesis, and really read it, Adam was in charge of naming all things in the Garden of Eden. And it was he that named the being that came out of him–and praised God for it. And named it. Anything you honor, you care for and name! So, if my job is to be a complement, a help, and source of support, why should have I to dim or become less in order to be suitable? Please, make this make sense.

There is a generation of women before us whom we, the women whom are those late 70s-80s babies entering into middle age, are looking at and wondering–Why was this treatment of okay? Why is my ability to endure, to soldier on, to cry in showers and in pie or cobbler filling the proof by which I am to be chosen? Now, I was taught charm and class by my mother. I know how to handle myself, and be a lady–that is second nature. My father is one who taught me game–who said to me that ‘No one can feel your brain.” Let me translate: it’s not good enough to just be smart; keep yourself up. I, at 39, and examining these conversations my sisterfriend had in a new light. They are hurtful. They are demeaning. They are gaslighting at its finest! The most outrageous one that I have ever seen was the one she shared from a man who told her–unprovoked! No one sent for this dude!–who decided to tell her that she needed to be more humble. That she just needed ‘a good man’ to ‘humble her’.

Let me say this: If you feel you have to humble a woman, in order for her to be suitable, you will never have her. As I say often, “If you have to hold her with a chaser, you don’t know how to run!” What does this mean? It means you are not ready for what it is you want–and you need it to be more palatable to be able to handle it. You just not ready, son. He told her that she was too ambitious and it is intimidating to men. I, like my sister Kelly, thought none of these words strewn together into what he believed with all his strength would make sense–do not, in fact, make sense.

This good man by which homeboy spoke of could handle and support an ambitious woman! A good man would see that the woman he wants, has a life outside of him, and is not defined by him only–and he wouldn’t want her to be! A good man would know his girl to the point she would never have to humble herself: he would make her feel safe enough to submit to his leadership (that is the key to submission: Can you make her feel safe? And care for her? Can she rest with you? But that is another conversation–isn’t it?). A good man would know how to lead, guide and protect his woman without believing he has to break her, hurt her, in order to have her.

Y’all need to check your boys…they are surely not men.

Book Announcement #2

As writer, sometimes the best fodder for your imagination are the things you have gone through. Nothing could be more accurate than what my own life is at present.

With me facing a second divorce in 7 years, I had to reckon with this concept and construct of my ‘married name’. The only thing I could do to combat is this confusion was to write it out.

Indeed, this is a personal work and I am in the cycle of grief about the demise of this relationship—and owning my part in its demise! What I have had to reconcile with this idea of having the name of a man whom I no longer have/desire any attachment to.

This chap book is available on Amazon, and I hope that it helps illuminate just how complex being 1 then 2, and back to 1 again can be.

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 nurses 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.

Note:  I have published a book of poems during this pandemic called THOUGHTS IN A PANDEMIC, available on Amazon.  Click here for a copy.

[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.