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

Break The Cycle, Not The Girl.

 

Earlier this year, I did a miniseries about calling girls, especially Black girls, fast. Click here for that. In this series, I pull no punches. I was as honest as I knew to be. From that honesty, I break down what it means to call a girl fast. From that wisdom, I am enraged at this story.

Not only did her father catch her having sex.

Not only is she 12, and was having sex.

Her father, took a belt, beat her in front of the entire world.

And the story is from the vantage point of how he punished her.

How he punished her?!

See. Therein lies the problem. We have to be able to challenge crazy., toxic behavior. Should this young girl have had sex so young? No. But her father should never have done this to her. This is abuse. It is not discipline. This is not any form of love. I will not suffer to debate that more.

I remember being 10, and I called a boy on the phone. For record this was a boy I knew, and my parents knew. And I consider him my childhood sweetheart. I remember the summer I turned 11 that my parents (mother and father now) spanked me because I called him. But they said I got spanked because I lied about calling him–when I wasn’t ‘old enough’ to call or talk to boys. They spanked me over the course of two days. What did it teach me?

1-My parents were unreasonable.

2-I had to become sneaky to do what I wanted because they wouldn’t let me do anything.

 

What did spanking her teach her? That her body was dirty? She wasn’t worthy to be protected? I doubt it. What spanking her supposed to teach her that her body was property? I am confused what the added element of putting everything online was supposed to do? If he is to truly care and protect his daughter, this could have been handled better. Put the boy out, yes. But talk to her.

TALK.

That thing parents, especially some Black parents, don’t want to do. I have had my mother tell me that I ‘talk’ to much to my kids. I talk to them, so they can get used to talking. So they get used their mother listening to them–rather than yelling. So they can get used to saying what is wrong rather than hiding, lying or thinking they can’t come to me. I never want my children to only remember how I yelled and never listened. I had to catch myself before I called my 11-year-old daughter fast once.

She is 11. And tall. And doesn’t look her age. And she was wearing a dress that showed off things Black girls are taught to cover. If I had called her fast, my own daughter, it would be the equivalent of calling her a whore. No! I will not do that to her.

This story should be the start of conversations. This man needs to be told this not how you raise daughters! This is not how you handle this! You do not reprimand a Black child like this. The cycle of policing the bodies of Black women and girls through violence must end.

While people are talking about how he hit her with this belt, I am wondering what happened to this child once the video ended. I want to know was she left in this room in tears, hurt, confused and bleeding–with only half of an idea why.  This has to end. The toxicity ends when we give onus to both parties involved in this situation!

Beating her won’t keep her a virgin, sir. But it will push her from you. When there comes a time she will need you, where she is drowning, she will not reach. She will remember this, and die in whatever she is in. Why? She will fear the outcome more than the rescue.

{image screenshot from author’s timeline]

Someone Please Go Get Kanye! Now.

The founder of For Harriet, Kimberly Foster, said it best:

“We have been talking about Kanye’s downward spiral for five years. When does a spiral become who a n—- is!”

From that life quote, we have this. Aside from the con artistry that is the church he is running, this is a level of strangeness I couldn’t ignore.

Like, bruh. I cannot with dude.

Stop blaming this nonsense on his mama being dead or his non-therapeutic levels of lithium or his sleep deprivation. Young fresh to deff ‘Ye, has now transformed into an ASN. Wanna know what that acronym means? Here you go.

Kanye is now an Ain’t Sh!t N—a.

This is no longer up for debate. Don’t at me! Don’t email me! I said what I said.

I am far from a prude on my worst day. That being said, like what you like. Flat out. Bedroom behavior ain’t no one else’s business anyway! However, when people make dumbass statements like this?! As a Black woman, I am tired of the men that look like my father saying how less than desirable I am.

Like, DUDE?! Who TF asked you do weigh in on sexual prowess?! Kanye, fam, let me tell you something. You married a girl that was ranthu by Brandy’s little brother! That Reggie Bush smashed! Like?! Don’t come at Black women as it relates to this.

‘Ye! Yo, you the one said that that you had to take all these showers and prepare to be with Kim Kardashian! Like, where did this come from, sir!

I don’t remember since Kanye has been famous him being seen with anyone that wasn’t light-skinned (like Amber Rose) or just White! Sex is a sensual act anyway, but let me tell you a bitter truth that I heard in middle school and through high school. It was relayed and rumored that White dudes would eat you out and White girls would give head. I heard this at 12! So the fact Kanye repeated something he may have heard in public school almost 30 years ago? I’m not surprised at.

I’m not shocked that he said this either! He’s been on this campaign of trying to be the White OJ was before the death of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson! What better way to do that then to praise or possess the closest thing to affluent social capital (aka: A White girl)? What other way to tell the people around you where you have casted your lot than to denigrate those you seen as less than? The quickest punching bag for men like Kanye West is Black women.

This off hand comment reduces us as Black women to parts and their function; the rating of her sexual self (is she a freak or not); the reasons why she is not desirable and should only be used for satisfaction.

I’m done being shocked at what this dude does or says. This is who he is! From his musical gifting and talents, he’s trash. But this is a level of trash that solidifies just why I don’t fool with him anymore!

The killer part? I wonder if the Black girls he was with before would give him a glowing review on his cunnilingus or coitus skills. Or does he just come up short.

Dear Wendy

Image result for wendy williams

I haven’t watched the show in years. It gets old hearing about the garbage activities of famous people. It gets tiring of hearing you, as Black woman,  gleeful revel in the downfall of other people. While I do not revel in what is happening to you, one can only say the karma along what is happening to you is akin to Lady MacBeth. It is poetic.

Woman to woman, lemme tell you how raggedy this is. You have touted your marriage for your entire career. Admirable, yes. Not everyone needs to know everything–I completely agree. You are a mogul in the public eye. So I get how no one needs to know everything, sis. I get it. You have every right to protect your family–but this here?

I have no sympathy for your, Mrs. Hunter.

None.

You have sat on your perch and watched the other people’s relationships fall apart and given your unsolicited advice. Now that all your funky laundry is being seen and smelt? You want to deny it and shroud it in shenanigans.

Sis, come on now. WE SEE YOU!

We saw you fall out. We saw the broken shoulder. We saw you disappear from your show for weeks.We know that Kevin slick treats you bad. Like, c’mon sis! C’mon! Be honest with us! Let us know what is going on!

Yes, we that believe are going to pray for you, it’s the right thing to do. But the fact that this dude had this broad (this whole woman!) on the side for at least a decade eating and living out YOUR BAG?! And he had a baby with her?

SISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Like, the book from this ALONE is a NYT best seller! You don’t owe people anything, shug. But you need to understand some atonement is going to be necessary. Some cleansing is going to have to happen. Like you showing off your ring saying, “Don’t ask me about my marriage until you see ring off my finger! And it ain’t goin no where! Not in this lifetime!”

Wendy. Nall.

Every woman that has tried to hang on to a relationship which was burning down around her has done what you are doing! We save face. We lie. We hide to regroup. We pretend the world isn’t noticing how bad we are. We fortify the lie with our own belief. Yet, people see it.

Wendy, the world sees this. We see how he did you, Sis. It’s not right. It’s not okay, and you have a right to privacy. However, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander! You made tea bags and big cups what you do. But don’t be surprised with that tea being sipped is brewed and steeped in the things that are happening to you.

I wish you well, Ma.

Let him miss you. Cut the check. And let him roll over and realize the bag he secured has a hole in it.

With Love,

JBHarris

When A Black Girl Says She Loves You

When a Black girl says she loves you,

That means the world is now in your hands.

With eyes and body,

She has given all of herself

To you in ways which can only

Be felt to be understood.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She lays the world at your feet.

The treat of her, the sweetness of her

Is laid bare.

When a Black girl says she loves you, believe her.

She is already acquainted with the improbable,

Moves Heaven and Earth as marbles,

By firewalking daily,

Because there are giants to slay.

Impossible is her everyday.

She has crosses deserts of loneliness

Where love was, once was

And frequently died.

She has swum from depths of oceans

To be in the sight of love over

An ever dark horizon.

She has tarried in the sight

Of the divine,

Being both girl and woman,

Broken bridesmaid and ‘trippin’ baby mama,

Believing that love, too, was hers

To be found while rejoicing for others.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She turns her back on the bitter women

Of her line that whisper to her wounds,

Or tell her to face what men are

And will never be.

She trusts what she sees and feels,

Not what she is bound to know.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She wipes slates clean.

Her heart tells her head

That you, this, and now are different.

As different as any other before.

She makes space to make pristine

All you hold and house the you,

Now her, now she and you inside

All the us.

She makes you first, last and the always.

An epitaph to every failure is erected,

Believing you are the next time this time,

When she gets it right.

When A Black girl says she loves you,

Frailty makes her strong

Knowing she is caught and protected

In all you are

And the her which is now this us.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

That means the world is now in your hands.

But what world will you give back to her?

-JBHarris 3.1.2019

[image from awanbusu.blogspot.com]