Always On Pointe, Black Girl…

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

 

Always.

she has been the chic,

the sturdy,

the fresh,

and fly one–

trendsetting as sunsets,

as bold as full moons.

Never stopping to check

for whom is not checking

for her.

In this body, walking

through this world as

magic, melanin, and millenniums

the rocks cry out

for me, for us, and the we

hidden in the magic

of our wombs.

It is the grace of our feet

and the rhythm in our sway

which carry us towards destiny

and the legacy meant for us.

Unmovable.

Unshakable.

Believing in us and each other.

Always.

-JBHarris, 10.15.19

 

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

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

When I Found My Claddagh Ring, I Almost Cried.

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Claddagh Ring Meaning

A popular piece of Celtic culture, the Claddagh signifies love, friendship, and loyalty. Traded among close friends and those in a romantic, committed relationship, a Claddagh portrays two hands holding a heart, topped with a crown.

The Claddagh is most often seen in a ring, but it can be expressed in necklaces and earrings as well. Some common reasons people wear Claddagh include:

  • As an engagement or promise ring: Yes, the Claddagh is so beloved, some use it to signify their romantic, lifelong commitment to one another.
  • Best friends: Close friends who want to honor their bond may wear matching Claddagh rings as a symbol of friendship and loyalty.
  • Looking for love: Wearing a Claddagh ring on your right hand with the bottom of the heart facing away from you is a signal that you are available.

 (Taken from Google)

I’ve always been a romantic. I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps this is my artistic nature. With that said, it is of no surprise really, that I kept a ring from a young man that I once wanted to give my everything.

I was 18, you see. I was. In love and a fresh-faced nursing student. I was in love with the idea of adulthood, American Movie Classics and this guy named Daniel Nelsen. In my years of dating, I never found a sweeter dude. He asked me to marry him. Sent me a key to his house, and said I was his everything.

Like with all young women eager for the world and its holdings, I’d break up with him when I wanted to date someone else. He was in New York, and didn’t leave. He’d take me back when I wanted and I did this to him for 2 years. Until, I finally told him how I was treating him was wrong.

In the madness of our coming together and leaving, he told me to pick out a ring. I was about to be chose chose! I wanted this ring to be distinct, unique and totally unlike any other I had ever seen.

I got the idea that I wanted a Claddagh ring from a Nora Roberts novel. She’s always so proud of her Emerald Isle heritage and this ring sounded like something I would love. That I have to have. Even now, so many years removed from wearing one I can spot on and the dating status of person wearing it.  

I remember the weight of it, how gorgeous it was. And it meant more to me than any jewelry I had ever owned. And our breakup was amicable, for the most part. And I haven’t spoken to him sense. There was no need to.

That’s ring replicated itself with my last serious boyfriend. I wanted one, I wanted that affirmation of what was unique and special about our relationship. When that shattered, I kept the ring. Which is odd for me. I kept this ring and stored it. I cannot tell you why.

It was only during a recent move that the small white box was unearthed. I saw the tarnished silver ring and thought. Not about the guy, but about–loss.

The loss of time.

The loss of future, and alternate nows.

I thought about how I allowed myself to be the damsel in distress waiting on someone to save me–waited for the kiss in the glass coffin; save from the spinning wheel; rescued from the tower.

 Yet, those before were not strong enough to stay. Or desired to rescue. I thought about trust I had given. Willingly. Pieces of me I gave away. Willingly. I thought about how none of what I gave to them could ever be given back to me. Ever. Conversely, nothing I did to them could ever be made right.

I lost what I could not replace or barter or hustle for more of: time.

I wept because the ring, with its tarnish, remembered.

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

For My Daughters-Lesson 5: Struggle Love Is Not Love

 

Babygirls-

I want to you to know one crucial thing:

You cannot make someone love you. 

Here’s another one for free:

You should not have to make someone love you. 

 

If I can have you understand just how precious you are, and how amazing you will become–I think I will have done half of my job as your mother. Knowing these two irrefutable things about yourself as women–as Black women–this will allow you to be dynamic. Also, rendering you immune to the thirst to be chose!

There is this concept a friend of mine came up with. Honestly, she may not have invented the term, but for the case, I’ll say she did. She called it: struggle love.

What is this, you  ask?

This is the type of love that is toxic, dear ones. It is this promoting of the idea if you ‘just hang in there’ it’ll be better–when there is no reasonable hope of such! Now, don’t get me wrong:  every relationship has bad patches! Every relationship has moments (moments!) where you don’t like or can’t stand each other. In those temporal moments, you may have the choice to ride out the bad, knowing, seeing where the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not dark all the time! But dark times should not be ongoing! Those moments should be few and far between.

There were men that I chased, hoping they would see how beautiful and capable I was. There were relationships that I stayed in far too long, hoping it would get better. But better never came. See, what people don’t tell you is that ‘struggle love’ takes from you. It saps your youth, strength and focus. It takes or sabotages opportunities! This is what I heard from a man that  tried to keep, that it took over three years to leave:

“I don’t want you to go out of town for school, because I would miss you so much.”

And I listened. The thing behind that? He didn’t want me to be far from him, because he was insecure. And sometimes insecurity in the wrong man leads to controlling behaviors. Or to be clingy and manipulative.

Another man I tried to date wanted to change who I was. Hated how smart I was, that I kept myself up, and that I was ambitious. It was odd:  the same thing that drew him to me, was the very thing that made him hate me.

Struggle love props up this idea of the happily ever after at all cost! It promotes this idea that everything that makes you valuable as a woman is wrapped in being with man! While doing whatever it takes to keep him! It involves ignoring or tolerating outrageous, abusive behavior because ‘he’s my man, and you just don’t understand.’ No!

If you have any inkling; any type of ‘something told me’, any funny feeling? Believe it. This is the Almighty protecting you, warning you, from something that can hurt or trap you. The thing is, my loves, a hurt is something you can be be mended or healed from. A trap? That takes a while to get out of, and may leave scars or residue. With that residue, along with the hurt? This may make you susceptible to evil, manipulative people.

My dearest ones, my heartbeat in two places, I want better for this for you! I want you to remember you are a Queen. You are entitled to be both beautiful and ambitious. You are allowed to manifest your own destiny! You have the right to tell a man ‘no’! And that is a complete sentence! You are allowed to possess all pieces that make you formidable and feminine. Change for no one. Change for no man. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t fix something, or everything! You are entitled to leave any relationship when you believe that you had done all you can. It does not make you less than a woman to be single or walk away from what no longer suits you! Own your power and person, my loves.

You have the right to have healthy, lasting love. You do not, will not, have to give your body to boy, a man (or another woman) not be valid, valued or loved. Love is not a struggle. It is given. That which can be given, and given freely, is never a struggle.

I love you beyond the stars, to the moon and back.

Always,

Mommy

 

 

For My Daughters-Lesson 4: Mama Doesn’t Always Get It Right

The best thing that God let’s us do is to grow up and see our parents as human.

 

My daughters-

You all are proof that there is still love in the world, and I must have more love to give to it. I want you to know that I, your mother, me, Jennifer, I am not perfect. But I try to make your world as clean, clear, and perfect as possible. And sometimes? I mess up. I don’t always say the right thing, I sometimes am late to what you want me to show up at. Sometimes, I don’t get it right. 

You two are the dearest things to me, and I would give you all of I have for you to not experience any of the heartbreak I have. I would give anything for you not to cry over a boy, fall off a bike, have your heartbroken…but I can’t. I send you out in the world armed with all that I will teach you and all that you are. But this doesn’t mean I don’t (or won’t) mess up.

Sometimes I am too short with you. Sometimes my tone is off! Sometimes I scream when I should listen. Sometimes I overrule what you want, over what I think you need.

Some days you may hate me.

Some days you may call me a name when the door is closed.

Some days you may hid things from me because you’re not sure how I can handle any ungood news you have.

But I want you to know I love you, with all I have. And a lot of parenting, especially of daughters is sans any instruction manual. It is a mix of what you know to be right, and what you wish someone had done for you. What I wanted someone to do for me was–listen.

This is why I talk to you all so much. This is why I give you the power of your own thoughts! This is why I tell you that you can come to me with anything. Any. Thing. But I want you to remember Mama is not perfect, and neither am I trying to be.

Everyday, I try to be a better Mama for you.

You are the best parts of me, and you deserve the best of me–everyday.

With that in mind, give your Mama a break–and extra hugs. The world is hard for mamas too.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

For My Daughters-Lesson 3: Ambition & Dreaming

 

 Dearest Darlings:

I want you to remember one thing, if nothing else:

If you believe you can, it will be so.

Most innovation and change in the world has come from someone dreaming. It is that energy, to build what only you may see which fuels ambition!

They go hand in hand, loves.

I want you to be bold about what you want from this life! If you do not see it, build it! I want you to take every gift, talent and skill and master them. Push them. Explore them!

Do not be persuaded or dissuaded by the opinions of stagnant, dreamless, vapid people. Do not fear the outcome of something before it begins! Don’t fear failing or falling! It is okay to be anxious, dear ones. It is even okay to be scared. Life is sometimes scary–especially, when you are embarking on something the surrounding world thinks you shouldn’t be doing; or succeeding in a field women, Black women, shouldn’t be in!

I am raising you to Torches!

This means your power is in three parts:

Light. Heat. Strength.

From your light you can, do and will inspire. You will lead a groups, movements and a generation! You will be all God has asked.

From the heat of your Torch, you will be able expose injustice, as well as provide compassion! You will be able to be strong when it is easier to quit. You will be able to care for those who can’t, and speak when others may not be able.

Torches provide strength, even when they stand still. They are a beacon–a place of hope. This is the flame of ambition. This is the power of dreaming! Strength is power put to use! You can do, will do, so much! And even being able to light the way for someone else is just as crucial.

Go forth and do good, dearest ones! I am already proud of you.

The Value Of The Put-On: Reflection On ‘Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.’

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*the put-on:  Noun

This is cultural colloquialism which means to give someone you know a chance or opportunity; in a field you are familiar with or currently working.

 

I am a fan of Tiffany Haddish!

I love that she is loud, so Black and hood in white AF in white spaces. I am familiar with her story. I know that she was almost functionally illiterate. I know she was living in her car. I know she was doing comedy, when Kevin Hart talked to her. I know that he gave her $300 to get a hotel for the week. But what I also know is he put her on.

He saw her talent. He spoke to it. And he gave her an opportunity.

That is beauty of the put-on.

In watching this series on Netflix, what I heard so often was, “Tiffany came and got me.”

“Tiffany and I had  pact that whoever went first, they would throw the rope back. And she through it back.”

There is a power in maintaining space, but it is a totally unique power to create it! What Tiffany did is not forget the people that grinded with her, laughed with her, cried with her–and hustled together. It made me so happy to see!

A Black woman, whom is making and solidifying her own career, made a space for other women, especially those that look like her! This is the power of a put-on!

Let me explain this a little further.

 

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THE POWER OF THE PUT-ON

My best friend and I call this ‘putting someone in the room.’ But I like to use ‘the put-on’! This means that you know someone with skills, talents and abilities that someone needs to see. It means you have decided to build as you climb! The goal of it is visibility by an means necessary. The glorious thing, the beautiful thing? The put-on is a ripple in a pond. It provides a space for talent to be discovered and seen by more than just the person that put you on!

But what is the most important thing about the put-on is being able to give shine to people whom may not have it before. Or giving unique opportunities to those whom may never have had them otherwise (classic example:  the Wayans)!

The put-on is a best kept secret, and a card not often played. Why? The fear of other people’s greatness and competition. The put-on nullifies that! It grants presence to people whom need it the most! Or, sadly, may not have ever had it.

The beautiful thing about the put-on, is you don’t have to do anything but open a door. Or drop a card. Or a name. Even, in the case of Tiffany Haddish, go back to where it started–and some folk that people need to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[images from whatsnewonnetflix.com]