For The Culture—Why DMX Matters

“To live is to suffer.” -DMX

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t wanna write this piece. Because I’m still quite upset that Earl Simmons is no longer in the world. I was a fan of DMX starting in high school in early college (late 1990’s, early 2000’s). I liked his gravely m voice, his linguistic dexterity, and he said exactly what he wanted to say! A trait every writer can get behind. But remember: rapping is still just poetry in its elements in at its function. Poems are just a form of quick storytelling – – so why would rap be any different?

And losing him, the world has lost something precious. We all know about the drug abuse, we know about all the kids, we know what the drama with his babies mothers—but he was talented!

He was worthy of love and to be appreciated just as he was. The one thing that makes me so irritated, that is so heartbreaking about his passing, is the world wanted to focus on his drug use, not his work. But this is always the case with Black artists who die before their primes—before truly realize their potential.

They are remembered for the tricks and traps of fame and fortune; those being used in trying to fill holes that they never fill, and didn’t cause. These traps are worse than anything the SAW universe could dream up!

But the one thing I can say that I miss about Earl Simmons, about DMX, is that they won’t be another one like him. And I’m glad things are being put in place now to put his work out. To release or we release songs in certain cases things to Swizz Beats.

Black artists matter. Rest in peace, Earl.

God & Lil Nas X-Part 2: Takeaways

For my overview, click here for Part 1.

I write this part as a cis-het, Christian, woman whom is a mother, and hope hustler (minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ).

With that established, let’s get it!

1.) You cannot tell me that this young man is not hurt and isn’t lashing out. I have heard the hellfire sermons as it relates to homosexuality. They have never sat well with me. This is the only ‘sin’ there is no grace given to or for. The gospel of Christ is a hammer, yes—but it was never meant to massacre! Imagine being told as you live your life, the source of all things will turn His back on you. That is a nightmare! People forget that love draws, hate divides! Guess which was the last thing Christ told us to do? I’ll wait.

2.) This video was meant to be divisive. The vibe I got watching this video was to make people mad. He fully embraced this identity as a pariah. Completely and utterly outcast from society as Black, gay man—the video celebrates everything in his reality that will ostracize him elsewhere! He is celebrating the fact that “all gay people go to Hell” and pole dancing the whole way there! That is a boldness without equal. Then to simulate sex with Satan, only to murder him(!) and take He’ll over?! Like Crowley on SUPERNATURAL?! Fam!

I don’t think y’all get that: He. Just. Trolled. God. That is a different kind of hubris, I don’t have—or could ever want. His arms are too short for that smoke.

3.) There is an artistry to this video that is undeniable. It’s a pretty video! Very avant-garde! And the creativity that went into it is amazing.

4.) The ownership of your complete self is a process—and when done well? It is incredible!Since Lil Nas X came out, he has made it his mission to accept himself—regardless of who said what! With the state of the nation being what it is, he fact he has been able to do this, done this work to ricochet out into the world? You gotta admire that.

5.) It is a middle finger to heteronormativity. As the transactivist Diamond Stylz says, “It’s gay as fuck.” This video was a treat for the eye, with no video vixen in sight! His self-love, acceptance, with no need to compromise. Bruh.

6.) The video is a demonstrative of the cost to of living the life you want! This young man is a successful, openly, gay Black rapper. I cannot imagine the smoke that came from just that! And peep the double entendre: call me by your name! Basically, call me what you want—it doesn’t matter! Whew!

7.) The game is afoot, Watson. Understand (again) that this young man is playing a role. Understand this is about money, clout and marketing! The more pressed you are, the angrier you are, the more he cashes checks! I refused to be pressed about this because I know the agenda! The world said/says he is a demon destined to go to Hell? Bet! And made a sneaker line to boot? Chile! You better understand what the real issue is and how to handle it! Not sure what the issue is? Re-read Part 1, and all these pieces again.

I’ll be here when you get back.

[Our] Famous Black Aunties Matter

If you didn’t see the Verzuz last night, you missed a whole treat. That is it. That is all!

Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight Set for Verzuz Faceoff This Weekend -  Variety

Lemme tell you a secret.

I have loved Patti Labelle since I heard “Lady Marmalade”. I loved Patti Labelle like I loved Dihann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge and Phylicia Rashad. There is an easy glamour to them which I believe inspired Beyonce to say, “I woke up like this.” So, when I heard that she would doing a Verzuz with Gladys Knight? I thought it was a dream!

You have to understand one thing: I am the oldest child of Baby Boomers. I had the parents that looked over everything I would listen to! I had a Vanilla Ice cassette tape and they insisted on listening to it. I knew they would take it because he cursed in it. You have to understand how hard Tipper Gore made every child’s life after her Parental Advisory campaign! So, I grew up listening to NWA (at my cousin’s house–duh!), Elvis, Stevie Wonder and Duke Ellington (my mama’s favorites). I remember listening to KLOU, the local oldies station on Sunday nights with my father. When I heard Aretha Louise Franklin and Patricia Louise Holte?

THAT WAS IT!

I was happy to have the rasp to my voice, and happy about my alto! And I adopted them both as my imaginary aunties. And I loved Patti Labelle the moment I heard Lady Marmalade. And still do!

This Verzuz was like being in the room when grown folk were talking. I watched it with my sister, Tawanna, and it seemed that every time Patti sang–it hit different. When Gladys sang? It hit different. This is why music is so transcending. When I heard If Only You Knew at 11, it doesn’t sound (read: feel) the same as it does at 39…with some for real life under me.

Soul legends Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight to face off in 'Ultimate Verzuz'  battle | GMA
These millennium children could NEVER!

While reliving childhood memories and hitting that one IF in the chorus of If Only You Knew, and shrieking when she Auntie Patti kicked off her shoes, all I could do was smile. When Auntie Gladys starting singing On & On, I was transported! But the thing that I loved the most about this event was the love that was there. It wasn’t about who won! Although, I told my sister that Auntie Patti was going to win because she was going to be give me everything that I needed! Everything! From the hair, the bougie glass, her blonde bombshell persona and the rack of shoes! Auntie Gladys was regal, and warm and it felt like I was in a front room again. You remember that scene in When Beale Street Could Talk when Tish had to tell Fonnie’s people she was pregnant? Remember all the love, shade and music in that room? Oh, yes! That is what I group up with, it is that love that I try to recreate when I write, or tell a story aloud.

This Verzuz was a hug. This Verzuz was your favorite aunt wiping your eyes and telling you it’ll be okay. It was your Mom or your Dad sharing playlists with your or their vinyl. It was Black Girl Magic becoming the reminder of those who were watching that we come from a stock that can’t help but see us, gotta see us, because they can’t ever be us. The women on that Verzuz have been giving us memories for a combined 130 years! The beautiful thing is how affirming they were to one another. They called to the Queen in one another, reminding each other they would be friends still, and always. This is the gift and jewel of seeing Black women aging while maintaining friendships.

Everything about this was beautiful. And lovely. And I was here for it.

Iggy Azalea will never.

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.

Selective Outrage Is Tiring: Leave Lizzo Alone.

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Today I found out Lizzo’s real name:  Melissa Vivane Jefferson.  I found out today that the rap group she was in had an affinity for the Jay-Z song Izzo; she started calling herself Lizzo.

Cool. Chic. I could rock with it.

The thing is, I don’t really get into a whole lot of this ‘new rap’ but I like Lizzo. She doesn’t look like or sound like the type cookie-cutter rapper forced onto the greater streaming public. I sing ‘Truth Hurts’ loud and often with my 10-year-old daughter. I actually love ‘Good As Hell’ and added ‘Lingerie’ to that special playlist. I love her confidence, the embracing of her body, including her sex appeal.

I sometimes envy her confidence. Then I remind myself to own my own magic. And I do so. Thus, the magic replenishes.

Which is why I am confused as to why the world is mad–that fish grease heated!–because she twerked in a revealing outfit at a basketball game. I, personally, thought it was hilarious! I mean, she did the thing my mother says often:  “If you gon watch me, Imma give you something to see!”

She’s young. She did it. With her body, with her confidence, she twerked at a basketball game. And it was fine. In the most extreme circumstances, it was a shade inappropriate. I wouldn’t have done it. But, where was all this outrage when the very married Ciara and the gorgeous Megan Thee Stallion where a whole two-woman twerk team in a parking lot? Where was all this ‘outrage’ with the outfits the cheerleaders/dancers wear?

People kill me with the outrage when it comes to Black women and the ownership of their bodies! You are ‘mad’–legit upset!–because a grown woman twerked at a basketball game? Y’all are upset, cursing and hella uncentered because a fat, Black woman did what she wanted to do with body she owns.

Do not insult my intelligence by dressing this up as ‘inappropriate’ or ‘poor taste.’ Aight, fam. When looking through my social media timeline, all I could do was shake my head. The writer and feminist Bell Hooks, says that patriarchy can be wielded by anyone. ‘Patriarchy has no gender’ she says.

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Lizzo, in speaking about about this trivial craziness, said that the world hasn’t seen a body like hers “doing what it wants.” I completely agree. I love that she wears what she wants, when she wants and embraces every part of her, that is her. Lizzo is the big girl whose confidence that envy. Who loves all of herself, and does what she wants, with the body she has with no regard for who does not like it.

The world hates Black women like this. The world hates Black women that do what they want, that shun magical/exceptional Negroism. The world hates Black women own, move and do. The world hates the Black female form which refuses to be policed! It hates women which do not conform, who do not shut up, who embrace there sexuality, play up their sexuality and do not think it strange to twerk in public.

The world hate Black women whom own all they are–especially if they aren’t size 2 or above a 12. All depictions of sexy, desirable Black women–wenches or Jezebels–are not built like Lizzo. The men who like women built like Lizzo are made fun of in public. Women like Melissa Vivane Jefferson are relegated to Mammies:  asexual, modest, unseen.

Leave Lizzo alone. Let her be. Let her twerk. Let her own her body. 

Maybe if you do that, we can take one more brick out of the wall of patriarchy! This wall which can divide; makes us second guess ourselves; dim our light to affirm partners content not to see us; to make us feel like the only way women can feel desired, or seen or sexy, is associate–shamelessly correlated–to how big my breasts, belly or ass is. The patriarchy that does not value me, does not see me, content to judge me because I (literally) don’t fit.

Let her be. So we can be.

Twerking ain’t the issue. And if you believe that it is? You’re the issue.

The Radical Anyway: Slings And Arrows Of This White World

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In the age of Homecoming, Lemonade, the ageless Michelle Obama, and Black Girls Rock, this shit is enraging. How is Taylor Swift Artist of the Decade?!

The decade?! From 2010-2019? Decade?!

Fam.

This shit here, is one of the reasons I listen to more 1990’s rap and hip-hop than anything now! I am over the American Music Awards. Completely over.

In hearing this news, I cannot express to you how I had this thought, “How thee fuck is this possible?” But the 38-year-old Black woman, whom has a mother 30 years older answered. And she said, “These folk see what they want to see. Anything else is unseen.”

Was I surprised? No.

Was I shocked? No.

In hearing this news, I felt the same way I did when I saw Adele win Album of the Year for 25, and broke it in half to share it with her. That wasn’t sweet! That shit was insulting. Don’t you dare insult me by telling me you will share the an award with me. Especially, when I know my work is better than yours!

Yet, this is what it means to be Black, woman, and creative in a world that delegates you to other, sex object or unseen when ‘too powerful.’

All awards represent confirmations to the work you have put together. The hours of work, doubt, sweat and the sheer force of creative will. But trust me, I get it! This nation loves White women! They have to be protected, lusted, lorded and affirmed. Their sex and race together are touted as perfect! As if they created by God first and only! It is only right that you give a White girl this type of affirmation!

Now, let me be firm and summer sky clear.

This piece is not to bash Taylor Swift. I, personally, am not a fan of hers. I don’t listen to her. I don’t have an opinion about her one way or another. It is this system by which I am throwing haymakers at!

The system!

This system that is comfortable, so comfortable with the erasure of anything non-White, no matter how average, is suffocating!

Simply suffocating!

I understand systemic racism is more insidious than people imagine. I get that there are White folk that consider themselves ‘good’ and ‘non-racist’ or ‘having Black friends’ whom have no utter idea what it means to be looked over because of how you are socially classified; having work and efforts ignored because you don’t fit.

I get that the preservation of the White face of a nation founded in murder, usurpation and oppression will stop at nothing to bolster, root, cement power by any means necessary. That facade cannot be broken else the game is had!

I get it. And I am mad. And I am tired.

It is not wrong to want recognition for the work you do. It is not wrong to want an earnest look at your art, music or writing. It is not wrong! The thing that is disconcerting, damning even, is believing someone that is not of a dominant culture, has nothing to add to the overall culture.

Erasure is a natural resource of this nation. This is just the latest insult to those whom desire it not to be.

It is times like this, where I remember the rich conversations with my writer girlfriends. The doubts present. The hesitation that had to be assuaged. The support poured into those that needed to ‘create anyway.’ The affirmation that we give to one another, binding up the wounds made by the consistent erasure of a culture content to siphon from you–but never see you!

Yet, we do so anyway. We write anyway. We create anyway. We network and support anyway. We get into ‘Formation’ anyway.

If the believed-greater are so confident in their power, then they can withstand competition. The doors what we are not allowed into, we will break down or make our own!

Black is always seen, and nothing it touches can be unseen. I refuse to be unseen. Not anymore.

[image from Google]

 

 

 

 

 

SABEM-The Playlist

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At what seems like long last, I have compiled the list for the SABEM playlist!

See what I came up with below-

 Follow your girl on a streaming platform

-Apple Music: HisGirlFriday38

-Spotify: ShesAGirlFriday

HisGirlFriday is a play on the movie with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The name: His Girl Friday.

My maternal aunt used to call me a “Girl Friday”, and I thought it was much cooler than being called a secretary.

Enjoy dearest ones!

I so love new music recommendations.

 

 

 

 

Words To Music Are Always Lyrics

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I have always been a fan of music, all kinds of music. And for this semester–if you have noticed–I’ve woven in lyrics and hip-hop lyrics into this series. So, in typical Jenn Harris fashion–I decided to create a playlist for this last semester of undergrad studies.

Look for that at Week 10.

It will be available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Title of the Playlist:

SABEM–How I Made It Over

 

From Nas to Duke Ellington, to Stevie Wonder. From G-Eazy to MTS and Hozier. Music helped me get through papers, study and even press my way through to get through these last weeks.

 

Enjoy!

This is my graduation gift to you all.

 

Love you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Course ‘They’ Snubbed Beyonce! And Here Is Why.

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Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is becoming a force of nature, with her Sara Baartman hips. From a pretty young woman with this power in her throat and heart, to this dynamic, sentient, vibrant, and culturally aware and present Black woman. Isn’t this what an icon is supposed to be –and become?

I have watched her progression from Destiny’s Child to her own grown woman. While not signing on or applying to the Beyhive, but I do work PRN for it. I have cheered her, been a Stan of hers–officially–after the release of Lemonade. After the experience of listening to Lemonade.

There was a pure pride I carried for her. Not a worship, not a reverence. But a pride. The same pride I felt when I learned that Cleopatra was Black. That Queen Nzinga was not a figure of my imagination. That Queen Hatshepsut became a Pharaoh due to sheer wit and brilliance. It was a sense of knowing there is a woman who looked like me–not bound by narrow societal imagination.

Although she wears the privilege granted to the beautiful, the cis-het and wealthy, Beyoncé is still a Black woman in an industry dominated by White men. The people that create award shows like the Emmys and Academy Awards, do not resemble the men that look like Beyoncé’s father.

For all her achievements, all her influence, for as far as her reach, she is still a Black woman. Playing a rich, White man’s game–laced with avarice and malice. Which chokes out love.

Knowing this, I am not surprised she was snubbed for an Emmy this hear. I am not, was not, shocked when she lost the Grammy for album of the year to Adele!

For all her power, the industry fears her. Those she inspires behind her. They fear her.

This light-skinned, country-talking, beautiful Black woman, descended from slaves, Texas plantation soil and Louisiana Creoles–is one of the most influential Black women in history.

In. History.

And money has not taken her Blackness. It has not refined her speech, vision or daily reminder that she is both Black and woman.

Why would the owners of the master narrative acknowledge such an accomplishment? The fierce representation and preservation of culture!

Why would the master acknowledge the slave?

The worlds and spheres Beyoncé’s inhabits, that she orbits, she spins, are still determined to remind her of limitations. Her weaknesses. How Black everything about her is, and how detrimental Black motherhood and mogul persists are!

How acknowledgment is equivalent achievement. That should be good enough.

Separate, but equal.

In the face of that, Beyoncé still creates. She still makes space. She now Mama and Nala and the creative power of The Gift. This is the resilience of Black women. The wisdom of the artist is what James Baldwin admonishes: “The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.”

The wealth and worth of an artist is, nor will ever be, measured by people to whom they differ. The value of their work will not be held on the high esteem of people–haters and critics–insistent on ignoring it.

The wealth and worth of artists is most often awarded through the grace of time. The earnest nature of creativity. Through harsh critique becoming acknowledgement. As it was said by John Wilmot, the brilliant (and debauched) Second Earl Of Rochester in the movie The Libertine (portrayed by Johnny Depp):

“Your critics will come in two forms. The stupid and the envious. The stupid will love you in five years. The envious never will.”

Let time factor which we all will become.

[images from Netflix, Apple Music and Pinterest]

Week 4-Do It Expeditiously

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“Engage the text.”

-Professor Kimberly Welch

 

This week left the kid reeling. Like for real, reeling! I failed a quiz because there was a day I was so outta focus that I could not focus enough to read. And the book?

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Bruh.

I mean, I am a fan of Ellison! When I put just my name on that paper to take my quiz and nothing else? Humbling as loose drawls. I vowed right thing, RHETTHEN(!!!), I would not fail not nam nother quiz. But I had a check moment. When I saw that quiz, on the screen, and new I hadn’t read? I couldn’t stand my prof. The same woman I just quoted. The woman, a Black woman, whom has my dream job.

I had to sit with that. I thought she was too hard, thought she didn’t like me, and who did she thinks she was! But, dear ones, Prof. Welch is the first Black English professor I have had this institution! I had to respect her drive, respect for the subject matter, and had to respect her for demanding that a broad keep up! I had to think about what it was like for her, teaching a class where there are only two other Black women–and maybe six Black men.

I had to examine what made her seem to be an enemy, and not an ally. What I came up with? I wasn’t ready, and expected the rules to change for me–because she looked like me. The Black girl space, in that space, this space, excludes manipulation. I had to realize this grade is going to require all of me, and I ain’t scared of that.

But I carved out the Black girl space with a Black girl named, Bianca.  Seeing a girl that looked like me, just as brilliant, in Prof. Welch’s class? This Black woman providing this space to discuss this text (Invisible Man) gave us this chance to deep breath. The cooler thing? We were in this group discussing this text with a girl that was not Black, but when we started crafting this space? She pulled back–she didn’t force her way in.

She pulled a curtain for us. I cannot tell you how dope that is.

There is space in this place, this realm for me–for us. I am charged to not just make space for me–but for those after.

The words are bigger than me.