The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #2: It Doesn’t Take All That!

The world loves to tell Black women and girls what they can and cannot do! It loves to define Black women and girls for what they believe they should be. I am not a should-be Black girl. I am not a should-be Black woman! I own all that I have gone through, all I have done, and I want all that I dream of being!

I own me on a level I couldn’t dream of before! I suppose inching towards 40 which has settled me in a way that I didn’t think I would reach yet. Yet, in the intersection of aging, motherhood and adulthood, I find myself confronting the need to hold my own space. There is a need to protect that space, and every footstep that goes into owning that. The lie that I break daily is that I “do too much” or “it doesn’t take all that.” But, it does! It does take all that–it takes every bit of THAT which makes me Black and woman and walking through the world!

There is a different level of moxie, chutzpah and bravado to be a Black girl in a world that either wants to be you, erase you or kill you! It take every bit of your THAT to walk through the world and not be overtaken by it! What is THAT you ask? THAT can be a myriad of things, but here are the three things that I have deduced THAT is: Voice. Style. Presence.

Voice. There is a power, a magic, that Black women have. There is a natural authority and sway we have. When we open our mouths at certain points, God will come out! And in that space, from that place of authority, people who don’t want to see or hear Black women–silence us. We get removed from rooms. We get ‘rescheduled.’ We get delegated. We get told that we ‘too loud.’ We are ‘too aggressive’. And then those accusations are met with rebuttal? Oh, then we are called ‘bitches’. As if that will make the roar soften because you call me a name! No. I’m too told to be stopped by that.

Style. The poet Nikki Giovanni talks about how divine this thing called style that Black folk have. The poet herself even said, “If the Black woman wasn’t born, she would have to be invented.” There is a power in this! There is something to Black women, whom bear Black girls who, too, will become Black women have that is indicative of self-expression. In a world which is bent toward erasure of anything it considers and aberration, Black women still are noticed–we can’t help but to be noticed! From hair, our nails, make up and shoes–to how will pull ourselves together for dinners, weddings or a night out–Black women have shaped, reinvented, and owned style from the first time we discovered color. This was before chattel slavery, dear ones.

Presence. I have been a tall girl my entire life. In quoting my aunt about the state of my body, she says it this way: “All you had all your life was legs and ass!” That’s a direct quote. Now, I stand 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and about 200 lbs. With the right outfit and shoes I am over 6 feet tall–you notice when I walk in a room. My mother tells me that a lady always has presence about her. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s until I realized what that meant. Presence is owning your life, experiences and all that your body is–stretch marks, muffin top, eyeglasses–whatever. The world doesn’t know what to do with a woman they are supposed to be ignore (let’s not forget we aren’t to be lusted after!), and it wants to erase! What do you do with a woman that you can’t help but see?

So yes, dear ones, it takes all of THAT. This life takes you owning your space. Amplifying your voice. It takes knowing who you are, and having your life not be defined by what other people can look or conceptualize you as! You make the boxes and draw outside of them!

Never let the world which can only take you in sips demand you give them a chaser! No! You have every right to be in this world–so be in it. Be. In. It.

In Defense Of ‘WAP’

Note: This is review is for grown women only. I knew what WAP was when I saw this image. Why? Cause I’m grown. Check the notes at the end. You’re welcome. -JBHarris

I am not a virgin.

I know how babies are made, and where they come from.

I like sex.

Now, with that out the way, I thank you that your misogyny hasn’t overruled your common sense! I also thank you for continuing to engage in this discourse. At this again (I am a year from 40), I know what I like and who I like it from. Also, the concept of dancing to sexy music is not a new thing. I mean, I listened to Lil Kim and Trina when my mom wasn’t home during my last two years of high school. So, when I heard WAP at work two nights ago? I vibed to it, and was mad I couldn’t be anyone’s Meg Thee Stallion! But let me not ahead of myself…

My mother and father taught me to not and never be ashamed to be Black. My mother never told me to be ashamed of my body, even though my mother is of the generation that still call Black girls fast–and I, too, was warned about the ‘danger’ of being *’fast’ or being ‘a fast-tailed girl’**. It was work to begin to love my body, and all it could do. It was a whole other struggle to remind myself that sex, and liking sex doesn’t make me anything but a sexual being.

In growing up as Black and girl, whom will become Black and woman, there can be this almost oppressive chastity imposed on you! To own your body as a Black woman is a revolutionary act! It a declaration of your personhood and ownership–complete ownership!–of your body. There are still people (read: men and ‘conservative’ women) that think to own you body, and to take pleasure with it, automatically makes you a whore! Slut-shaming is trash LD/DAP energy. I said it.

The video is a declaration of the ownership of the female form! I still have no idea why Kylie Jenner was in it! WHY?! Other than for the reputation her sister has and it being a declaration that she is DTF. But, I digress.

I have no idea why sexually confident women scare people! In the two days this song and video has been up, the complete backlash is almost comical! Too $hort can talk about pimpin an Cocktales, video vixens have been the ornaments to all hip-hop videos, NWA has a song called ‘My Penis’, but let a woman declare just how bomb her body is! Let her declare how well she can use these hips Lucille Clifton talked about! Let a woman declare that as Meg said in Captain Hook ‘I like to drin and I like to have sex’, now she is undesirable?

Yet, there is a large swath of these so-called outraged men that still watch porn, by the ‘services’ of women and have ‘known’ more than a few hoes in their ‘player days’. But, you want the woman you want to be pristine, low body count and just do ‘hoe shit’ for you? Do you hear yourselves?

In literature, there is this idea called primo genture. This ideology comes up alot in Shakespearean plays. The idea is to police and control female sexuality, you can then assure legitmate heirs to a line. Notice the legitmacy of an heir falls to a woman–even though she can neither determine when she gets pregnant, or the sex of the baby. We need only look to recent history to men–married men!–whom had whole families outside of their ‘legitmate’ families! What does that mean for them?

Oh, I forgot. Men are supposed to ‘sow their wild oats’, right? Get all that hell-raising and bed hopping done with before getting married. I cackle laughing at this every time someone mentions how chaste a woman is supposed to be. Yet, this wisdom is never expected from men.

The fact that WAP exists, and I’m SURE is on many a playlist the kids can’t listen to, and been ‘tried out’ by now, I need ya’ll to grow up. If you don’t want to listen to it, don’t. If you think Cardi and Meg are too much–don’t listen! But don’t come for those of us whom have done the work of loving ourselves, including those of us who know we have WAPs, and like using them from time to time. Use that energy to take down the president who likes to ‘grab women by the pussy.’

Women are allowed to own their bodies, their sexuality and express that however they see fit. Societal approval is not needed for a woman to be seen. A woman need only a mirror for that–and the right to not be judged because she looked, with the audacity to like what she saw. And twerk in celebration.

Note to help you not be a prude:

Shameless Plug #1: Read Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women A Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall.

Shameless Plug #2: Read by miniseries from last year FOR A FAST GIRL. Click here to start that.

Shameless Plug #3: Listen to my podcast, The Writers’ Block (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play). For the month of May, I did a miniseries called For The Love of Hip-Hop and I talk about sex, women and hip-hop on the third and fourth show.

Shameless Plug #4: Listen to the Sexpectations podcast hosted by Nicole Powell.

…And Just Like That, She Is Forty Minus One.

Happy Birthday to all my Birthday Twins! According to the Original Firestarter, My Mama, I was born Wednesday, June 24, 1981 at 10:37 am. If you desire to send all bday money, you send it to my CashApp: $JBHWrites. Thank you, dear ones!

39. I have made it to 39.

I am a mother, a daughter and a friend. This birthday feels different. It feels different, because it is different. I survived the onslaught of COVID-19, with my mental health and body intact! But this birthday is different.

I am getting extra tattoos. I am piercing my belly button again. I am embracing my sensual nature, and respecting (read: re-establishing) my boundaries. I am falling in love with me, and my own company all over again. Yet, I am doing it in a way I could only have done at this age. I am no longer keen on male company, and I am not dumbing down for it. I have found that I am a fan of a good wine, and Megan Thee Stallion.

I am writing more, and building a legacy for me and mine. I am appreciating my mother more, and her bed still has magic in it! And I do not know what I will do without her when the day comes I can no longer call her–or find her—on this side of the grass.

The previous 6 birthdays, I have been someone’s wife. I am no longer that. That wound is fresh, pulsing and I am still healing from that. It is a beautiful thing to be able to write in this time as well! If I couldn’t get all of this out of me, I would definitely be in a much sadder state.

In this birthday, the last of my 30’s, it feels different.

I’m moving different.

I’m looking at my life and raising my kids different.

Everything is different!

I went into 2020 with all these plans and expectations—and weights. I will not dwell on the demise of my second marriage, for 2 reasons.

1.) Ain’t no body got time for that! We are getting divorced. We are not friends. Nor do I purpose to be.

2.) Mr. Harris deserves to live his life without his ex-wife dragging him through the internet.

I’m much classier than this. I’m a lady (most days). Despite rumors to the contrary.

But the thing is this, I’m not terribly scared to turn 40. I’m not rushing it either! Trust me! I am thinking now about what I want the second half of my life to be. I am thinking about how I am going to be a better Mama. A better friend, and I am loving sleeping alone again! I am healing up, Oracles. I am enjoying time with my kids, and writing, and even have taken up gardening.

Yes, gardening.

I refuse to get a dog. And I hate cats, and the scary thing—in the next 5 years, I will have an 18-year-old child. And I have to get her ready for the world. I am absorbing all the time with her and her younger sister now.

What these first almost 7 months of this new decade have taught me is I am tougher than I ever thought. I deserve more than I ever put up with! I have learned when things are over, they are just over–and some men just can’t handle you; though they love the idea of you. What I have learned in this now 39 years of living is all wisdom is gotten at a cost: youth.

There is more I desire to do, that I must do–and I am excited. Besides, the adage is, “If she’s fine at 40, she’ll be fine forever!” And I plan on aging like Dihann Carroll!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Notes On The ‘Flu Klux Klan’

All opinions are my own and based on science as well as experience as a health care worker. If people don’t listen, this is about to be bad. No, it’s already bad! It’ll be worse…-JBHarris.

And there you have it…

I admit it. When I first heard the phrase Flu Klux Klan, I screamed laughing. I was laughing right behind my N-95 rebreather mask. You know, the masks Orange Thanos believes US healthcare workers don’t need?

This situation is asinine.

I am convinced that America is the craziest place to live when shit is not actively on fire—but it is a dystopian novel when there is something actively on fire.

Octavia E. Butler tried to tell us! Did we listen?! Nooooo.

Only in the greatest nation in the world do people actively protest again their own self-interests, personal safety and health concerns. These folk are misinterpreting Bible verses, American history, and issues pertaining to women’s health and personhood.

If I wasn’t alive to see this, I would swear it was a book. It would have to be a book! We have an evil leader with sycophant supporters, a rebel base and are in the middle of multiple social crises! If we were burning books this would be Fahrenheit 451!

And legit? I’m scares something Orwellian like this will happen next!

There is always room in graves and morgues.

But you know what? They are absolutely right! They have the right to feel how they want—even if that means endangering their own lives.

Their own lives.

Now, since these folk clearly have the brainwashing buckets on their heads the aquatic life in the Spongebob Squarepants move did, let me offer this.

If they do test positive for COVID-19, send them home. That’s right! Send them home. They should not have access to healthcare for a virus they said does not exist! These people are carrying assault weapons into government buildings while Black folk are being put out of Wal-Mart for wearing masks. Make this make sense!

You want to know why they don’t want to be in the house? The government told them they weren’t special! This is White supremacy having a tantrum. No more, no less. How does one make sense of insanity? Hint: you don’t. This folk are used to the government policing the behavior of other (read: Black, Brown, other people of color or Indigenous People) not them (read: White people). The government is supposed to let them do what they want, and oppress other people! This isn’t about health or “give me liberty or give me COVID-19.”

Side note: That is the stupidest effing sign one could make.

This is about whether or not people can trust their government and believe what they say! If there was ever a time to trust the government—or God forbid, pay attention, it’s now!

You have the right to die, yes! But you do not have the right to kill the rest of us because you don’t want to listen and you voted for Blackbeard the Pirate! GOH! As for me and mine, we will believe God and Dr. Fauci. And watch the world burn from inside the house. Go outside if you want to! Be around a whole lot of folk if you want to! The Death Industry is recession proof. And open graves are just the wide screams of the disbelieving.

Wash your hands. Avoid large groups of people. Wear masks. Don’t let the Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius win. He ain’t won’t come to your funeral or even notice you’re dead. He looks at the sun because he can’t believe anything is lighter or whiter than him.

[images taken from author’s social media]

May 2020 Is For Lil Boosie!

There is no secret to anyone that knows me that I love hip-hop. I do! And my favorite song to be amped to (aside from Swagga Like Us off T.I.’s Paper Trail), Wipe Me Down, by Lil Boosie! I promise that it is! I don’t know what about it makes me so happy, and wishing for my 20’s again, but it does!

With that reflection is mind, I had an idea for my miniseries for the month of May:

The title ‘Thinking I’m Grown’ is what I was told when I was growing up, especially after I started to express myself through what I wore or how I wanted to wear my hair. I cannot tell you how many times I heard “Oh, you think you grown?” I had no idea what that mean–and truly, looking age 40 in the face, I still don’t necessarily know! But, I’m about to take a stab at it.

This series starts Saturday, May 3rd. Like the miniseries in the past, there will be one post every Saturday until the cessation of the series on Saturday, May 31. Here are the topics:

May 3: Think I’m Grown: Shoulders (How I Stand)

May 10: Think I’m Grown: Chest (My Body And How I Accept It)

May 17: Think I’m Grown: Pants (Fashion and Style)

May 24: Think I’m Grown: Shoes (How I Move In The World)

May 31: Think I’m Grown: Wipe Me Down (Self-Acceptance)

See what I did there? You’re a smart cookie, I know you did. Make sure you follow this space. There is more, so much more to come.

DECADE OF RUNITBACK

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The dirty secret about all that I do, what I do, is there are people that think that what I do has been easy, sort of nebulous, and that ‘anyone’ should be able to do. Yet, the great thing about all that I am doing is that no one that I know is doing it on such a scale. My brother’s nickname for me is Shonda Rimes.

Great compliment. Fantastic comparison.

And with quiet reflection, I examined the last decade of my life, with a professional lens. With full candor. With disclosure. With the desire and happiness for the future. It is with the complete childlike happiness that I anticipate what is to come–and what is already in the works.

At the beginning of the last decade, I was a 28-year-old single mom, whose ex-husband was aloof at best and narcissistic at worst. At the end of the decade, I am a locally known indie author; blogger; started a podcast; creating a working professional network which consists of  college professors and 1 mentor,  Dr. Kimberly Welch.

Come walk down memory lane with me:

 

2010-first marriage left me destitute with 2 children under 3.

2011-Went back to school; divorce final

2012-not writing, trying to be a nurse

2013-lost my grandmother, a 3-year relationship; left school because I couldn’t pay for it

2014-Murder of Michael Brown, Jr; activism galvanized. Writing begins as a career. 3 books published.

2015-more writing; forgoing nursing as career; met Marissa Southards (now the founder of The Awakenings Project-STL) via Twitter.

2016-The Ideal Firestarter created more writing; sat for The Awakenings Project; met Winnie Elizabeth as a blogging mentor

2017- first novel done; writing is now a career; started editing professionally  through JBHarris Writing Services ;writing mentorship starts; first company started.

2018-RUBY published; professional network grows; writing workshops begin; book count stands at 10; started I Breathe Fire, met Amanda Wells, founder of FLOW STL.

2019-The Writers’ Block podcast begins; The Ideal Firestarter staff is at 4; 2 companies started; graduated college. Three professional mentors, with plans for grad school. Writing Mentorship starts 1.15.2020.

I am not playing with this next decade.

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.

Birthday Chapters: #38.

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“I will come in, and leave, as power.” -JBHarris

Can you believe it? The kid is not a whole grown up and almost 40. I’ve been saying I was 38 for the last four months though. Which is hilarious on some end. But the thing that i have learned, going into this next chapter of life are these three things.

 

 

Value of your whole self. I’m learning to celebrate everything that is me. I am becoming happy with me and all that I am accomplishing. I am learning to celebrating  the wins. I’m celebrating the fact that I am not dead. I get the losses, and I accept the time that I have lost. I have a greater value of time, my time. I am a woman. Women value their time, their wins, and their talents. They make, take and hold space. I have finally learned to value me. 

 

Strength is not determined by pain suffered. I don’t think that pain should determine strength or love. I have decided that the pain I have endured doesn’t make me the quintessential ‘strong, Black woman.’ I am a strong woman because I know what it is like to suffer, but also have the strength to rejoice. I know what it is like to be broken, and remain that way–thinking that is week. Believing being broken is a condition to favor. I know what it is like to need help–by admitting that you do. I have learned that being a woman, a Black woman, is to be able to breathe, to express, and even when to rest. I have learned I deserve love, because God is love. I deserve love because it holds up the world. I deserve it not because I had to be proven or emotionally battered to get it. I deserve it, because God gives it to me freely. I acknowledge my wounds, I won’t worship them.

 

Life is glorious. A friend of mine told me that I was always too excited about having birthdays. Never! I almost died as an infant. As a child. And at the hands of someone that said he loved me. I am excited about this gift called life. I am excited for what it holds. What is all set and planned for me. I am still excited about the process of getting there. This life is amazing. I have 37 chapters done. By virtue of blessing and tenacity, I no longer fear what talents I have. I no longer fear the ambition. I plan on making 40 look amazing!

Happy Birthday to me and all my Birthday Twins!

Daddy Lessons #1-Being Unstoppable

“If they won’t let you in the front door, go around to the back. If they won’t let you in the back, buss a window and jump in!”

-Richard L. Bush (1948-1998)

 

My Dad was one of the most driven men I have ever known. Perhaps in the nature of the Almighty, this was the best thing God could have given me:  a driven father. In that drive, I learned to make space; not to believe that “No” is permanent; and there is a way to do anything you want to do.

With this year marking twenty years without him, I have now had the wisdom which comes through life experience to allow me to value all he left me. That stubborn streak, that ability to be both present and visionary, I can say I got from him.

This quote is one I use and relay most often to people in my inner circle as encouragement. This quote has always been a source of comfort for me since his passing. It reminds me not to let situations, circumstances, -isms, or criteria set by other people to stop me. My father, even within the seventeen years I had him, made sure I knew the value of being resourceful. He made sure I knew how to treat people, and especially how to treat the people you employ.

Perhaps, even living in a time where the trappings of womanhood are seen as hindrances, my father reminded me that my sex is never going to change–but there was a power to it that was undeniable. He wanted me (and my sister) to be pretty and intelligent:  this way, no door could be shut to us. The most powerful thing this quote embodies is the willingness to work for what you want.  As a young girl, as a young Black girl, that reminder that I would have to work for what I want–but, that I could have what I wanted? That is powerful.

For my father, to tell me, that I can do anything and let no one stop me? That endowed me with a  superpower.

I think it is most amusing that for a man whom thought I shouldn’t be a writer as a consistent, stable profession, words are his biggest legacy to me. From those words, his words, the world  got that much bigger.

Thanks, Daddy.