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.

Let’s Be Real About It, Girls Love Joe! They Loved Theodore Bundy, Too.

I have few guilty pleasures, fam. But one of them is infamous Netflix show, YOU. I must confess, I saw Season 1, before I read the first book. And I read the second book (Hidden Bodies) before Season 2 began not even a week ago!

But as dynamic as Penn Badgley is, his portrayal of Joseph “Joe” Goldberg is amazing and creepy AF! In the first season (I hadn’t read the book, mind you), I thought Joe was cute and smart and the fact he worked in a bookstore? Bonus.

How Kepnes wrote the book, and the writers crafted the story, you overlook the fact that Joe (in the words of the now deceased Guinevere Beck), “creeps into girls’ lives and violating the shit out of them!”

Let me just focus on the show, because the books is so much better, but bear with me.

In the age of instant access, Snapchat and Google Maps, it’s so easy to dismiss that dude Googled the girl–and then showed up at her house.

It’s easy to dismiss that dude followed her schedule through her public posts, and like just happened to show up where she would be at.

Fam. In a parallel universe (i.e. this reality), if a strange man shows up outside your house? You wouldn’t be utterly thrilled to say the least.

But, we love Joe!

He’s well read, handsome, simple, relatively good-natured and tries his best for the woman he’s with! He wants her happy, safe and cared for!

Now, these same things were said about Theodore Robert Bundy (read the Phantom Prince and watch The Bundy Tapes on Netflix).

This image: Black Twitter strikes again!

But…we love Joe. I have repeatedly said I would have dated him because he’s intelligent. I have also said that if I would have been like Beck, and found his love stash/stalker pile in a wall or the ceiling, I would have just left it there! That shit has NOTHING to do with me. And the bad part? I’m not the only woman who has said this! But why do we love him? Why is Caroline Kepnes’s version of Bundy so attractive?

Simple.

We, as women, want to be chosen!

We want to be loved, cared for and lion protected. We want the security of knowing the person we would do anything for, would do anything for us.

Joe killed the dude that didn’t respect or honor Beck.

Joe killed the girl that tried to take her from him–whom he warned Beck about.

Joe also affirmed Beck, told her how brilliant she was; how she needed to do what made her happy. He respected her space (sorta) and her intelligence.

He loved her.

But he also killed her because she rejected his love for her.

But, we focus on the fact he saved her from the train. Put her IKEA bed together, and played Scrabble in her apartment.

Joesph Goldberg is effing dangerous!

But so is the world women inhabit.

The saged and wizened Penn Badgley has continuously said Joe is not a good dude–and shouldn’t be idolized! But, we do, don’t we?

He opens doors, studies you, knows your favorite flower and where you take your coffee breaks. He’s the one. Moreover, you have to check you own moral compass because at some point–I started cheering for Joe! I saw Beck this monstrous thing that had to be destroyed.

Dude.

I told a writer friend of mine that even though Joe is crazy, he needs to stay on squad! I believe there’s a vernacular around these types of activities that says, “I paint houses.” Joe paints houses–but, the thing is, just as he said in Season 1: “We sometimes do bad things for the people we love.”

Shakespeare says, “Love is but a madness.” My father said, “If a man likes you just a little bit, you’ll be amazed what he’ll do for you.” When love, broken boys, sex and obsession congeal–you get Henry Hill with a Shax complex. That’s our Joe!

Fairy tales and classic mythology regale us with tales of knights saving damsels in distress, scaling towers, killing wolves and witches to save fair damsels. What we forget is sometimes the dragon isn’t the one you think it is.

With that in mind, there’s a third book to this series being written. I’m anxiously awaiting that release! And I’m still rooting for Joe to get his happily ever after. Why? It’s nice to be chosen. And it’s safer to have a dragon on a leash than out in the world.

The Matter Of The Daughter Of Clifford Harris

The Black body is a constant source of policing.

The Black, female body is a constant source of policing, shaming and control.

I wrote a mini series about this called, For A Fast Girl, earlier this year. Click here for that. It is 5-parts, and I encourage you to read that–and come back to this.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Welcome back!

When I first heard this story, I thought it was a whole joke. I heard about this, and I thought that people had to be playing. The fact that this happened, this happened to a Black girl, a Black woman–as a Black woman–is triggering! It makes me feel a mixture of rage, sadness, and embarrassment.

First thing:  Deyjah Harris is 18.

On the podcast, Ladies Like Us, Clifford (No, he will not be referred to as T.I. or TIP here) was saying how he goes to gynecologist visits with his daughter. Okay, I can ride with that. Let her be responsible for her own body. My first gynecologist visit was when I was 17. My mother was a nurse, an L & D nurse, and wanted to make sure I knew she knew I would not be under her roof always. Meaning, I got a Pap Smear (part of Well-Woman Exam), and my mom got me a script for Birth Control pills.

Me:  “Mom! But I’m not doing anything!”

Mom:  “Just in case you are.”

That was the extent of that. My mother knew that as much as she wanted me to remain a virgin/wait till I got married/wait for true love. The fact is, I was 17. Teenagers make stupid mistakes! She would rather me be safe than sorry. That, and she didn’t want me to be a teenage mother. This is also the woman that told me, and I am quoting damn near verbatim:  “You better stay a virgin till you leave my house! I’m an old L&D nurse:  I know what to look for.”

 

Image result for protect black girls

Bruh, I was not prepared to test that. So I didn’t.

But no, my mother–MY MAMA!–still didn’t come into that examination room with me. She didn’t ask my GYN if my hymen was broken. She didn’t ask if I was still a virgin. She turned the control of my body, over to me.

Now, I cannot speak for the goings-on at the Harris Household in Atlanta, but the Bush household? My mother was aware of all goings-on as it relates to her daughters. I cannot speak for the quality of motherhood that Tameka “Tiny” Harris has given to her daughter, but I will say this. Tiny needs to remind Clifford that the only vagina he needs to be concerned about is hers. All others–including these outside chicks he’s dealt with!–he need not be concerned about.

Deyjah is grown. Deyjah is 18. Deyjah is in college.

If she wasn’t a virgin (an intact hymen is not concrete proof that a girl has not been penetrated), was was he going to do?

The thing that I cannot ride with is him asking the doctor to make sure her hymen is in tact. I cannot ride with him asking the doctor for ‘his results.’ I cannot ride with the fact that after a birthday party, he put ‘Gyno’ on a post-it where she could see it. The fact that he considers his daughter’s body property? That is unsettling to me.

Here is why.

This behavior is the same shit that I grew up in! And I am now 20 years older than 18. Clifford is the type of dude now that he has all this money, can’t no body tell him nothing! He figures he can move in an around the world as he sees fit, because money (ergo, power) insulates him!

In the clip heard through here through the YouTube Channel, King Of Reads, the played details exactly what Clifford said. And how serious he is about this. Keep in mind, this same energy isn’t given to his sons when they start having sex! I don’t remember any news about Clifford taking his sons for STD testing, or making videos on teaching them proper condom techniques! There is nothing in the news about when his sons break the hymens of other women’s daughters, or other men’s daughters.

The Urban Prophet Nasir Jones, said it best on his Life Is Good album–the track, Daughters: God gets the ‘foulest players, and heartbreaker’s by giving them girls. I believe that. The hosts of the show are heard giggling as he is detailing what lengths dude has gone to in policing his daughter’s virginity.

They giggled.

They laughed, as if they couldn’t believe it

They didn’t challenge this.

 

Image result for bell hooks quotes

Perhaps, they have never been called ‘fast.’ Perhaps they had never been told the body you have is a temptation to weak men, and it is your fault if something happens to you in regards to rape, accosting or molestation. Maybe they have never been the victim of a father telling a doctor to ‘check her hymen’ and ‘give me my results.’ Perhaps they have never been told that the body they walk through the world in isn’t theirs. That is both weapon and distraction. The giggling was acrid.

Toxic patriarchy is acrid. And it grows putrid flowers that have the toxic ambrosia of hubris powered by influence! There is something so insidious about what he did to her; what social media is dragging him for; what the internet is doing–to her.

This type of policing of the female form  is often seen in countries where religious regimes are in power. Where women are chattel, to be possessed–as they are feral, wild and more animal that human.

This ain’t cute, Clifford! This ain’t cute, Tameka!

I know there are people that will champion what he did, what he is doing, and will say those that feel as I do are ‘overreacting.’ Or say, ‘these girls are fast and they need their fathers to be involved in their lives!’ I know there will be people whom will say that I, and those that feel as I do, which will dismiss my opinion. That is their right.

Ignoring something that does not make it more palatable. Does not make it vanish. It does not make it less easy to address. Cancer that you ignore, becomes metastatic–meaning it spreads! Bell Hooks said that patriarchy has no gender. I agree.

I am in full support of fathers being involved in the lives of their children. I am in favor of fathers being knowledgeable of how their children’s bodies work. The world is a dangerous, dark and evil place. But, this? Like this? No.

When does a Black woman own her own body? Someone needs to let me know.

 

[Top image from TMZ, middle image-Twitter, last image-AZ Quotes.com]

 

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]

‘Stop Taming Us.’

 

Viola Davis, in December 2018, at Women in Entertainment Event hosted by Hollywood Reporter Event

I am 37. I am young, gifted and Black. I have also been told that I am descended from a family ‘too’s.’

I’m too smart.

I’m too loud.

I’m too driven.

I’m too ambitious.

Which is why when I heard Viola Davis say the phrase “Stop taming us?” I felt the same way I felt when saw Captain Marvel basically go hypersonic, and tear up that enemy spaceship to protect Earth!

I felt that I had been seen, understood and affirmed.

What I have learned in my almost 4 decades on planet Earth, is that people love classifications.

They love categories.

They like to be able to group, change and identify things (or people) they feel are interesting or strange. Ambitious women, especially ambitious minority women, are just that. Black women, especially, suffer from this systemic identification. There was a quote from the glory of the internet that says:

“Black women will always be too loud of a world never intent on listening to them.”

I agree.

For all my prowess and intelligence, I still have people that I know love me that wish I would ‘do a little less.’ That I shouldn’t want to own the platforms I post on. That I shouldn’t have the vision that I do. I ‘should just write and not worry about anything else right now.’ That I should pace myself.

Yeah, about that? Fuck that.

I work at the clip that I do because there was  time where the words wouldn’t come because I was shattered. There was a time where the words were alien, and bitter and were enigmas.

Once my heart was healed, the words overtook. My vision restored and by God, I was not going to be dictated to by people who were not and will not be doing half of what I’m doing!

So, no I’m not going to ease up!

No, I’m not going to listen to nay sayers, haters and the trolls, crows, cows or chickens that desire to stop me. Seeing since they cant’t out pace me.

I refuse to be tamed, because I have taken too long to burn! When I was 23, I got a tattoo on Black of the Japanese kanji for Phoenix. This was a nod to my sister, Ashley:  whom I admire more than she thinks I do; and whom I am not truly worthy to call a little sister. Octavia Estelle Butler, herself  ‘a rare bird’, says that in order for a Phoenix to live, it first must burn.

I have come too far, to have someone tell me to stop.

I write for the Oracles in West Africa whom I will never meet. For the Kings and Queens of whom I am daughter, benefactor and granddaughter:  whom forged courses with whit and faith. I create for the conjure women I am descended from whom could not read. For my enslaved foreparents whom had the stories beat out of them. Or were killed for daring to say what was a lie!

I breathe fire because my great-great-great grandparents and my beloved father and mother, walked through fire to get me here!

I know women like me and my ilk scare you. I know we’re loud. I know the drive frightens you. The fact we curse, say ‘No’, and make our own spaces and taketh no isht makes you clutch your pearls.

But saddle up buttercup. We ain’t going no where.

We are coming for everything they said we couldn’t get, with the mantra of:

If you don’t let me in the front door, I’ll do around back. If that’s locked, I’ll buss a window and jump in.

 

My Heartbeat Bill, Part 1

*NSFW:  This piece is autobiographic, and written in response to the passing of  what is  commonly known as the Heartbeat Bill in the state of Georgia. Unless you are a woman faced with this decision, do not be so quick to dismiss those of us–yes, us–whom have had to walk this decision out. Telling no one.  All names are used. No punches pulled.

-JBHarris

 

Image result for broken heart

 

I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant.

I was about 6 months from my 20th birthday. The young man I had been seeing knew before I did. So he said. I remember how tired I felt. I remember how hungry I was. Like all the time. I remember I got the reminder in the mail about my Well-Woman Exam. I scheduled it, praying that I would not be pregnant.

Dr. Ferris’s office in Clayton, Missouri was sterile. It was like the front room of my grandmother’s house. It was a place that you weren’t meant to be comfortable. I filled out the intake form and waited for my name to be called. When the cheery voice from the oak door, I put my hands in my grey sweatshirt and followed the White girl with blonde hair to the empty room.

This nameless girl in the pretty scrubs took my weight and asked me how I was. She asked what brought me in. “Well- woman exam.” I answered the harang of questions that followed.

“Are you sleeping okay?”

Yes.

“Any chronic pain?”

No.

“Are you sexually active?”

Yes.

“Are you pregnant?”

I paused, mouth dry. Blonde ponytail looked at me. I scrunched my face and made the could be/maybe/a little bit sign with my fingers. As if she were a magician, she Blonde ponytail produced this specimen cup with a white lid. “Okay, go ahead and pee in this for me. Leave it in the metal window in the restroom.” She walked me to the bathroom, I followed her in my white Tweety bird shirt, jeans and sneakers. Blonde ponytail said to return to the exam room when I was done.

I went into the maroon colored stall, deft at peeing in this cup and putting it in the designated area behind this small metal door. It was like a mystic pee microwave. It was life-changing, would be life-changing.

I walked back to my room, sat on the edge of the examination table. I remember looking of my denim clad thighs, wishing my was empty. Hoping it was empty. I closed my eyes, tried to imagine telling my mother that I was pregnant. Pregnant, unmarried, with no bank account or driver’s license. I was pregnant by a man that she didn’t even like, or want me with. I thought about having to tell this man, that I believed loved me, that I was carrying his child.

Dr. Ferris came into the room, her tone devoid of any warmth. I remember her being this petite, brunette White woman with a white lab coat longer than she was tall. She looked more like an angry math teacher than a OB/GYN. I remember she spoke to me. I think I spoke back to her in the same curt tone. She had her back to me, fiddling with and on the small white counter about the size of a microwave cart.  I was looking t my thighs again, swinging my feet as I did when I was a smaller girl. Kicking the air to try and find footing in a stressful situation.

“I have the result of your pregnancy test.” she didn’t turn around. “It’s positive.” My heart stopped. I couldn’t breathe. The way she said it? The tone was if I was about to be put in time out! The well-woman exam was a blur. I remember her doing my breast exam. I remember how tender my breasts where. I remember telling her that I didn’t know what I was going to do, or how to tell my mother.

I thought about the conversation I had with the father of my child. He had a son, and was barely taking care of him. We talked about keeping the baby. I wondered if I could really do that. Could I really be someone’s mother at 19? She left the room after the exam and told me to get dressed and follow her to her office. No warmth, all the charm of a prison guard.

With my protective hoodie on, I sat in her office. She sat in this Alice In Wonderland sized mahogany chair. She told me my due date would be sometime in January 2001. “I’m not going to tell you what your options are. You already know.” Dr. Ferris said. I didn’t want to cry in this office with this small version of the Red Queen. I willed the tears back, and my throat was hot and dry. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell my mom.” I told her. She wished me luck, and I left as quick as I had come.

The father of my child was the 20-year-old named Dominic. I called him from the phone in the waiting area. I told him I was at the doctor’s office and that I was pregnant. I remember him saying, “Okay. So what do you want to do?” I told him as clinically as I could, “We do what we planned.” I couldn’t mouth, or say, the word abortion. I couldn’t believe I had even considered it. The fact is, it was him that suggested it! I said to him that I wanted to keep the baby. My faith told me that abortion was murder; premartial sex was wrong. Due to my inability to not be unnaked around him, I got pregnant. He told me if we were to give the baby up for adoption this exact quote:  “We would just have to go back and find it anyway.”

That devastated me. I cried for days. Days. I was sick. My head hurt constantly. And there was no support from Dominic. None. The money to pay for this abortion came from birthday money an ex-boyfriend sent me. I had gotten home that afternoon on the bus, and relieved the house was quiet. At the time, there was a Planned Parenthood on Forest Park Avenue here in St. Louis. I looked up the number in the phone book, and called. I got some information from the operator that was more cheery than Dr. Ferris would ever be.

She asked if I was pregnant. I told her I was. She asked me how far along I was. “I don’t know.” I told her that I had just found out. “If you want a proceedure, from 6-12 weeks is $320.” I closed my eyes, still listening. “From 12-20 weeks, its $520.” I told her I didn’t think I was 12 weeks. “I think I’m 6 weeks.” I said softly. She told me she could schedule something within the next 2-3 weeks. I remember it was a Tuesday that we settled on. “Come early before the protestors get here.” Protestors? The thought hadn’t entered my mind that there would be anti-abortion activists there! It didn’t dawn on me that I could be hurt, the facility bombed or any other dangerous thing to cause harm to me if/when I went! “Okay.” She repeated my appointment time. And I hung up the phone, feeling nothing–and everything.

 

[image from bbc.co.uk]

It’s Not Just Danai: The Casual Erasure Of Black Women

 

The utter uproar comforted me.

The original Avengers Endgame poster, though our beloved General Okoye was pictured, the dynamic Danai Gurira was not credited. I was comforted by the reaction that Twitter and all of social media had in regards to this. With that outrage and pushback, the poster was corrected. Marvel Studios clearly thought this was an oversight.

Aight. I’ll allow it.

A Black woman was erased, in front or our faces, and the world damn noticed.

I wish the world would keep this same energy when it comes to the presence of Black women. I wish that we were noticed, and when we vanish–even before the eyes of millions, that we are missed.

It has become so easy to miss Black girls. It becomes too commonplace to notice (or not notice) our broken bodies. Too often seen as victims. As the steady suffering. As the mules of the entire world.

This past week, I was in a debate with a dingy Becky that thought the new Iggy Azalea (I cannot stand Clifford Harris (T.I.) for making this damn dame relevant!) video was the best thing ever. I watched it when the sound off because adding sound to that travesty would have caused me to cry. Not only is this dame in a funeral setting, she seems to be rejoicing because a Black woman has died (!!!) and is doing a Second Line!

The whole damn video is an appropriation. The whole damn thing.

It is bad enough that our shine as Black women is stolen, swapped and swagger-jacked on a daily/minute-by-minute basis! The killer part to all this–no one seems to notice this isht but Black women! The capitalist-consuming world wants everything Black, except from Black people.

The natural endowments I have as both Black and woman can be seen as obscene until on someone else (vanishing). My skin tone is what some White girls aspire as a tanning option (erasure). My style and fashion sense can be used as a window display or on a blog and not even given proper credit (paying attention yet?).

It’s not just Danai. It won’t just be Danai.

We know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes? The best thing you can do is give honor, credit and merit where it is due.

And I mean this with all my St. Louis, Missouri accent–“You see me, mane. Don’t act like you don’t.”