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.

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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.”

 

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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.”

 

 

When A Black Girl Says She Loves You

When a Black girl says she loves you,

That means the world is now in your hands.

With eyes and body,

She has given all of herself

To you in ways which can only

Be felt to be understood.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She lays the world at your feet.

The treat of her, the sweetness of her

Is laid bare.

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

She is already acquainted with the improbable,

Moves Heaven and Earth as marbles,

By firewalking daily,

Because there are giants to slay.

Impossible is her everyday.

She has crosses deserts of loneliness

Where love was, once was

And frequently died.

She has swum from depths of oceans

To be in the sight of love over

An ever dark horizon.

She has tarried in the sight

Of the divine,

Being both girl and woman,

Broken bridesmaid and ‘trippin’ baby mama,

Believing that love, too, was hers

To be found while rejoicing for others.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She turns her back on the bitter women

Of her line that whisper to her wounds,

Or tell her to face what men are

And will never be.

She trusts what she sees and feels,

Not what she is bound to know.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

She wipes slates clean.

Her heart tells her head

That you, this, and now are different.

As different as any other before.

She makes space to make pristine

All you hold and house the you,

Now her, now she and you inside

All the us.

She makes you first, last and the always.

An epitaph to every failure is erected,

Believing you are the next time this time,

When she gets it right.

When A Black girl says she loves you,

Frailty makes her strong

Knowing she is caught and protected

In all you are

And the her which is now this us.

When a Black girl says she loves you,

That means the world is now in your hands.

But what world will you give back to her?

-JBHarris 3.1.2019

[image from awanbusu.blogspot.com]

Every Girl Got A ‘Guerro’

Image result for guero and teresa

I came up on Queen of The South on a Netflix venture. And I am utterly hooked! I watched Season 1 over the course of 2-3 nights. And Veronica Falcon who plays Camilla Vargas?! She is so much of everything! She is the type of b!tch I need become! #Queenpin

But with that being said, and with me watching the end of Season 2 (spoiler alert!), I have one observation:  Guero is never going to be the man that Teresa needs him to be or become who she needs him to be. Why? These three reasons.

 

Timing. In my almost 40 years of living, what I have learned is that sometimes the deepest love comes at the worst possible time. He met Teresa while she was a money changer in Mexico. She was a moll, after she became his girl. He took care of her, and made her feel special. When he died, her life was in a tailspin. But, because of the woman she is, Teresa rebuilt herself, and worked for Camilla. The crazier part? Not only was he not dead, he was a federal informant.

This is why this is problematic.

Once Teresa had to deal with him dying; then coming back in her life, after being labeled a snitch?! I felt for her. I also felt for her when Camilla told her that he was ‘a mosquito that was draining life from you.” Yet, she loved him—but had to move on without him. Camilla told her she was better off without him. But this the rub. You know you have changed! Yet, in the tucks of your heart, this person is there. And a part of you may always want and miss them–to your detriment or betterment. The crapshoot is they may never see you as who you are going to become.

 

Support. Every time Guero showed up Teresa lost her focus. Her heart overruled her head. She wanted this life with him, but he wasn’t in the position to give her anything that would include! If I’m honest, I have been there more than once. It is frustrating to see a future with someone and then have it snatched away because they don’t seem to know what is they want–but don’t want you to change. It is the most infuriating thing on the planet! Don’t ask me to wait and then you can’t catch up.

 

Continuing. The most ignorant thing about this situation because time is still passing. Time is still a thing; it is blessed and unforgiving. At some end you have to realize that the what you want and the who you want with it may never be. I call this the ‘waking heartbreak’. You clearly are in pain, you know why it hurts, and the only way to make it go away is to keep going. You have to live, in love with this person, and living without them. Time heals all wounds is a myth. You begin to heal when you realize that time is irrespective of time. You can dwell on it (the lost, the time, the support), and nothing will change. Yet, time will go on. The moment you decide life is precious and wide and waiting for you, it will begin to change. That loss will not continue to be a loss–it’s a reminder your heart is still beating.

Your heartbeat is the homing signal that love will find you again.