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 Remembering Anne Frank

Anne Frank - Diary, Quotes & Family - Biography
Anne Frank would have been 91 this year. Think about this.

I am a voracious reader, and a student of history. In past life, I wanted to study international business, but the arts won me over.

The first time I heard of Anne Frank I was 10 or 11 years old. I had a father who was a student of history, so documentaries were not a strange occurrence around my house growing up. Yet, I only began to hear about Anne Frank when I was in middle school–four years younger than the age she was when she died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945–46 years before I would be born. I remember being in my 6th grade Language Arts class and having to read excerpts of her diary for a unit we were studying–I think it was on narrative writing. In reading her diary for a class felt wrong to me. I knew she was dead, yes, so she wouldn’t mind. But, it was her diary! And it is for that reason, I have always given her work (that is what it is now, her work) a certain respect that I cannot place for any other writer. Neither do I have it for any other writer.

With the state of world including the rise in anti-Semitism, I comfort myself in watching V For Vendetta often. But, I actually watched the documentary #AnneFrank Parallel Stories on Netflix (Go! Watch it now!). And at 39–24 years older than Anne Frank got to be and 52 years younger than she would be today–that same reverence is there for her. As Helen Mirren read from her diary, I found out more about her than I new before! I had always wondered HOW she had lost her diary and WHO kept it (a woman named Miep who owned the house they hid in for 2 years). I had thought about whose decision it was to publish it (it was her father, the only Frank family survivor in early 1960’s-I can only imagine how he felt!). Through this documentary, Anne became more real–and more of a writer–than I thought as that 11-year-old girl at Yeatman Middle School, whose only outlet was reading and writing.

I am ashamed to say that I have not read her whole diary, but I aim to do that this year. Which leads to the question: What does this have to do with anything, right?

Stories matter. Stories teach. Stories reach! They compel, and they tell, and they give peace when they can, and warnings where they must! Anne Frank’s diary is a first-hand account of a girl in the beginning of life, watching her entire life change! And for this reason, for this cause, her work–her diary!–must be studied. It must be taught! The story of her life must be perserved!

I chose this picture of Anne because I like to think had she lived, this is how she would be poised at her desk. Or in her office writing for a newspaper. Or writing her novels. I imagine her all seasoned, wizened, badass with pen in hand. Just imagine what her autobiography would have been like?

Remember the Beyonce song I Was Here? That is how I felt watching this documentary. That is the feeling I get when I encourage other writers to tell their stories, and be bold enough to write down what they cannot speak. Words matter. Stories matter. The story of your life matters. Besides, if you don’t believe me, ask Anne.

Anne Frank quote: Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones  because...

Another shameless documentary plug on Netflix which is based on a book is Steal A Pencil For Me. You’re welcome.

Sneak Peek-The Uber Driver

Thank you to Big Black Chapters for this challenge through the Facebook Page Big Black Chapters. This might be the start of something else. -JBHarris

Harley fiddled with her keychain outside the St. Anthony’s parking garage. She had called for her Uber after working all day. She flexed her feet in the white Dansko’s she wore. She closed her eyes, remembering the text she received sent during her lunch.

This is over. I want a divorce.

Harley closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the setting sun be pulled into her. It wasn’t the fact that she wanted a divorce. It was the fact that Khia had sent her this at lunch! The thing she normally didn’t get as a nurse on the cardiac transplant floor. Harley checked her lavender iPhone for the status of her Uber. The blinking of stoplight reflected off her phone, telling her that her driver, Samuel, would be there to get her in 12 minutes. Destination: Home.

She exhaled in to the March night, wishing she still had her mother to go home to. Her mother, Elizabeth, would have know what to do. Her perfume, something by Dior, would have enveloped her. Her tears would find safety on whatever shirt she wore. And she would lay in bed with her, and the magic in her bed would let her sleep.

Sleep would not be what she would get tonight. But if Chase as willing, she wouldn’t be sleeping alone either. “Get over one by getting under another,” her mother said. And who was she to argue?

Revolutionary Warfare: Remembering Toni Morrison

“Don’t die with your dream in you.” -My mama, Bessie

I first met Toni Morrison in my Sophomore Spanish I class. There was this girl who sat behind me, Lolita (No lie, that was her name!), and she was reading this book with a purple cover. I asked her what she was reading. With all the Black girl swag she could muster, she said, “The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.”

I am ashamed to say that I had no idea who she was. I knew who Maya Angelou was, but had no idea who Toni Morrison was. I remember asking her to see the book. She obliged and let me read the back. I purposed in my mind that I was going to read this book. I was going to find out who Pecola Breedlove was.

From then, it was on.

My ears were keen to pick up on anything that Toni was doing, anything that she read, recommended or spoke on. So, when Pieces I Am debuted in May 2019, I purposed to watch it. Through other demands, I wasn’t able to see it in theaters. When she died 5 month later? I felt like my grandmother had died…all over again. It was on August 3-4, that I was able to have time and space to watch it. And I am glad that I did.

When I saw her face, heard her voice, I cried–and the film was only 5 minutes in. In hearing her, hearing her story and journey (even thought I was familiar with her voice and story), I cried. It was an affirmation, a coming home as Black, woman and writer. It reminded me that I was always a writer–a storyteller, and the footsteps I follow in are not new…but worn.

As I finished by undergrad at UM-St. Louis, I took ENGL 3870: American Literature After 1865 (Shouts to my mentor, Dr. Kimberly Welch!). This class–I am ever grateful for. Not just because I got to meet Dr. Welch (the first Black English professor I had at UM-St. Louis), but the first book we read for class was, Beloved. It took everything in me not to shout like the little Black Baptist girl in me wanted to! I was studying my shero. I was studying a woman that I had admired since I was 15. Whose books and words and imagination told me, showed me, the possibility of language.

Just like Nikki Giovanni does…still (Have you read EGO TRIP by Nikki?! You need to. Go do that now!).

And to study Beloved right after she died, with Dr. Welch telling me to go to grad school, with listening to her voice on film–it was a hug. It was that nudge that all writers have (I believe) when they are on the precipice of something great–to keep going.

The tears came.

The sobs racked me.

The grief shook me.

I gave over to the power this gift has, and purposed to never hide it again. Afterall, if you surrender to the air, you can ride it. That’s what Toni said.

Book Announcement #2

As writer, sometimes the best fodder for your imagination are the things you have gone through. Nothing could be more accurate than what my own life is at present.

With me facing a second divorce in 7 years, I had to reckon with this concept and construct of my ‘married name’. The only thing I could do to combat is this confusion was to write it out.

Indeed, this is a personal work and I am in the cycle of grief about the demise of this relationship—and owning my part in its demise! What I have had to reconcile with this idea of having the name of a man whom I no longer have/desire any attachment to.

This chap book is available on Amazon, and I hope that it helps illuminate just how complex being 1 then 2, and back to 1 again can be.

Waiting On ‘Candyman’

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the retelling of ‘Candyman’ will be in theatres on September 25–pushed back from its original June 2020 release date.

I saw this new trailer through my Facebook feed early this morning, and had to watch it twice. Despite (and perhaps this is too my detriment) never having hear of Nia DiCosta before directing ‘Candyman’, this short film–this new trailer–has me more hype than I was before to see this movie. And if you look carefully, you will see snippets of other Black history/horror stories in it as well. Within 2 minutes, I am that much more of a fan of hers. The short is intelligent, complex and telling. It reminds me of something that should have been included in the SHUDDER documentary, Horror Noire (Please cop this book! Please watch this documentary!).

The thing that is awesome about this teaser, about this retelling is found in the tweet of the director: “…the symbols we turn them into and the monsters they must have been.” This goes into the controlling of narrative, the controlling/ownership of language, and how minority people will always suffer from the retelling of their own stories by people who don’t look like them! This dovetails into the quote by Tananarive Due: “Black people have always loved horror–horror hasn’t always loved us.” And my favorite quote by her being, “Black history IS Black horror.”

Perhaps the issue remain in the fact that this story was originally written as a short story by Clive Owen. From that story, was the film. From that film, with its premise, allowing pain, anguish, revenge and autonomy through the vehicle of this angry spirit, I believe, is one of the reasons relegating Black people to tokens, magical/sacrificial Negroes or the ‘other’ is comforting to White audiences!

There is a shift vibrating through Black art right now–through all its medium. Besides, if there can be literally 10 movies featuring Jason Voorhees, the world will deal with the angry vengeful spirit of a Black artist whose hand and life were taken because he dared be who is was–and loved who he did! Jordan Peele said it best when he voiced the White male lead horror protag has been done—to death. Now, in this age where freedom is continueally paid for with time, I am anxious to see what else Nia DiCosta is allowed to create. This has to be–must be!–only the beginning.

Why James Baldwin Was Right… About Everything

Author note:  I will be mentioning the N-word in conjunction to my own deciphering of James Baldwin’s words.


Here lately, I thought (read: meditated, studied, ruminated) on every quote, and damn near everything I have ever known or read about James Arthur Baldwin. I find myself referring to him as I do along with my favorite scriptures. I find myself in my dark, artistic places thinking “What would my Father Oracle say?” I find myself thinking in matters of social change, marcolevel crazy, and crippling self-doubt repeating that question.

In this era of COVID-19, neo-fascism disguised as conservative Christianity, and the utter, rampant erasure of anything Black, I have begun to be a more adamant student of Baldwin. His work having a new power, necessary in the time we live in. The thing I feel more adamant about as I have looked at his work is the concept of White American ‘needing a nigger.’  Now, if you are familiar with Baldwin, even on a casual basis or knowledge, you know how he has felt about this word, as well as it’s application to his life. Don’t believe me? Look at this quote (from brooklynrail.org):

“Another important record of Baldwin on film, a particular scene in Hammer is singular in its emotional and metaphysical clarity: Baldwin, seated, dressed in white, a kerchief tied carefully around his neck, considers the existential roots “of something in this country called the nigger.” He continues that he had to know early in life that what was being described had nothing to do with him. He knew, he insists, despite all that had been done to him, that “what you were describing was not me.” If it is true, as Baldwin began, that “what you say about me reveals you,” and since “you” had invented this figure and felt the need to invest black people with all those sedimented associations then, Baldwin argues, you are in fact the nigger…”


Think about this!


This word, which has been used to dehumanize, murder, oppress and dispossess an entire race of people–because it is a social construct! A construct needed by a certain class of people whom have no other power to change their lives, take responsibility for problems they have causes, and believe that to oppress another person–making them the consistent scapegoat–is needed. This is how white supremacy continues to reproduce–powered by this lie!

It is the lie of superiority of white folk over everything which needs a ‘nigger’ to feel powerful. To feel righteous, and worthy. Just like Coretta Scott King said freedom has be won in every generation, white supremacy must be retaught and reinforced with every generation! As Baldwin said often through his life that he was a man–never a ‘nigger’! What a powerful think to understand! What a powerful thing to reveal! What a think to remember!

You have to know that what Baldwin spoke about in the movie I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, is/was a foreshadowing of what you are seeing now! This country needs ‘niggers’ because it thrives on power and usurpation! It needs a vulnerable, non-human subclass to subjugate in order to feel superior! In order consolidate resources and wealth! This is not a new tacti, Oracles! To name something is to control it, is to rule it is to declare authority over it! Why do you think now is when we see this resurgence of behavior our grandparents saw!  Niggers are not entitled to equality, fairness or the pursuit of happiness.

Niggers are not people. Catch that. Ergo, as a person, you are entitled to all of these things! And those whom subscribe to white supremacy and the romantic notion of power, need to feel superior to someone else–because they have no other power to assert or wield! And therein lies the struggle.

When I ruminate on this, I have to remember that I, too, am not a nigger! Neither are my children. Neither are any of the beautiful Black folk I know. And to have the words of Baldwin shore me up, reminding of my value, my power and need to be in the world? I can go on.

In the face of COVID-19, the protesting of folk whom don’t wanna stay inside, incompetent leadership, and trolls believing in themselves so tough they carry guns to state capitals, who spit that name at me as if I will break about it? Nah, son. I say, with my hoop earrings, mask and afro, and say, “You’re the nigger baby, not me!”


























QUARANTINE BOOK LIST

In the middle of being hard at work building my own imaginary people and universes, I am taking time to catch up on my own reading. Since reading is one of the chief reasons I became a writer, I thought I would share my (quarantine) reading list. This is by NO MEANS the extensive TBR list! But this is something to keep your mind occupied!

Read and write!

You can do it!

-JBHarris

Image result for Stacks of books
Since you are already in, you might as well read something.

1.) Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

2.) Kindred by Octavia Butler

3.) The Color Line by Tiffany Richardson

4.) The Well-Read by Glory Edim

5.) Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

6.) Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

7.) Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

8.) Fledgling by Octaiva Butler

9.) The Mother Of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis

10.) For Colored Girls by Ngtoske Shange

11.) The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice

12.) Beloved by Toni Morrison

13.) The Good House by Tananarive Due

14.) Eloquent Rage by Dr. Brittney Cooper

15.) If Beale Street by James Baldwin

16.) Between The World And Me by Tah-Nihsi Coates

The Launch Into The Deep: YouTube

In my TS Madison voice: “IS IT ON?!”

So…I did it. I started a YouTube Channel! It is the most nerve-racking thing I have ever done. On this channel will be all the dope things you all love me for! The newest thing I saved only for YouTube is:

This is where I expound on an idea for about 10 minutes–just things that are on my mind, come across my desk or may just bother me in general. The One Minute Words which are on my professional Instagram will be there as well! There will even be a mentorship videos as well!

I am stoked. I am excited. There are already videos up! Follow and join the tribe. I even have cool name for the people that follow me: Oracles.

READY OR NOT! I FINISHED YEAR ONE!

Image result for birthday

This week, I got the reminder from WordPress that I started this corner of the internet universe one year ago last week!

That indeed is something to celebrate!

With that, I am strutting into Year 2 a little more confident, a little more confident and a little more brash–not that I need help with that.

Thank you all for your love, support, and ever present readership.

Tell a friend so you can breathe fire, too.

Love Always,

JBHarris