Category: In The News-Reaction Pieces

The Miles Matter-Part 4: Why This Cannot Wait

Addendum: For more talk of Miles, the MCU, representation and all matters of hero support (if you know, you know!), please follow the Don’t Make This Weird Podcast hosted by Greg Howard, Jr. The show airs April 20, 2022. The title of the show is called (funny enough) “Hero Support“. Thanks for everything, Greg. -JBHarris

For the past four weeks, I have asked for your attention as it relates to my campaign for representation. For the last four weeks, I have poured my heart out (and some of my rage) towards why it is so important to have Miles Morales be more than a ghost in the MCU. He deserves to me more than something whispered about in forums, living through hashtags and spoilers on the innerwebs.

Miles Morales deserves to be more than something that we can say, “Well, one day it’ll happen.” That one day is here! Why? If there can be 3 Spider-Men in a movie, 5 actors to have donned the Cape and Cowl, and a redemption arc for Tony Stark, RiRi Williams about to headline Disney+–Where is Miles Morales?

I don’t want to hear anything about the name throwing people off–that is semantics at this point. There are Spider-Men, Spider-Girls, Scarlet Spiders–even Spider-Carnage!–in this world known as Marvel Comics!

It is not longer good enough to relegate the Black fandom to scraps to silence us! We cannot be, and we will not be!

All I have seen during my time as Black, Black woman, cis-het Blerd, is that characters whom are usually DAW (depicted as White), moving from that source material where whiteness is centered to the dimming and erasure of all others–they (the racist fandom) don’t want to have that worldview challenged! It’s selfish! That selfishness if reflected in the culture: centering of whiteness, minimizing of the opinions of other people, false sense of superiority where mediocrity is seen as grandeur.

It is in hope, I say this:

We of the Black fandom are tired of being erased, dimmed, and told to stop complaining. We know representation is equality, it is fairness, it is just and we are owed it! For those of us whom have to piece together their history, you will not minimize our effect on culture. Miles is as much ours as he is Marvel’s! He belongs to us too–so give him back to us.

Give him to us NOW.

The Miles Matter-Part 3: Animation

“If you want to be in the history of the culture, you have to be in the fiction. If you don’t exist in the literature, your people don’t exist.” -Walter Mosley

One of my favorite people in the world is Walter Mosely. I could listen to him read the weather report and be fascinated (shameless plug: he is teaching a MasterClass on Novel writing–get it.) Yet, as I continue to commit myself to this gift, the assignment of thinking and writing, this matter of representation versus existence keeps popping up.

Now, while Miles Morales is no Ezekiel “Easy” Rollins, there are parallels. Like Mosely, whom focuses on Black male heroes in all his work, for the MCU while there are a plethora of Black male heroes–they are not often brought to the forefront; they are not seen in live action movies–stand alone movies–even less than. Before Black Panther there was…Blade. And before Blade–who?

But, there are always loopholes aren’t there?

Rather than give everything we the portion of the fandom that is Black also deserve, we get relegated to ink, paper and voice overs. It would seem that the existence of the non-White people in the greater vox populi known as The Fandom, don’t really like us that much. I mean, we are tolerated, but not really liked.

And when there is any clamor about how we are depicted or represented, the powers that be give us cartoons. Have you ever noticed that? We exist, but we have no existence in live action which rivals the non-Black fandom. Which is strange…and infuriating!

It would seem that animation is a pacifier–to placate us to complaining! To give something to assuage our demand for more representation: “Look, we’re inclusive, we started a cartoon! We gave you Into The Spider-verse! See, we did give you Miles!”

That is not enough.

With the MCU elevating the place of comic books and comic book lore in current pop culture, it is not sufficient to relegate those whom participate in this culture to solely animation. Moreover, since literature is not confined to a single medium, but is consumed and translated among several mediums (this is how it is integrated into culture), why cannot mediums be expanding and accepting of non-White characters from that literature?

No, MARVEL, no SONY, cartoons are not enough.

Where is Miles Morales?

The Miles Matter-Part 2: Value

I have a had a long-standing love affair with this character–this dichotomy of Peter Parker and his hero alter, Spider-Man. I mean, in following the timeline of my own life, I was dating the most horrible man when the first Sony Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire was released in 2002. I was 21 then. At the time the third installment of Spider-Man was released, I was married, and pregnant with my first child. And what better way to bookend this love affair than with my teenage daughters, as a twice divorcee.

From Tobey. To Andrew. To Tom.

And Tobey is still a favorite–for obvious reasons.

As much as I loved Spider-Man: No Way Home, I still left much like an aunt looking for her nephew. I felt like a sister looking for her brother. And now–I feel like a mother looking for her son. That part roars because it is much less about me, and my desire for representation–it is for my children, grandchildren and other children whom still don’t see their faces on screen.

Representation still matters! Having one incredible Black-centered movie isn’t enough when cinema has only be around for about 100 years! I mean, as of next year the ‘prestigious’ academy is only 95 years old! And how many winners of those Academy Awards have not been White?

G’head! Google it! I’ll wait!

If there can be hashtags created in favor of Andrew Garfield being Spider-Man again for the Amazing Spider-Man 3 (I think the hashtag is #ASM3), where is the hashtag for Miles?! Where is Miles Morales?!

With this movie kicking open the door for the multiverse (clearly there are three Spideys!), and clearly the source material offers many other Peters (any BOY are there alot of them!), is making a Miles Morales movie a…risk?

There are a generation of children whom look like Miles, whom are waiting on Miles.

So, where is he?

The Miles Matter-Part 1: Representation

Note: I talk about this in depth on The Ideal Firestarter for 28 Days of Blackness. Click here for that article.

Where is Miles Morales?

I am happy that my daughters will never know a time where they didn’t see themselves in the world. Both my daughters were during the presidency of Barack H. Obama. And my children will always remember our King, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). When Black Panther was released, I was 36, almost 37. For scale, my mother was in her 60’s. I am still old enough to remember believing that Disney never would make a “Black Princess”, and it was okay–because “We have Jasmine!”

With all this new flurry of representation, of more Black people in White spaces, despite the racist fandom, I still must ask: Where is Miles Morales?

With the movie SOUL (which is problematic for other reasons), we see how dynamic Black people are, but the producers were White (I have an issue with this). Also, if you all remember the Disney movie Dumbo, the crows were Black, and one of them was named Jim.

Yeah, that occurred.

But when I look at the “world outside my window” that Stan Lee said that the Marvel Universe represents, I just don’t see cis-het White men! So, when I look at the universe that I have seen so much of myself in, found a home in, I cannot help but ask–if anyone can wear the mask–where is Miles?

The younger Black Marvel fans deserve the same representation as everyone else! Why is that not being honored? Where are the Black hero centered superhero movies? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney Plus doesn’t count!

Representation includes the people who look like you too. We are done asking!

Where are going to keep asking this until we see it come to pass: Where is Miles Morales?

The Miles Matter: Overview

This overview will include spoilers. But by the time you are reading this, Spider-Man: No Way Home should be streaming. -JBHarris

I am a writer. I am a Black woman. I am a writer. I am a blerd.

With that said, I am also dedicated Spider-Man fan. Thanks to my cousin Jason, I will always be. I mean, I was engaged in a torrid saga with a man whom I nicknamed Peter Parker, and I was MJ!

But enough of that.

What I want to talk about this month is representation. I want to talk about Miles Morales, and why the MCU keeps playing in the face of the Black fandom about him! The last straw was Jaime Foxx saying to Andrew’s Spidey (after he unmasked), that he thought he was Black. Moreover, he said, “There must be a Black Spider-man somewhere then.”

I took my daughters to see this particular Spidey installment Opening Night in the States: December 17, 2022. What follows for the next 4 weeks is going to be my options, my reflections, my feelings about why Miles is crucial to the MCU cannon, and why confining Miles Morales to comics, animation and video games is not good enough.

So, I have one question: Where is Miles Morales?

Stop Weaponizing Non-Black Children To Gaslight Black Mothers With Their Children!

Anti-Blackness is real.

With this new found ‘success’ on TikTok (@whatjayesaid2.0), people seem to think that the same thought-provoking commentary was going to ease up! No, not at all!

This week, with seeing a mother whom I thought was White (turns out she was Mexican–and very fair), with her child crying on her lap crying, about how her classmate/friend, couldn’t come to her birthday party. Why? Her classmate was Black girl–with a vigilant Black mother!–was not going to be allowed to come to her birthday party.

While that is sad, as the mother of Black daughters, in a world that leaves a 23-year-old Black woman in her house dead, trying to protect them in world that either wants to kill/mimic/erase them? In a pandemic? I would have said the same thing! And what is that, you ask:

No, you cannot go over the house of a little girl (Black or White, but especially not White), whose mother I do not know. No, and do not ask me again.”

But in looking at this video of this little girl on her mother’s lap, something else struck me about this. Rather than taking the time to reach out to this girl’s mother, it was more advantageous to embarrass her daughter’s classmate and gaslight her mother. Which…only proved this little Black girl’s mother’s point!

This woman weaponized the tears of her daughter, to ‘get’ back at a Black woman! It was important for this woman whom weaponized the tears of her child–for what, exactly? To the point that she went to the school board to tell on this Black girl’s mother (Follow the TikTok account @gordacorajuda for her breakdown–I shared the video on my account as well)!

Tell me you got drunk on White supremacy without telling me you got drunk off White supremacy.

The girl’s mother used her child to advance the cause of white supremacy using Karens’ number one tool: gaslighting.

It was never about any kind of racial harmony, unity or trying to stamp out racism! This is stems from the fact non-Black people trying believe they have the right to all aspects of Black people! This includes time, culture, and personal space.

A Black woman set a boundary. A non-Black woman didn’t like it, and tried to bring the world down her to hurt her. But I promise you: as this continues to play out, she will say she’s not the one who is racist! She has Black friends! How dare we say that about her!

Then, she’ll cry.

It never fails.

She has tasted what whiteness tastes like and cannot be trusted.

Why The Red Pill Army Are Idiots: Part II– The Black Male Incel Problem

The Black community has a serious incel problem. It is a pervasive, scary, visible incel problem. For reference, let is us get some terminology together first. An incel is defined as a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.

The thing is, this definition, in my opinion white washes; as if this definition is only is only applicable to White or non-Black men. What is crucial to know is that you have to examine this definition and pull it towards the treatment of Black women and girls. My greatest issue with this definition is that it is the assumption that this subculture is limited to online.

My biggest issue with this Red Pill/Incel army is how sweeping this definition is! While it does not exclude any man, it does not include all men with incel behavior. I need not to look no further than social media or the news! The attacks against Black women and girls are so pervasive, so common that there cannot be enough light shown upon them!

Black women murdered by Black men because they told them “No.” Because they didn’t want to give a phone number, followed home and almost attacked in their houses, guns pulled on them because the didn’t want to go out with Black men. Black men that see sex as a right, women as a possession, and any Black man that protects Black women is called a ‘simp’. It it is no different from calling a Black woman a bitch because she turned you down! A lot of this is based in rejection–believing just because you are a man, you have a right to every woman. This makes some Black men no different than Elliot Rodger!

You being a man doesn’t entitle you to every woman! Being concerned about the welfare of women doesn’t make you a simp! But yet, there are Black men whom know whom their friends are problematic, and will not speak up on behalf of the women their behavior harms! Why? Wouldn’t that make you as simp?! Like, what are the rules to this?!

I, as a Black woman, whom is a fan of the success of Black men–I cannot help but remember the words of Nella Larsen in Passing . Irene and Claire are in this inexplicably complex position, and for the want of protection, or unity or comfort, Irene cannot divorce herself from her. Yet, she demands that some sort of accountability be taken on the part of Claire because she knows the situation she is in! It is not up to Claire to save her from her stupidity, but to remind her of it! That is just how I feel with this sect of Black men!

You all know what is wrong, but you refuse to confront what causes it and who suffers from it! Why? It is for your own comfort. Which is infuriating and sad. And the type of womanhood you want to benefit from would be at the expense of every Black woman you know! We would have to be okay with every part of us that is bleeding, upset, wounded or demands change! We would have to be okay with you all being our oppressors in addition to white supremacy!

No. I refuse to shrink in order to die.

And for the record? No Black woman whom is secure in herself cares, if you date non-Black women. We have other things to worry about.

‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 2: Representation Matters

Three things:

This series is for every woman, and for every girl that still doesn’t see herself represented enough in mainstream media and film. This piece is for every Black girl, whom is now a Black woman, whom still doesn’t see enough of herself to be full. This piece is for my Best Friend, Marissa–the founder of The Awakenings Project.

If you have not read Part 1, click here.

I am a dedicated Blerd.

I was reading by 4, drawing by 6, writing by 8 and writing poetry by 10. I had a father that could quote Star Wars, loved science fiction, and taught me the world was bigger than Missouri. I had parents who never hid the fact that I was Black, whom never taught me that being Black was a bad thing.

I am also a Black woman, whom was once a Black girl, born in 1981. I remember what Disney was like before Princess Jasmine and Princess Tiana! I remember what it was like to not see anyone that looked like me–Black and girl–on television. I remember what it was like before the MCU was a thing, before the cultural event of Black Panther, and before the only goddess a Black girl saw was Ororo Monroe! I remember, and that wasn’t so long ago. With that said, and I say this with love–and the boldness that love gives: Marvel, especially the MCU, has an issue with powerful women. On, and off screen.

It is no secret that most of the female led movies Marvel has produced (before Black Widow) have not done that well. On of them in recent history is Dark Phoenix. In the comic, Jean Grey is an Omega level mutant (Google that), with rich backstory! And they took all that power and hallowed her out–in X-Men 3 and in her standalone movie! Do you know how frustrating it is to be a female Marvel fan and see this? And see it happen continually?! Yet, this plays into the other theme that is apparent in this movie as well–the world will continually try to assert itself among women and girls, telling them–us!–whom we should be.

Through the lens of Natasha Romanov we see exactly what it means to be under estimated, overlooked and ignored. When a girl becomes a woman and does not see herself in the world, how can she know what to become? Even in conversations with other male comic fans, I have heard them say this movie was ‘a throw away movie’ or ‘they should have told this story sooner’. Yeah. About that: PANDEMIC.

Nevermind the fact that Black Widow fits in right after/during Avengers: Civil War. Nevermind the fact that she is one of the more well known Avengers (even though Wasp is integral in forming of this group)! Nevermind there are little girls all over the world that made Nat at part of their girlhoods! You cannot take that from them! In the fallout of the inevitable greed that surrounds these superhero movies and their demand for ROI, we see that Scarlett Johannson is being seen as the villian for wanting her fair share of money from the Avengers franchise? Barring COVID-19, why can’t they pay Scarlett, but you take a WHOLE risk on Robert Downey, Jr? Oh, okay. Separate issue.

Yet, the MCU is now in Phase 4. And the people that should be sticking up for her aren’t–shocker there! However, to me this one of the reason why Marvel will not create/produce more female-lead movies! As diverse as the Marvel Universe (from Marvel Comics, the true source material for all of this!)is, it can be seen and assumed that misogyny is still in the room–right along with racism. These two things are always the enemy of representation!

There is no need to put forward what they do not believe will be profitable!

What can be done? Well, the writing rooms need to be more diverse. There need to be more female directors, producers, storyboard artists, and female characters cannot be ornamental until they are functional for the appeasing for the male plot! We are ornamental with out bodies being the focus, and not the talent (check the evolution of Nat’s outfits).

I want more back story about the Red Room; I want to know where the Black Widow came from. Whom was the first? These are things that I need to know, and are reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show was so much better than that halfway good movie with Luke Perry)! Again, another conversation. Should this be a show? Maybe. But people need to remember the words of Queen B: “Who run the world? Girls.”

So, what do we need to do to run it? Write ourselves in it!

‘Black Widow’ Versus The World-Part 1: Meanings & Themes

Warning: This will contain spoilers.

Also, this series is dedicated to my best friend, Marissa–who’s nickname is Romanov.

I finally was able to watch Black Widow this week. I am glad of this, though. I was able to watch it alone, with all my girlhood, womanhood and writer self all in the same room. In watching Infinity War: Endgame, I (like every other MCU fan) was horrified at the loss of Natasha, rather than Clint, to get the Soul Stone.

Yes, I still feel away about this. But, let’s go on.

I have daughters whom are dedicated Marvel fans, and they were born during Phase 3! So, seeing–knowing!–that Natasha ‘Nat’ Romanov was getting her own movie–and Scarlett Johanssen was going to have Executive Producer credit? With a female director? For a Marvel movie? Oh, yes! Game changing! There is definitely a distinct difference when a woman directs a movie and when a man does. But, this? Oh, but this. Here are some of my take aways–and things that you might not have paid attention to.

1.) The rampant nature of the abuse of women and girls. All through the movie, we see just how easy it is to hurt women and girls. When Nat and Yelena run from the small force of Widows who come for them, one falls off the roof and breaks her tibia. She is told by the Red Room to terminate (kill herself). Though Nat tries to help, her free will has been hijacked. This also speaks to how suicide is till a problem among women, and how we can somehow feel as if no one can help us.

2.) Black women and girls are often the victims of human trafficking. Although the African-American/Widows whom are Black don’t have dominant screen time, but it points to just how easy it is to erase Black women and girls–and how no one looks for us, if they don’t look for us. There is also the creepy and telling line that Drestov says regarding how the world has too many girls, inferring they (read: we) are a wasted resource. Throwaways. Natasha hints to this as well as she confronts him before destroying the Red Room.

3.) Sexualizing of young women and girls. If you have watched the evolution of Black Widow’s outfits through the Avengers movies, you will notice just how her costume changed. How cleavage, and her figure were emphasized. I This movie, the uniforms at it were, are form-fitting, yes–but they are not overtly sexual.

4.) How we (the world) expects girls be self-sacrificing. From the first time Natasha kicks the gun out of the soldier’s hand to protect Yelena, Yelena blowing up the engine on the plane, we see that girls are ornamental, only being functional for a common goal or end. The theme of personhood, freedom, free will and the ownership of self are woven throughout the movie.

5.) We teach girls that pain is what strengthens them. Melina tells Natasha, “Don’t let them take your heart.” This is one of those sayings that I believe encourages girls to stay in tune with their emotions–they make you human. In the run of Black Widow through Phase 3, we do not see Natasha breakdown. We do not see her unravel! The last tears (or first tears) we see of Natasha was when she was crying in this mix of fear, rage and disbelief if was around her sister, Yelena. In becoming a woman, there are outrageous things that will happen to girls and in order to cope–we shut off.

We detach. We stuff down. We shift. We lie. We hide. We run. We self-destruct!

Melina’s reminder, even from this staged motherhood, is a reminder that shutting off never works–and should never been the long-term solution.

6.) Trauma bonding. “I cycled through the Red Room four times before you were born. Those walls are all I know.” When Alexei, Yelena, and Natasha find Melina we see just how trauma is two-fold, yet the same: how we hold together and what holds us together! From Yelena and Natasha fighting in Budapest, Melina alerting the Red Room where they are, Red Guardian bonding all his identity to Captain America (Steve Rogers), and the freed Widows not knowing what to do after being given said freedom. Trauma is unavoidable, unsustainable…but unavoidable.

7.) When women work together, they can do anything. What I loved about this movie–yes, loved!–is the relationship between Yelena and Natasha. I loved how Melina gave Natasha the rundown of the Red Room while prepping her what she’s about to face, and even how Taskmaster–Antonia, Drekov’s daughter–had to be freed from her own father and his desire to dominate women. The takeaway–when women of all walks of life work together–we can topple the toxic patriarchy.

Natasha Romanov deserved, and still deserves, so much more.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Vaccinations, Reservations, and Innervations

Note: I am not a nurse, a doctor or a scientist. I am woman, a mother, a Black women whom is a mother, who desires you all to be safe and prosper. These are only my thoughts. Thank you. -JBHarris

I am a retired CNA. A Certified Nurse’s Assistant, with the plantar fasciitis, tender left hip, and sore shoulder to prove it. I have seen people die, seen people recover, seen people give up, and seen nurses do all they can to preserve life. My last year of being a CNA was during the initial COVID-19 wave. I started this year with a dying marriage, two children, in a global pandemic. I remember calling my mother–whom had been nurse when AIDS was being called GRID–to ask what to do. I believe it was her knowledge, common sense, and God that kept me through that entire year.

Was I apprehensive about the vaccine? Yes. I will not lie to you. I wasn’t going to take it! I thought the creation of it was too quick (viruses mutate and there wasn’t enough information about any mutations at that point), and I am aware of the history of medical experimentation of Black/Brown/Indigenous people in this nation. I wanted to wait. When talked to my mother, she told me, “Pray, take the shot, and keep going.” This is literally what I did. I monitored my symptoms on TikTok when I got the first vaccine in December 2020. There were thousands of people in my comments of that video whom said that I was crazy, I had been microchipped and there were magnets in it (the same things that are being said now).

I remember when I protested with my mother about taking the vaccine, she told me, “Jennifer, some protection is better than no protection.” I don’t know why that statement made everything click (she is my mother!), but it did. I am a Black woman, raising children in an anti-Black world, and don’t want to leave them unprotected. Then, there was my best friend whom is autoimmune. And her daughter that has respiratory issues. And my daughters whom are best friends with them. Immunity was important not just for me–but for my kids.

My kids. My heartbeat in two places.

I chose to get my children vaccinated because it is my job to protect them. As best as I can, as long as I am able. The week that my daughters got their second shot–completing their immunity cycle–there were 12 children in an ICU in Mississippi. Where my family is from…where my grandmother left when my mother was not even 8 years old. Everything in me shattered!

I came home from their vaccination appointment and my life converged into one point. The million little decisions that brought me to this point–some decisions I made, some I didn’t. This is what I thought: If my grandmother hadn’t left, my family may still be in Mississippi. Had my mother not become a nurse in Missouri, whom married the man that was my father, I would have never grown up respecting science. Had I not respected science, seen it work, I would not have listened to my mother. Had I not listened to her, believed God and her, I wouldn’t have vaccinated my children. These things all connect, dear ones. They all connect!

With the looming onslaught of the Delta variant, I urge you all to be careful. Think deeply,. carefully, about how you are going to move in the world around this. The first wave of this was terrible, and scary. I fear that this second wave may be the same…with far more grave consequences.

Be safe out there.