My Sister’s Keeper (Pt. 1): What About Your Friends?

Author note: As of this posting, there have been no arrests in this case. #JusticeForShanquellaRobinson -JBH

Shanquella Robinson should not be dead. And the fact that she is in the company of Black people, in a foreign country, with her mother on the news demanding answers?

Disbelief isn’t the word!

Yet, it but I cannot help but remember the words of my mother: “Not every one is your friend.”

The most vicious thing about her murder is still how callous this all was! It rings of what happened to Kenneka Jenkins in Chicago. There is a debate on social media which debates this, but there indeed is a parallel. The main one is: who do you call your friend. And…why?

This young woman wasn’t yet 30.

A college graduate.

Entrepreneur.

And she traveled internationally with people she knew.

And yet, she is gone. A portion of her assault on the internet for all to see. An one of her assailants is a Black woman! The urban philosophers T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili once said, “What about your friends?” As a mother now, this is my worst nightmare. I am trying to equip my children to be in the world, being able to listen to their intuition when things are wrong, and knowing exactly what a friend is!

This young woman is dead because of jealousy, and trusting the wrong set of people. Yet, there is a deeper element here. More sinister.

With Black women being so unprotected, with us working towards trying to build and keep safety, the safest place should be with another Black woman! In watching the video, in seeing this beautiful Black woman thrown around, pummeled, and with a Black man in the video saying, “Shanquella, you ain’t gon fight back?”

Furthermore, then, to find out that her murder innocence was videotaped on the phone? Only to have that video then begin circulating, which contradicts everything her friends told her mother? Horrendous.

How have we gotten here?

I believe one of the ways by which we have gotten here is we no longer value human life… that goes beyond race. In this reality by which we now currently navigate, and traverse, it seems what we value is. Everything is intangible. this generational gap is evident that what we as Gen X, millennials were taught, did not trickle down to GenZ. Or if it did, they didn’t believe it was worthy of implementing in their own social circles.

It doesn’t matter that this young woman had hopes dreams, a mother that loved her, family, that she belonged to–the fact that her friends in my opinion were jealous of her.

I’ve been a woman for a consider amount of time now. And I know enough that, when a group of women don’t like you? They will do the most nefarious things to you to either isolate you, ridicule, you, or hurt you.

Yet, in this parasocial relationship, social media crafted reality, we must remember that not everyone that likes your images, like you. Not everyone that follows you, is defined as ‘friend’ will be one. Not everyone wants you to win, loves. And there are people whom truly desire to be in your space in order to harm or destroy you!

yeah, some of the questions I still have are:

What can be done to be pulled back?

And who was holding the camera?

Who had opened the door?

Trust as a Black woman is a powerful thing, and most fragile. Once it is violated–especially by another Black woman, that is hard to repair. If not impossible.

Read. Black & Woman.

This is the essay which will be in the anthology STORIES OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE to be published by the St. Louis County Public Library. -JBH

            I am a Black woman.

I am a Black woman whose grandparents were enslaved, sharecroppers, and whose parents are college educated.  The American Experience for me is based around words, narratives, and oral traditions—it is no wonder I am a writer.

            With this artistic designation, I am aware the thing which I am good at, have gotten accolades for, recognition regarding—would have gotten me murdered 159 years ago! For the desire of learning, for my natural inclination and proclivity for language, would have gotten me murdered.

            When I reconcile the American Experience with my cultural and personal history, I am forced to admit the same thing which has freed me, killed my ancestors. The dexterity of language, my verbal acrobatics, and my slick mouth would have made me a ‘woman most unruly’…if I was White. Since I have no hope of whiteness, as a Black woman, I would have been the mare needing to be broken under field work, whips, or tree limbs.

            I reconcile that history, that most American ancestry for the enslaved, and I determine to say everything that my grandparents could never say. I make it an effort put pen to paper, letters on screen for visibility.

Or spite. Either will do.

Nikki Giovanni says, “Rage is to writers what water is to fish.” Indeed, Nikki. It is that rage I seek to understand, to source, and which fuels the things which need to be said! I grab it, dig it up, and put fiction, prose, or poem to it.

My way has been paid for me, through time and sorrow. There is a need in me now to express, critique, submit and record. From there, I am a dragon of my own making; my Phoenix tattoo substantiates that. So, indeed let the rage be the fuel.

 

I breathe fire. I will leave a mark. I must! The generation coming depends on it.

-JBHarris, September 2022

Bonus Piece: Fast Girl Epilogue (NSFW)

While this piece was not included in this printed work, it was too good not to share. -JBH

When I asked you

to be my first,

I meant that

first—

last

The everything

first time

my legs would shake

on your shoulders.

The first time

I will ever feel a

spread in my hips

to the point every chakra

would realign to

ruin me for

any other man

that would dare

look at me

knowing that I was yours

deeper than senses

longer than love

quicker than Lightning flashes –

that kind of belonging

you can’t buy…

that kind of power—

you can’t mimic

when I asked you

into my body

to be the first

to explore

to awaken

to erupt everything in me

that was meant for you

I meant that.

I meant that,

like God is real

admitting all I held

for you—

would belong to you,

which means there

was a lock on the inside

of me with

your name on it—

If you thought my

mouth was slick,

You’ll find out

What else already is

A lock that

no one could find

but you—

Just like they put

names on hollow point

bullets so that the soul

will be captured,

I wanted to be

captured—

to be held

to be found

by you and none but you.

Knowing the caliber of love

and love making,

Relentless exploration

that the kids call fucking

you would give to me

—and only me —

because I asked

it of you.

when I asked you

to be my first

I meant for you

to be the last

because how often

do you get to

touch the sun

and live to tell about it?

-JBHarris, October 2022

New Book: Sweethearts & Love Notes

To grab this book on Amazon or Kindle, click here.

I have written fast before, but this? This book poured out of me.

Through the lack of social media, and the uncanny nature of my own life, I have found my childhood sweetheart. For respect, I won’t give his name here, but he knows this book exists.

If you know you know.

I have not seen him in 21 years, and yet he remembers the last thing I wore, and I saw him before he saw me.

I all but ran to him. Hugged him. And the world fell away. No, that is not an exaggeration.

For those feelings, for the power of that connection, I wrote! In being transparent, this was the man I thought I would marry.

There are attributes of this connection I have looked for in other relationships–to this day (I mean #ForeverBae plays Poker AND Chess!)!

This chap book is a reminder to me that…maybe I am still a love poet after all. As and maybe (just maybe) this is a reminder to younger me that I wasn’t crazy–and neither was he.

The butterflies were real and still are.

Favorite pieces:

Love Note #3

Hymnals

When Beale Street Talks

To The First Work

Being a love poet, during social change is interesting. As you confront things around you which need, love, accountability, and justice… There is something in you that is overjoyed when you can be reconciled to that first work: love.

Knowing people that you care for sale in the world, that they are well, and that life has treated them well so far. Perhaps that is the justice of being a love poet… Love will always be your light, heat, and smoke. 

-JBH, November 2022

My Mom Texted Me At 5 AM To Go Vote

My mother doesn’t sleep—

and now with her being

the proud owner

of an empty nest,

she makes her rounds

every morning to make sure

all baby eaglets

with nest of their own

are fine—

but with the approaching

wildfire season, she touched

her wing to the head of her

Oldest Babybird

to remind her

it is her turn to go save the world.

-JBHarris, November 2022 (US Midterms 2022)

These Days Of Night #25: Jahir

Jahir watched her as she slept, eyeing the scythe in the corner, blood dried from it. 

Jahir had told her he was stronger than she thought, don’t go out to feed. 

And the ambush.

The beating. 

He found her about to be drained by that traitor Zelmont. 

Jahir beheaded him. Killed a vampire that tried to kill another vampire. The Madders seemed to wake up from a dream of sorts. And stopped attacking and scattered. 

Alina slept. 

And kept sleeping as the day came into her room. 

Sarraye appeared in the room, stepping from the wall. Jahir looked at her, and away from her. “Zelmont deserved it. This is part of the job.” Sarraye looked at Alina and she sat up—staring.

Alina stretched and got up. “Alina you have to be careful! You know I can’t keep coming down here Jahir! The war is happening, you know Donovan and I really can’t be involved!”

There were a howls outside, and Alina started at Jahir, and Sarraye at both of them. There was a crash downstairs, things tearing and breaking. Sarraye ran to get the scythe, pushing past the outaged Alina, to go downstairs “Company is what the living get—we get all the problems!” Alina looked at Jahir, with Sarraye’s footsteps in the background echoing. Howling from intruders and screaming from Sarraye.

“Call Donovan. Now.” She said quietly. And ran down the stairs to meet whatever was in her house.

These Days Of Night #24: Calsepsi

I, Calsepsi, child of Mahkdame the Amshun of the Iygoti people. 

I beseech you Nanja and your sister, Haryame, guide me.

Strengthen me. 

The battle is hot and I must get back to Alina. I know about Jahir. I must get back to her. 

Thalia, Duncan, and I have killed 4 Madders to protect us and our fledglings. They are moving south.

Strength me like you did before, Haryame, my work isn’t done. Donovan cannot collect on his bargain yet.

I want to go to him, he’s watched over me 474 years. It’s time, but not yet.

These Days Of Night #23: Travis

Travis Miller was tired.

His heart ached, deep in his chest and hanging on to the side of the sink, cracking in beneath his rage. Mahari was gone. 

Again. 

His growl rattled the window in the bathroom. The blood rang in his skull and he phrased at the sink, taking the hotel sink from the wall. 

He let the howl pull him in, the rage growing muscles and turning hands into mahogany fur and paws.  Snarling, he ran through the door frame and to towards the door of suite. 

Bounding down the hall, he followed her scent. His pack was in shambles, he ran faster after replaying his conversation with his alpha. 

You want to bond to an outsider? A blood drinker? How?! 

He had to get Malcolm, he needed more Madder blood. He had to keep Mahari to him! The Amshun told him that she could have a child, and Madder blood was a key to this. 

They could take this city, and Mahari was key.

These Days Of Night #22: St. Xavier’s Hospital

Tanya wiped sweat off her pale forehead, Bobbi Brown foundation on her right hand. She sipped the coffee in her blue hospital issued cup, slowed hard at the temperature of the coffee. Her smart watch which had Minnie Mouse living in her piped up, “it’s 2:51 am! Good Morning!” 

She closed her eyes, remembering she had to signed up for overtime shifts the next three days.  

Relaxing in the black rolling chair, she rubbed her face, her blonde hair falling over the back of the chair. 

She had the patient in 904 again. 

Blood pressure impossible to control.

Chemical restraints. 

Didn’t speak English, or when he did he screamed that he was on fire.

It burns! Help me! It burns so much! 

He needed 2 sitters to watch him.  

Constant fluids. Heart rate stayed in the low 100’s. During morning report, she overheard “What the hell is wrong with him?!”

Alarms broke her deep breathing exercises, and she ran down the hall. The beeping louder, bed rattling, and she went into the room to see the two sitters in the room soothing him as he is screaming crying. 

Tanya pages the on-call resident from the red phone on the wall. “Dr. Malcolm Warren. He’s seizing. Code Lilac.” 

The snarling is louder, a hum in her ears. “When did he start?” The tech with blonde box braids and diamond stud in her nose and purple scrubs, answers, sleep in her voice. “Like 5 mins ago, 2:46 am.”

The other tech, close shorn hair and blue contacts, grabs vital signs, and Blood sugar. “Help me!” Tanya exhales, and boots up the mobile work station. Her bare nails tap the patient records, charting what is happening. 

Seizure start: 0241

VS:  T 99.8F, P 138, R22, BP 160/110, 91% 2L O2.

“Not again…” 

Tanya exhaled and looked at the record.

This has been happening for the last 4 nights. Every 4 hours. 

—-

Malcolm stood over him, looking over the spent man he fought for 5 days. He was sleeping with the help of Halidol. 

Looking around the room, he reached for the vaccutainer syringe set in his left pocket.  Assembling the butterfly set he found a vein and filled three tubes. 

He filled the tubes and headed to the Resident Lounge, he ran through symptoms:  hallucinations, high blood pressure and pulse, malignant hyperthermia and abnormal blood work, he bit his lip, replaying the report meeting notes in the voice of his attending. 

“A Madder.”