Tag: Black women

My Sister’s Keeper (Pt. 3): The Knowing Unknowing

Wit. Your first mind. Mother wit. Somethin-told-me. Intuition. Ancestral knowing. It’s still needed…and life-saving. -JBH

As of this posting Kyrie Irving has given $65,000 to her funeral expenses, and Shanquella has been interred in Charlotte, NC.

As I balance experience and protection for my now teenage daughters, I have to tell them these stories. I have to pull them closer to me to let them know the world is a scary place, and once your know that–you can navigate it. I am teaching my daughters to trust that intuition–what I tell them is their ancestral knowing or their first mind–because it will not steer them wrong. I tell my daughters for the want of being popular, trying to be seen, Instagramming your reality, people will override that still small voice.

I can’t speak to every other Black woman in the world, but I can speak for myself. I believe, and was told by my mother, that wit is something that every woman has. And it will reveal things to you, and show you things if you are willing to listen to it. I believe in this era of parasocial relationships, sliding in DM’s, viral likes and shares, it is easy to miss that tap on your shoulder to tell you that something is bad.

That something isn’t right.

That you shouldn’t go with that person.

Shouldn’t call that person back.

That something is indeed…wrong.

In this situation (much like Kenneka’s), I wonder if that intuition went off for Shanquella. If it went off for her mother!

As I look at this situation as a mother, sister, friend and Black woman, I have so many questions. Most of those questions are powered by my intuition! I wonder if Shanquella’s mother told her not to go, asked for her friends to come by the house. I want to know if anyone confirmed the itinerary–and that emboldened her friends to come by her mother’s house to tell her Shanquella was dead from (allegedly) alcohol poisoning.

I want to know if Ms. Salamondra Robinson’s eyes narrowed at these people when her daughter didn’t come back with them.

For the person who opened the door for this friend whom would later assault Shanquella, did your stomach drop?

Why did no one break this fight up? And how devoid of humanity must you be in order to leave a friend dead, only to have all the friends scatter?

I also want to know if Shanquella, resting in her hotel, thinking she was safe, felt the energy in the room shift when the door opened before her life ended.

I want to know if she felt something in her say, “Shanquella, don’t go. Don’t go with these people”. And she didn’t listen.

I pose the same question: If Black women are not safe around other Black women, where are they safe?

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.

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 luck 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.

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

If you know you know.

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)

By Number

A Black woman died today.

The keepers of score say
Black women now leave
the planet at the
rate of one every 4.8 hours,
and there is one Black man
somewhere who will tell
multiple Black women
that we need to choose better.

Be softer.
Be more thankful you.
Less loud.
More quiet.
And do the thing
by which Black women
do best which is
handle life—
Even as it is thrown at them,
tossed at them,
or hit directly in their faces.

To be protector
of their predators
to be silent when
they should scream
and should lay down
and be taken because
that’s what we are
supposed to do.

To not bloom, but never plant.
Never ask but never fail to offer
but always be ready
to give over the any and everything—including body and mind.

And yet every 4.8 hours.
snatched.
Missing.
Found.

Mysteriously recovered
from ditches and streams
ravines, and washed up
on beaches
we are found… and yet unmissed.

We are missing, but never lost.
grieved, and yet never glorified
and yet we are told that our deaths
are lies and our lives misrepresented, unreported and should go with the territory of being
both woman and Black
because what did she really do to make him do her like that?

and yet…a Black woman died today.

-JBHarris, October 2022

This Pen

A girlfriend of mine
said that my pen
gave her life—

I took it to mean
Life was in my pen,
which means that
there is Legacy
attached to my name,
and the words
I write have to
be indeed in cursive
so people see
what I’m saying.

it is to this pen
I have dedicated
life and love
the luxury of time
and lack of sleep
heartbreak
and philosophy
that make Black girls
Black girls even
when they are Black women.

Due to this philosophy
to this ink-inspired divinity
I have given my all to,
strive to give my all to—
bending of language
breaking of rules
to give myself
the freedom my ancestors died over.

The ability to
tell my own story
like I want
when I want
whenever I want
Being light, heat and matches.

To this pen
I bequeath everything in me—
Give everything in me
push everything in me
So what is in me
May come out of me.

I mean you only go across
this grass one time
so I want to make sure that
I stomp all the way to
the grave leaving a paper trail
as long as the linen Hatshepsut
was wrapped in,
Legacy wrapped in story.

You can’t spell immortality without I.

-JBHarris, October 2022

An Elegy For Maddy

TW: racial violence

This poem is inspired by the title character Madison Abigail Washington, in Tiffany D. Jackson’s new book, The Weight Of Blood.

Adele said in that one song
that she could sit fire
to the rain.

What happens when rain
turns to fire at the ends of
fingertips which were told to pray
and let whiteness be

the reward at the end

of the denial of all blackness.

They will call you mad.


Tell you to cover your scars
that no part of you is needed
or necessary
Nor should ever be visible.

And yet Dylan Thomas
tells us to
“rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

And she did!

Indeed she raged—
everything within her alive
seeing and vibrating,
understanding everything in her that were stolen from her,
must be giving back
by her own hand.

the denial of the face of her mother,
the rejection of her father,
and a town that only knew her as Mad.

Then mad she was–mad she will remain

as torrents of glass,
Paint, metal
Blood and screams,
Become strange fruit
As history & present collide
with bodies unnatural
With limbs missing
And swinging in
Billie and Nina’s Southern Breezes, gotdammit!

Heels click as thoughts do
as fire encases everything
which pushed her out
or pushed her under.

Indeed, let Maddy be mad!

Let Maddy be mad for
everything that happened to her everything happened
to people who look like her
mad for the people
who still have the audacity to call her
nigg3r to her face-
Unblinking at the word that
Queued dark harvests
She snaps jaws and hearts
Like twigs.

Giving themto the infinity
To drown into as their ancestors do—
Loud & publicly.

Yes, yes let Maddy be mad!
Let Maddy be mad!
Let Maddy rage!

Rage, rage, against the dying of the light
let everything in her that has breath, praise the dark gods
that gave her the gift of insight
and fire and thought
praise be the rage
That allows her to
inflict to rebuke,
and to resist all controls
Because they said she
Didn’t ever belong
that made her hide
that she is too much

Yes, let Maddy be mad.

—JBHarris, October 2022