Tag: freedom

Ghosts In The Talking Boards

Be content the great cloud of witnesses say.

All the mammies

Are dead

But they still speak

Reaching from ancestor

Planes, with burns

On their backs,

Limps, unwhole missing

Skin, Teeth and Limb

From the word no.

It is their strength

To survive they

Provide, while warning

Us of what it

Cost them to

say no–

And yes is better.

Yes to your will

Yes to your way

Yessa…Massa.

Warning us in dreams

Of the 2 faces of this

Life–peace and war.

Yet we war for peace,

And for our peace those

Who value nothing

War for everything!

Be danger of your

Fire because they

Liable to beat it outcha!

Cool yuh in the dark

Of the earth

Or make you new

Branches in juniper trees

Just do what they ask ya

Like they ask,

Yessuh, juss like that

Not everyone can

Run–

But not everyone

Can stay!

They died for our bravery

Bc no greater love

Has no man than this

To lay down his life

For his life for his friends–

Those whom

are alive and remain

And remain to be alive…

This bridge called

My back remembers

The lash,

And feet made flat

To go through grass

And swamp

As eyes water as the

Last memory held

Is being told not

To leave.

We have counted

The cost of fire

And bravery and

Bending the tongue

Of owners and masters

With the lips given

By The Word.

If He is always speaking–

Then so will we.

So will I.

-JBHarris, July 2022

WEAR RED

May 5th is MMIW Day. I am not a Native/Indigenous woman, but I support Native/Indigenous women. This piece is dedicated to Native/Indigenous women who survive, who thrive, and whom we are all looking to bring home. -JBH

Image taken from Vogue.com

If oppression

had a color

it would be red–

to tell you when

to stop,

how to be,

to tell

you where you

cannot go–

to erase you.

By making you

unapproachable.

There are women

whom are

my mirror on

this land that

was both stolen

from them and

was chained to me.

I look for them.

Remember them

because their face

is my face!

Being seen and unseen.

I will wear read

to be seen!

I will wear red to look.

I wear red to

remind myself

that they, too,

are my sisters.

I will never forget.

Neither will I

abandon them.

I will always wear red.

-JBHarris, May 2022

Godmothers

I will summon

The queens of my blood

And the Father who made

Them strong—

And I will not fail.

-JBHarris, December 2021

Stand As Ten-Thousand

white women we see you

from how you touch our hair as if we are some foreigner animal and then tan to have skin like us, and call us dirty?

white women we see you

we see you on how you teach your sons to never to touch our daughters but yet your fathers have children who look just like us

white women we see you

we see how you go to voting booths and claim sisterhood and then vote for interest in power that mirror the power that you have been so accustomed to that you are afraid to be without because then that would make you not special-

we see you how you look at our sons

and then cry when they have done

nothing wrong except exist in a space that you thought a black child should not be in-

white women we see you

we see how you excuse your sons to take the rifles of their fathers and grandfathers and then exterminate people as if they are roaches in the kitchen.

White women, we see you.

and then you are mad because we are loud, and yielding in equality of both fought and promised, but you have contempt for us?

white women we see you

we see how you have disgrace the memory of our foremothers whos milk was in forefathers mouths miles as if she were some dumb cow-

White women, we see you.

you see, we have always seen you

we have always been taught of your monstrous natures and to be told or seen

You see this allyship that you want?

Is not easy—wounds generations deep and you all have banded together at every turn for the sake of your own power-

like your fathers and grandfathers and patriarchs before you too desire to write your face across everything that has color in it thinking by doing so do you indeed have conquered would they have not.

And in true fashion

and a true form

we see you

from from ancestral bloodlines

Heavenly windows

Over office cubicles

to the way you cry to HR when we don’t speak to you when we come in in the morning because you cannot conceive that life has not always been subject to you

white women, we see you

It was the mothers of our mothers who taught us her daughters—the real witches who survive being burned, who survive being lynched, skinned, sexed, sold, in and made to be wench and Mammie-to talk to smile while dying on the inside—the matches struck so the heat can pass through time and blood to the unnamed us whom where coming—and now here.

Fend for yourselves.

-JBHarris, 9.5.2021

Feeling Like Ida B.: SOCIAL MEDIA LYNCHING

Note: This will be a longer essay on my Patreon.

I, like most adults, am on social media. I have been in Facebook about a decade, Twitter for about 5 years, Instagram for a few years (I forget out about it often), and at the urging of my best friend, am on TikTok. In October, I will be on TikTok for a calendar year.

And what a year!

In the last 90 days, I have been banned on TikTok four to five times. With this last ban, I was banned for about a week (6 days). When I actually got access to my main account (I’ll explain that shortly), it took 2 hours after the allotted time to get access to it. When I did, I was greeted with this:

James Baldwin had a federal file too.

Oh, yes! Your eyes are not deceiving you!

When I saw this, I laughed. I cackled, actually! As I sat and posted content on my main account, I thought about this. In this digital age, in the age of Black people and people of color being targets of oppression, hate speech, public murder and other social abuses, what do most minority people do in order to bring light to these things? They take to social media! What do most people do whom dislike this type of activism do? They block or mass report a particular account to the powers that be.

Which brings me to the tool of main accounts, backup account, and this practice of social media lynching.

Main account. Lots of people on social media have these, it’s not new. This is the account you most frequent, that you use most often, and where people are most likely to find your content. My main account on TikTok is @whatjayesaid.

Backup account. These are the accounts that people have due to careers, family or hobbies. These aren’t often used, but they are used in case you don’t have access to your main account. My backup account on TikTok is @jayesaidwhat. I made my backup account in preparation that I might need it.

Now, let me define what this idea of Social Media Lynching is (this is seen on TikTok alot!):

Social Media Lynching is the practice of suppressing the content/voices of minority people (especially African-American people) whom actively use their voices, or position, to fight racism, discrimination, erasure on a social platform only to be banned (silenced) or have their content suppressed, accounts taken, or platform sanctioned.”

Jennifer Bush-Harris, 9.3.2021

This lead me to this iconic quote from Ida B. Wells Barnett:

If they cannot get us with nooses, they mass report creators whom are ‘problematic’ or ‘violate community guidelines.’ We are punished in this public way, on a public forum, on a free app, because we as Black/African-American people, dare to speak about the issues that effect us individually or a whole!

In putting this warning label on my main account (which as of this posting is over 30,000 followers), is indicative of why most African-American people on TikTok have multiple accounts. Much like those of the Civil Rights Movement had code names, and why in activism circles the rule of thumb is ‘trust, but verify’.

In keeping us quiet, the goal is to punish us, shame us, or scare us into not speaking out anymore!

The strange fruit isn’t just in Southern breezes and trees! It is attached to phone plans and homescreens; updated and integrated into daily life! There are those such as myself with multiple accounts that they use for professional reasons, and the fear of the ‘permanent ban’ is always looming because this happens most often to Black content creators! The fear of having what you worked for, what you built, taken from you because there are White people that don’t like what you say, what you fight against, disliked the information revealed to empower—having that power being taken from you is present!

The lynch mobs have hoods and smart phones!

Through mass reporting, the catalyst of the process of silencing you begins! And once you have been reported on an app (in this case TikTok), even old content being reviewed can to reported, and the bans become more frequent!

Again, my last ban before the one which ended on 9/4/21 (after 6 days), was 6-weeks before, and that was for 3-4 days! And we won’t talk about shadowbanning!

This is not by accident, though. It never is! Silencing African-American people in public ways, threatening space, livelihood, bodily harm (can’t forget the death threats via Direct Messaging!), is not new–social media is new! Like our ancestors before us, grandparents after them, we aren’t going to be stopped by who didn’t like what we have to say. We won’t be stopped by whom trolls, reports, cries or comments because they are emboldened by their racism–thinking it is equivalent to/better than any lived experience they have not lived, or education they cannot hope or desire!

I have a great many opinions–and even write some of them down. Besides, they wouldn’t try to silence me, if I didn’t have something to say.

‘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.

White Women Know What They Are Doing

Follow me on TikTok: @whatjayesaid

I saw this trend on TikTok starting the week of June 15, 2021. They claim that it’s just an acting tool. Who stupid?

in 2021, some white women are still doing what their lesser ancestor predecessors did—trying to make the world move by their tears. Once again on this free clock app, Becky Sue JaneDoes and all her little friends have decided to start this trend where they basically cry on queue and cut it off just as fast! Forgetting the Black bodies and blood both attached to said tears!

The cognitive dissonance on this app as a superpower!

When I first saw this trend earlier this week, I was taken aback. But not shocked.

And to be honest with you, even now, I can’t even say why I wasn’t shocked. Perhaps it’s because I’m well aware of my history—personal, national, and global. Simply put? Lying white women who cry are murderers: history was both dictated and recorded that.

History is deeper than my opinion.

I am no longer in a place of my own self discovery and acceptance by which White women calling me name can move me from my point! As I’ve said before, it is one thing to be an accomplice, it is another to be a performative ally!

This group of White women don’t even know what they started! They don’t even understand, neither can we conceive, but they just admitted to! And how tough their role is well which they now have to hoe! The fact of being in this tone deaf, and this ensconced in defending it? That’s a learned behavior.

Dressing up this up this trend as an acting as an exercise, “Black people are taking it too serious”, and they are not racist – – but those of us on this side? We see it differently. And it is that vision, powered by history, that is on our side! White women’s tears have been weapons to kill people, disenfranchise larger groups of minority people, rob opportunities, and generally make everybody else’s life hard!

That has always been a trend.

Brava Becky, Brava!

Did I Tell You About The Time I Almost Got Catfished?

Dating is dangerous, family!

In February 2020, I talked about how discouraged (read: afraid) I was to start dating after the ending after of this last relationship. Then…I got on Facebook Dating on a whim. Your favorite was (almost!) the victim of a catfish. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I got brave and made a profile on Facebook Dating. I made one before, starting trying to date someone—and that fizzled as quickly as it started. After random men offering lackluster and fervent sexual favors, this guy calling himself Kenvy inboxed me.

This handsome somebody I am positive didn’t inbox me.

I admit it:  he was handsome. He was sweet! But something wasn’t right. Now, I am a fan of the Alice In Wonderland live action movie. There is a portion of the movie, near the end, where before Alice can defeat the Jabberwocky, she has to believe 6 ‘impossible things’. Now, I had to notice those same impossible things in order to not be swept up in nonsense.

This dude, Kenvy, told me that he was a “USA Marine” and he was in Africa at the moment (Impossible Thing #1). No Marine I know says he’s a USA Marine.

This dude told me that he had a daughter named Berry (Impossible Thing #2) and her mother was not in her life. (Impossible Thing #3). We talked for two days, and he kept repeating himself (Impossible Thing #4). He sent me pictures, and asked me to download WhatsApp—I did. I mean, my best friend is on it! The app is free, too! So, I acquiesced because he was cute.

Aside A: This is the fly in the ointment, with me and ‘Kenvy’. I’m a writer. I am a student of history. I also have been researching romance scams for the past couple years. I am also fan of the MTV show Catfish. I am also a year from 40. I am not that easy to fool.

Harpo, who this man?!

Note: The pictures sent to me include a child who is probably his daughter. I don’t feel comfortable sharing them. He might be an active Marine. I pray his safety for him and his daughter.

We exchanged pictures. He told me after talking to me two days that I was what he wanted (Impossible Thing #4A). Kenvy told me that I was beautiful, and he could see himself getting serious with me (keep in mind, we were only talking like 2 days—Impossible Thing #5). In sending him pictures, he even started dedicating songs to me! Bruh, slow up! One of those songs being Perfect by Ed Sheeran (Impossible Thing #6)!

Curiouser and curiouser…

Keep in mind Perfect was a song that has significant meaning—by someone incredible (It’s a Peter Parker song, but let’s move on.)! But let’s keep going. The whole conversation felt rushed! I asked him when his deployment would be over. He said, “Next month.” At the time it was late April—the month of May was in literal DAYS. When I pressed for details, he couldn’t give any (Impossible Thing #7). I asked why I couldn’t hear his voice—he told me some BS reason that was so convoluted that even I can’t match it (Impossible Thing #8). He said the reason why he couldn’t call me was because it wasn’t safe or secure (Okay, maybe.). Then, he asked if I would be willing to give him my number to give to his commanding officer to have it be verified (Hell Nall! Impossible Thing #9 and #10). WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE?!

So, all my antennae are up at this point! I can’t hear his voice, sentence structure is off, he’s repeating himself, and the pictures he sent don’t jive with where he is supposed to be in the world. My immediate thought: I am being catfished.

Wanna know what I did next? I waited on him to ask me for money. I felt that was coming and my intuition rarely fails. In two days, this cat is talking about marrying me, kids, and wanting to always be here for me.

Aside B: I am secretly fascinated by romance scams! I have been researching them for a while, because I wanted to know just how victims are sucked in! From that research, from that second hand knowledge, I was prepared. I. Was. Prepared.

He texted me through this shady ass app, and the dread was in my belly. I knew it was coming—this man only an illusion. But then, I realize what hooked these other women—attention. The overwhelming attention when there is nothing else granting it to you!

Then, he had it: the audacity! He asked me to send him $200 on a eBay gift card to pay his Wifi (Impossible Thing #11). He said he would pay me back “when I get home (Impossible Thing #12).”

I told him to never contact me again. I told him how dare he ask me to send him $200?! He seemed hurt and confused, but he left me alone. Then, I felt the dread. Wondering about the pictures I sent, about whether my picture will be in this scam next time…and that person not be as smart.

Feeling stupid has a frequency, and other consequences…beyond screens.

In The Letting Go

For the sister I didn’t know I needed—Jahaira Balenciaga (DeAlto).

It took me a week to write this. It took that long to write this because I am still processing all of it. I am actively, equally outraged, heartbroken and in rolling disbelief. The woman I had watched on YouTube for the better part of a decade, who I connected with through the gift of social media–for the better part of a decade–was murdered in her house because she was helping a woman leave her husband.

I am devastated. And here is why.

I was introduced to Jahaira through the YouTube channel MuchLove From KY (Ms. Nina!) who I love like an Aunt also. I liked Jahaira because she was funny, smart, and she changed her hair like I did! I didn’t even know Jahaira was trans until disclosed that. Now, was I raised to be homophobic or transphobic? Not at all. So, Jahaira being trans, was a small part of who she was. What endeared Jahaira to me was her authenticity, her love for the people around her, and her steady committment to make the world a better place.

I followed her YouTube channel (JahairasMission) for years! I celebrated when she got her associates degree. I rejoice when she enrolled in Simmons University to finish her bachelors degree. I was so happy we won her award! She was doing so much good in the world and to have her life snuffed out like this? It is so unfair.

I am reminded of the statistic that she gave when excepting her MOVA award about 3 years ago now. She said that the average age that trans women get to especially transwomen of color get to, is only 35. At the time of her passing, Jahaira was 42,43 years old.

Foolishly, I thought that she was passed that danger point! I thought that she had made it over so to speak. And that all the good in the world that she was aiming to do, the children that she helped raise, the love and legacy that she left—she was going to be able to be one of those trans women they got to see old age and seen the reward of all her hard work. I wanted that for her…

It is being reported out of Dorchester, that The person that murdered her was actually staying with her! He’s now in custody, and I am enraged!

I have been watching her videos on YouTube for a week because my mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that this woman that I knew, who had gone through so much, who was destined to do so many good things is GONE!

It is being reported out of Dorchester, that she was murdered by the estranged husband of the woman she was trying to help to leave him. He wound up killing Jahaira and his estranged wife!

This ain’t right. This isn’t fair. And I don’t know how I’m coping. I can only imagine how her mother feels! Jahaira DeAlto is the 21st trans woman to be murdered this year. Yeah, even in all of my grief and anger, I’m choosing to do the very thing Jahaira reminded us all as her sub tastics told us do: LIVE.

And with that four letter word, let that be her legacy. She encouraged us all to live and live unapologetically. Owning every last piece of our truth, embracing every flaw that we have, and celebrating every victory!

See you one of the other side, Jah.