When I was
Baptized by water
-JBHarris, July 2022
When I was
Baptized by water
-JBHarris, July 2022
Be content the great cloud of witnesses say.
All the mammies
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
And yes is better.
Yes to your will
Yes to your way
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
But not everyone
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–
are alive and remain
And remain to be alive…
This bridge called
My back remembers
And feet made flat
To go through grass
As eyes water as the
Last memory held
Is being told not
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
You are a writer, so write. I will never tire of saying this. What I will leave you with as this series closes is just that—write. Be willing to stand on what you believe in, what you know, what you want to know more about—and … Continue reading The Burden Of The Pen: “Here Is What I Have To Say…”
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
had a color
it would be red–
to tell you when
how to be,
you where you
to erase you.
By making you
There are women
my mirror on
this land that
was both stolen
from them and
was chained to me.
I look for 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
that they, too,
are my sisters.
I will never forget.
Neither will I
I will always wear red.
-JBHarris, May 2022
I am a love poet. What does that mean, exactly: It means that the subject of most of my poetry (which you can find on Amazon–click here) is about love and relationships. I’m a love poet!
I accept that. I’m cool with that.
Then, there is that matter of wanting to change the world, fight injustice, dismantle white supremacy, protect Black women and girls, speak to the king in Black men and boys, and wants to see the world better by the time I leave it! Some of that requires me to put down love and pick up sword. But, that is the trick!
It is because of love that I am able to pick up the sword.
It is because of love that I speak truth to power.
It it is because of love, that I believe the world can be–should be!–better when I leave it.
Yet–I am aware that because love is a power source, I cannot be limited to it’s ‘softer’ more romantic nature. The world I know maneuver through, raise my daughters in, and work in, is at war! The wars are on multiple levels, on multiple fronts, with continued loss of life.
February is a month that I get to examine this, and maybe we can all get free together.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.