My grandmother was the indomitable presence, she could restore familial order with a look or a sound. She had the strength, and wit I envied. I aspired to master, not emulate. I wanted this essence she had. I figured if I had it, that wit would allow me to maneuver with ease through this life. Now, that same woman, granted mortality to teach us her descendants how to run, I learn was only mortal, perhaps more mortal than me. I now learn only a fraction more her after her passing. The regality of aging is not lost on me. I want to be able to retain a measure of grace and charm that will not make me stone, but won’t make a fool or trifled with either.
If you mention the phrase follow all backups the appropriate answer is, ‘Drop them in the comments!’
On TikTok, this is common. In the 12 years I have been on social media (among 4 platforms–in March 2023 I will have been on Twitter a DECADE!), I have seen how racism, white supremacy, and misogynoir converge to rip down platforms for anyone whom may want the world to be better.
The idea of having a backup page occurred to me after my first few bans and video reporting became more prevalent. From COVID-19, to racism, to sexism–how could a cis-het Black woman writer be unscathed?
It is common to have backup pages; pages to go to live from; pages to comment or spy. With the algorithm determined or deterred by racism, backup pages are necessary!
Yet, I forgot one thing.
Before the first inneration of whatjayesaid was banned, I had gotten my page kidnapped.
I would be banned 3 days, 5 days and 7 days–but access would take a day or more to return to me. I remember one ban took another week to release back to me despite emails and contacting the app directly!
It was at the knowledge of knowing my account could be kidnapped (as well as mass reported!), I made it my mission to stay on the app…for spite.
Yeah, spite. I’m not above it.
At this posting there are 3 back ups: @shesgottapen2.5, @theecaramelgriot, and @stillwhatjayesaid.
I refuse to let an app that will ban me (a cishet Black woman) and praise real Nazi’s, silence me.
White people want to fight for the reputation of America. Hence why they have an issue with Colin Kaepernick kneeling, why they have a problem with us “ungrateful Negroes”.
After all, it’s their ancestors who lynched people, sexually assaulted people, murdered people—“It’s not us!”
What belies this pseudo dialogue are questions which greater White establishment only want obedient an obedient answer to:
Shouldn’t you be happy with what we gave you?
If you’re happy with that, I [as a White person] still remain to be good.
By this logic, whiteness can continually, inherently ‘be good.’ Even though James Baldwin said, “As long as you believe you are white, there is no hope for you.”
The Great Undoing is erasure: hiding history. In doing so, you [as White establishment] preserve the idea of whiteness so much so even the immigrant, non-White peoples whom come to this nation from all over the world, aspire to whiteness! To the point they will disavow cultural knowledge, knowledge of self, to be accepted, preferred by White people!
The majority of White people don’t want to relinquish the which allows them to control the greater narrative, individuality, the ability to claim both group authority and individualism! However, greater white culture desires to strip individuality from non-White people! In doing so, autonomy–freedom!–is limited to and for White people.
Which means we (as non-White people) again are fighting over the right to add to or correct the greater, more palatable narrative. When White people screech, “Who is they?“
They know exactly who they are!
They are the White people who perpetuated some of the most horrible atrocities in human history that you were descended from!
Make no mistake we know the root of the Transatlantic Slave Trade start in Europe; Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas in 1515 said Black people didn’t have souls. Ergo, we are not human. If we are not human, then it is easier to brutalize us.
Even in death we are not safe.
For The Great Undoing, why should Black people be mad, right? One of the tenants of White Supremacy is the expectation of comfort! Being granted the right to never be confronted, accountable, plausible responsibility to anything whiteness cannot profit from.
Why should we as Black people want to rock the boat? Why talk about these things? Why bring it up? The answer to
Y’all have a good here! You’re free now! You’re not mad anymore are you?
Toni Morrison said racism is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. This is where us as writers an artist come in! We have the power to go in and out amongst people, in and out of rooms, to make these observations, declarations which other people may be scared to say, or don’t know how to say.
Which is why they still want Black people whose ancestors were enslaved to a land by which they don’t know their original language or names to pledge allegiance.
Amaya tossed and turned in her king sized bed. Rolling away from the snores of her husband, she placing her hands on her closed eyes. She bit her lip, eyes welling up, cheeks then damp. Sitting on the side of her bed, her breathing in time with Khamron’s snoring. She took off her braid bonnet, shaking sleep, before going to the bathroom. The grandfather clock downstairs chimed, as she tapped the phone screen. “1:07.” She hissed.
Her toes gripped the carpet, and she wiped her face, exhaling. “Just shower and go back to bed.” She whispered. “Hot water and soap, Mama say fix everything.” She walked to the bathroom feet from her cherry oak footboard.
The dim light made her skin golden as she turned on the shower water. The patter of the water on the shower floor made her bite her bottom lip. Hand in the stream told her that the water needed a while more to warm.
Amaya turned to the sink, breathing softly, forcing tears into hiding. “Donovan.” She whispered. She box braids swung as she cupped her face, the blue in her braids matching her mood.
The water was needed, hiding tears. As she dried off, her mind drifted.
Her mind took her to his room, his mouth on her thighs ripping the yellow lace panties she wore against the front door. His tongue tensing and opening her body as she rode his face.
Amaya remembered his hands on her hips, in her hair. “Tell me you love me, Sugar? Tell me!” His breath hot on her ear as he stretched her body to conform not him again, just like Homecoming Night twenty years before.
Amaya dried her legs as Khamron snored, her eyes to the clean laundry yet to be put away. Grinning at the orange shirt straining against its black plastic cage. Her eyes watered again, wrapping the towel around her, made her way to the clean laundry.
The towel fell as she began digging for the orange shirt, her curvy frame still luminous, with light over her hips. Seizing her treasure, she put it on.
It was tight now, her bust not the same as it was in high school. She always slept better and Donovan’s practice shirts anyway.
With her newfound peace, she hoped sleep would find her, letting her mind see him again when she slept.
He braced against the shower wall as the remaining water trickled over his shoulders and back. His hand smoothing his chesnut face . Closing his eyes, he willed her away. “Amaya.” Whispering her name conjured her there pinned between him and white tile wall. His hands gripping white tile of the shower wall. Heat coming through his skin again as the movie of their afternoon and last week flooded his mind.
The slapping of her back against the wall. Her grinding into his hands and hips, feeling her open, stretch and accommodate.
Her coffin shaped nails lightly scratching the backs of his ears…she remembered.
How she squeezed him, as he pushed her gently upright, squeezing her nipples and the darkness of her areolas.
Then Amaya screamed his name. And over again. Head back and full voice. Donovan flipped her on her back, her legs on his shoulders. His face in her neck. As she had all through high school and college.
Her body was home. Her pleading for more of him music.
He bit his lip, the heat coming through his back.
The beeping of his phone ripping him from recent memory.
White towel secured around his waist his Face ID unlocked it.
Sugar [1:10 AM] Thank you for the shirt.
Response [1:11 AM] I ripped the other.
He held the phone, breathing and waiting. He moved from Messages to his Delta app to check his flight information. He tossed the phone on the bed, turning to get his suitcase and wheel it to the front door.
In short strides, reached the unmade bed.
Sugar [1:17 AM] You ain’t changed at all! What am I going to do with you
Donovan grinned, heard her voice in his ears, reminding of the taste of Amaya’s neck.
His response [1:18 AM] A woman with a mouth like yours to keep it quiet you have to keep it busy.
He attached his iPhone to the charger. Grinning, he took off the towel, preferring to sleep naked to remember her body again. He would text her in the morning maybe. He had a flight to catch.
As a young girl, the thrill of the holiday was never the food…but the sounds. I was excited because I would get to hear and see all these people that I hadn’t seen all year, or not often enough. I would get to hear stories, hear dialects and Englishes, and ruckus laughter. There was always laughter at Thanksgiving.
In my 34th fall, this is the first holiday that have not cooked and incorporated my own family into the greater of my family at large. As I wrote in the effigy at my grandmother Arceal Williams’s funeral, I wrote that her home was a place you “gathered strength and peace and prepare for war, before going back into the wide, wide world.” Her house was a focal point, my steady place, my rock when all else seemed questionable.
I visited this same place not even two weeks ago, and it was akin to a cemetery. There were relics, dust—the ashes of love—everywhere. There was a quiet there I had not known until that moment. It was the stillness one could only see and on the other side of the grass where eyes to be opened in soil. There was no stove, no fridge, no evidence of the life which was there, the lives grown there like same soil of her garden inundated with vines now.
On this day of Thanks,I am thankful for being able to be a part of the greater, to become the greater, to relay the greater. I am thankful for being able to see on THIS side of the grass. I am thankful for the amalgum that is my family…it is beyond blood now–I have been adopted, redopted and engrafted all before this time. I am thankful for this legacy that I now call love and family.May we all continue to laugh.
I do not agree with the accusation of the assailant of the Shanquella being labeled as a ‘man in a wig.’ Or immediately being classified as a Black transwoman.
So often Black women are classified as masculine! Our bodies are ridiculed, only to be mimicked. Black women have meet incredible standards to even be considered feminine, or the ever elusive ‘pretty’. In the forefront of this tragedy is this burgeoning transphobia, and anti-trans sentiment!
No. No, we are not about to do this!
The fact is Shanquella is dead, and the people who she traveled with are responsible! Yet, homophobia is never late! It is never late, never failing to be out of place! What needs to be added in this conversation is how easy sometimes Black women will not examine their own inner circles, but will always seek out ‘the other’ to determine who/where the enemy is.
It can’t be the women in my circle whom are capable of this, but a transwoman would because they are not real women!
No. Not here. Not ever. Not never ever.
Let me say this: I am a cis-het Black woman. I have never looked in the mirror and thought, ‘None of this [heart, body, mind, spirit] is right! I can lend sympathy and empathy to transpeople. And as a woman, I can respect women (cis/trans), and only ask for that respect in return.
This situation has nothing to do with transwomen.
Transwomen are not the enemy. I repeat: transwomen are not the enemy, and should not be the focus in this discussion! The focus needs to remain on Shanquella, and why her ‘friends’ got her in another country, (allegedly) murdered her, and lied to her mother about her cause of death!
If anything, this situation forces us as Black women to look at our own circles! We have to examine who is there and why people are there. Then, be brave enough to make them leave!
There are Black women who say this situation is not, should not be compared to what happened to Kenneka Jenkins. But, I offer to you that it can.
Both young women trusted people whom could not keep them safe, look out for them, or even had the base level care most Black women have been taught to have for one another. And for that misplacement of trust, they are dead.
The remaining questions I have is:
Who really looks for Black women and girls except other Black women and girls?
If Black women have no trust among each other, then were can Black women have it
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.