My Little Brother, *Vincent Winston



He was the most awkward black dude I had ever met.
The first time I met him, I almost ran over him in an attempt to catch a bus back to campus of this job training program I was in where I met my first husband.

Odder still, it was him that taught Vincent how to use grease in his hair–MURRAY’S. Yeah–I married the only white guy that knew how to use Murray’s and had the only brother that didn’t oil his hair.

I met Vincent through him formally when he changed trades. He was quiet, reserved and he just didn’t fit in with the merry bandits that we had assembled as family at the job training facility. But from being around my boyfriend, I got to be his adopted sister. From that day to this, I call him my little brother.

Vincent was funny, sardonic and dark. We would talk all the time about everything, and I introduced him to my inner circle of best friends and they treated him another brother.

Vincent would let me correct him if he got outta pocket, he talked to me about girl issues and hung out with me and Zack constantly.

Vincent was intelligent and was still trying to figure this life thing out. After he graduated from the job training program, he joined the Army after a series of jobs.

This was 2006.

The war in Afghanistan was ongoing.

I asked him why he was going to the Army. He said that he was going so he could have a job when his time was done. “I’ll be okay, sissy.” He said. I trusted him.

He came to visit Zack and I after he finished basic training. I made him a dinner, and  invited people. I always tried to go out of my way to tell him that I loved him. He always wanted me to be okay.

One of the last memories I have of him is him on my back porch in his ARMY sweatshirt that I told him was too small. I hugged him–he was so warm.

After his visit with us, he went back to where he would ultimately get deployed from (Ft. Hood).

The night we found out he had gotten deployed, Zack had spoken to him. He said that Vincent was afraid. Vincent didn’t want to die. Zack tried to reassure him, told him about his nieces that he had to come back and see (our oldest was already born, and I was pregnant with our second). Two months later, I found out that my brother had been killed by an IED in Afghanistan…at 22, two  years after he enlisted.

I had talked to Vincent about God, and my faith–the only person that he really listened to about things like that.

I wanted to know if his death had been quick. I wanted to know if he had suffered. We weren’t even allowed to go to the funeral, didn’t know arrangements  and I haven’t had the strength to visit his grave in Jefferson Barracks here in Missouri.
I thought about when or whether I would see my brother again. I prayed that someone had reached him with the news of Christ. I hoped he had heard it…accepted it, so I would see him again.

With all the talk of war and its funding by this administration, I think of my brother…and other people’s brothers, lost.
It has been almost a decade since I have heard my brother’s voice, held him, or  asked him how his day was.

I miss him.

With this great gulf fixed, all I have of him is memories, and thoughts of what life could have been, should have been for him. It is his blood that is in the country’s soil and flag, too.

And to me,  he will ever be the goofy dude that I had to ask why his face was nasty in the morning. He never stopped being my brother…even when he became a hero.

 

*At the top, is me and Vincent around the time I was dating my first husband.  It’s one of the few I have left of him. Pray for the Armed Forces…they need it now more than ever.

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Being The Rock

Titus 2:7 (ESV)-

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

I’m not getting on this whole bandwagon of MEN ARE TRASH or the other of a similar phrases. I’m not one that gets on bandwagons anyway. However, this is not one that I would even consider.

It’s easy to say as other hurt women do, that “Men ain’t (bleep).” I have said that more than once about the men I was dating, and one I was married to, when something didn’t happen the way I thought it would or should.

There is a pattern I keep seeing in these type of trends. Everyone is happy about being hurt, bitter and alone. Everyone is trying to hurt everyone else before they can get hurt. *In this whole assertion and movement to dismantle patriarchy, we have to remember that men are human too.

There are some men that are raised to only show two emotions:  anger and toughness. If they show tenderness, mercy or any sensitivity then they are seen as ‘soft’ or  ‘gay.’ It is seen as manly to be disrespectful, arrogant and angry. None of those things make for lasting,  healthy relationships.

The meshing of women and men in relationships aren’t a new thing. There is something to be said of voicing opinion and realizing what it is to be male and female. There is something to be said for appreciating the awesomeness of the male species.

Fathers-

The men that set the example for how you are supposed to be treated as a woman, as a girl, as a human being. The person that is the model of what to do for a boy. The person that allows you to be and do with no pretense.  The person that gives you half of whom you are and shapes whom you will become.

These men in this position  go beyond biological donation and blood relation. These are the men that come in and take this position from death, marriage or other life changes. They shouldn’t be discounted.

Sons-

The young men in our lives that depend on our maturity and ability to adapt to change. Their mothers should not make their emasculation their mission. They should not be reared to handicap, and should not have the expectation to replace men that left their mothers, that hurt their mothers, and should be able to fulfill all the days of their lives. Every man was once someone’s son. 

These same sons need to see their fathers:  good, ill or indifferent. They need to see the impossible is not so. They need to see their father’s as human, fallible and…redeemable. So when that same redemption is needed, they can give it to themselves first…not wait for the world to gift it. 

Uncles-

My daughters have been blessed to have two extra uncles, non biological. These men have decided that the have loved me and my family enough to allow them to be a part of their lives. 

They allow them them to be safe and protected. They support my husband in the awesome job he’s doing as a Dad. Uncles are glue in family life. They shouldn’t be overlooked. 

My favorite uncle? Patrick. What made Patrick so dope? I felt safe around him.

Friends-

Some of my closest friends have been male. These have been the guys I consider my anchors, that I can go to about anything, at any time and not feel judgement.

 There have been times where I didn’t feel my female friends would really show me the strength (read:  compassion) needed. But more than once, I found myself on a receiver in full meltdown and needed anchor in a good guy friend.

As women, as quiet as it’s kept (as my Nan would say), women lives their lives defined by men:  maiden names, married names, the titles we keep (Miss vs Ms. vs Mrs.). 

It’s normal to want to regain something of what is lost–that autonomy of destiny, being able to feel self-determined.

*That shouldn’t be done at the expense of other people, no matter the sex. There are some really good guys out there. You shouldn’t spend your life hating the many because of the few.

*-I will be the first to say that there is a problem with patriarchy, rape culture and the care and protection of women.  How we treat women needs to change. The sexualizing of girls and women needs to change. That starts with how we treat and teach our sons. There is nothing wrong with men being able to voice opinion and emote and ask for help. This “Man-Up” insatiable nonsense needs to stop. Now, is there a level of strength in controlling emotions that men seem to have mastered? Yes. Is it needed? Yes. But that strength does not deny humanity. We gotta do better.

Being A Daddy’s Girl

There was a time that I considered myself…a Daddy’s Girl. I adored my Father and thought the world of him. My fondest memory, and oldest memory, is being on his shoulders and he took me to my grandmother’s house to be cared for while he and my mom worked. 

I remember it was a cold day and he had me and my sister, one in each arm, and carried us up the five stairs to her front door. I wrapped around him to keep balance.

That was safest place in the world to me. Nothing could hurt me as along as  I had my Daddy. He was strong and smart and superhuman. He was one of the funniest people I had ever come across, and could be arrogant to the point you didn’t want to ever speak to him again.

But this memory, this now 30-year-old memory, I fight to remember as I continue to age. I struggle to remember his voice sometimes. I force myself to remember the minutia about him: his smile, his skin tone, his eye color. I feel like I am losing him all over again when I can’t remember right away.

There are times now where I look at my husband…and I desire to weep. I want to tell him to keep taking care of himself. I want to tell him how in raising girl-children, you have to have a surgical touch:  have the greatest impact with least amount of pain.

 I want to tell my oldest that at her age, and see myself at her age, thinking that in seven years you won’t have a Dad.

I fight back fearful, hot tears to remind myself that my husband is not my father. But my father was a husband. I remind myself that the memories I create with my husband do no supplant the ones I fight to keep, regain and hold on to as time passes.

I think of the little girl, with her hands outstretched looking for the strength of her father to carry her a little further. The same girl that needed his hand to take her to kindergarten, and be with her as she opened the big brown door to that brave new world.
 I think of her, as I am her, and remember that she is allowed to remember him as he was…not as he will become.

In that, I keep his memory cherished and perfected…because the safest place in this world, is still on his shoulders.

Legacy & Destiny´╗┐

Legacy:

anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor:

Destiny:

1. something that is to happen or has happened to a particular person or thing; lot or fortune.
2.the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events.
3.the power or agency that determines the course of events.
I’ve thought about these words a lot over the course of the last 30 some days. I have thought about how interconnected life is and will be and should be.
I have thought about the great things that I desire to do, and even more so, that I will and want and wish for my children to attain and become. Then, is when I realized that these two concepts are never the same thing, and are often not parallel.
I have always thought of a destiny as this solo thing–this title or process that involves the discovery of self, independent of the input of other people. Like Arthur and the sword in the stone.
I have thought that legacy as this established patterned of honored destiny:  this is our/my inheritance. This is what I am supposed to do because the way has been made straight for me.
In the pressing of parenthood, I have become more knowledgeable about what it is I want, and have to overcome to equip my children to be the amazing people they want to me. I want to give. I realize also what has been given to me by my parents. There are things that I want, and want to do better and I have decided for myself whom I will become.
In becoming that woman, I have learned that my will has established my destiny. I have decided the things that I want, how I will get them and how my ambition has determined how fast I will get there. I have determined that I determine my life–no one else.
I desire to live my legacy. I want to be the catalyst for thought and change. I want to establish to myself, my children and those that I inspire, a path for better. I want them to see me struggle and have to cry and re-work the plan. I want them to know life isn’t perfect and neither am I.
I want them to see my joy in the little things, the small victories and baby steps. I want them to know they are allowed to enjoy the journey.
I want them to see me be persistent, ambitious and intellectually dexterous. I want to leave them with the knowledge that they can be and do anything.
I will leave them the knowledge of knowing this life is huge and deep and wide. I want to leave them with hope.
There are the material things of this life that will offer my line creature comfort…houses, money, property. But those things as the word of God say can be and are subject to rust and rot and moths.
What I desire to leave my beloveds is perpetual…and accessed through strength of word and memory. I know that their mother was not only alive…but lived.

Why It Matters

I have considered myself someone that has tried to matter. I have tried to support, be a support and to add love when need be.  Just this past week, I was reminded that even though this life is mine, other people indeed see it. 

I was watching a live YouTube video by a pretty well known personality (JahairasMission) and have been a fan of hers for some time (read:  years). I would leave encouraging comments and real speak. I celebrated with her, cried with her and watched her just blossom in the midst of crazy. 

I logged on (it was a live chat) and I logged in like 10 minutes into the broadcast. I didn’t think she would notice me (she has like 2000 some-odd subscribers). She said about 2 minutes after, “Omigod y’all my sister just logged in! *TheLadyHarris!” And she proceeded to tell the entire viewing audience that she loved me and was thankful for me.

I legit had to listen to the video 3 times after that to make sure I wasn’t crazy. 

I was humbled. I was amazed and I really didn’t think I had done something great to be acknowledged  let alone called a sister by someone I didn’t know. 

Why that is important?

It matters not just why you live, but how you live. It matters if you sow love or dischord. It matters if you affirm or destroy. It matters that people see you struggle–and overcome. It matters if you let the light die in you or beam from you. It matters. 

Your life is, this life is, a complex set of experiences and parameters. These experiences and their results are akin to the stands of cobwebs…it touches everything else. In the inadvertent, it still touches. And those touches, touch someone else. 

Never think that whom you touch doesn’t realize it. Some of the WHY it is you’re here, is dependent on who touched you–some are more far reaching than others.

*-Yes, this is my YouTube handle. The channel is currently being developed. Thank you.

#FreeBresha

I stayed away from the topic, the life of this young girl as long as I could. Until, it became imperative that I add my voice to her chorus of supporters.

Bresha Meadows was 14 when she murdered her father, whom was abusive to her, her mother and two other siblings. She shot her father while he was sleeping on couch with a gun he kept in the house. She has been in juvenile detention over a year, and as of this month, I believe this week, she has been released and now she can go home.

However, nothing is normal about this. Nothing. About. This. Is. Normal.

I could expound on domestic violence, the lack of resources to this family and the horrible predicament her mother was in, and why it took so much, and so long, and so wrong to get to this point. I could even focus on Bresha…but right now, I want to focus on the world by which both coincide.

We have a nation by which sexualizes, disrespects and utterly disregards women and girls. We are valued for what we have under clothes, and how well those attributes serve the male populace. Even the current, sitting president is quoted to have  you have to treat women like shit, and “You can do anything you want to do. Grab ’em by the pussy.” With that said, imagine what it is like to be a young girl seeing all this, and more and the man that is supposed to be your buffer towards that perpetuating it. Being an adult female affords your some defense, you can maneuver and speak–but a 14 year old girl?

In the maze of growing up, the changes that it involves,  it is hard and almost hell-bent to find a soft place to fall and regroup. Home is supposed to be one of those places. Its supposed to be where you can heal, be healed and breathe. You should not have to fight the world, and the people that live in your immediate world. This child, this young woman, thought the only solace could be, would be, to eliminate the source of that pain, that fear and contempt. The fact that it was her father is more egregious.

Bresha found that no one was able to help her, unless she had to help herself. Her mother was refused the help she needed from the law (she had applied for a restraining order, and we all know just how good those work, right), or anyone else around her. Or perhaps they knew and still couldn’t help her. There was no older sibling or superhero to help her. From that, Bresha chose to murder her father…to make it all stop. With that shot, her world spun off the hinges–and affected ever axis thereafter.

Bresha shot the man that should have been able to tell her that she was beautiful, valuable, and brilliant. The man that should have been able to take a bullet for her, and to remind her that he is the first and last man that will and would love her. He should have been the arms that protected her, wizened her to the world that desired to dismantle her.

As she squeezed the trigger, and her heart exploded in her chest and ears from its release, I can imagine the tears, the confusion, the rage and her collapse after. I could only imagine, and grief that Bresha realized the fairy tales where real, and there really are dragons. There really are monsters in closets and under beds, and you don’t need lights to see them. And that may be the scariest thing.

 

*-It seems to always take blood and strife for lasting change. Bresha Meadows is not just a hashtag. She is a young woman with a massive amount of healing to do, repairing to do, and it will indeed take a village to help her. That village cannot just be composed of hash tags, letters and proponents of attention. There is a component of therapy that goes beyond counsel and that is healing. This young woman and her family are in need of a safe space–at last. They should be allowed to regroup as a family without their pain prostituted. The remarkable thing about this situation is now, through virtue of voice, pain and action, we can discuss, indeed, what happens behind closed doors–and why it matters.

 

For Love and Jesse

I cannot express how excited I was when I first heard Jesse Williams’ speech on the 2016 BET Awards. I cannot tell you the level of pride and “Dear Lord, HE GET IT” that I felt when he said the following while accepting his Humanitarian of the Year Award (excerpt):

“…Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple things straight, just a little sidenote – the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander.That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that.

If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.

Thank you.”

 I heard this and cried and screamed. He got it! He freaking GOT IT! I cheered as he smacked his gum and Black Power-fisted off stage, daring cats to try it! He understood why we were all mad, and all hurt, and all so ready to (bleep) fight! He knew, and could say it with the verbal dexterity and linguistic venom  that college educated and street affiliated black men can. From there, he became a hero to many a black girl. Myself included. And his wife was black?! And he was fine?! YASSS! Erre’bady was winning! 
It was glorious. 
Then my husband said to me, “His wife isn’t that pretty.” I was so offended! I told him that he was wrong to say that, that she probably heard that all the time, but they were together and I am here AND EVER PRESENT for black love, hear me? 
HERE. FOR. IT. 
In the being HERE AND PRESENT FOR IT, the world and Aryn find out that her husband had dipped out on her. Then the world wants to turn on Jesse.

Hold on…


I thought about a forerunner of his:  Harry Belafonte.  There was a story I came across earlier this year about Mr. Belafonte and Eartha Kitt. They were ‘involved’ and Harry wouldn’t pursue anything further. Why? Because she was black. 
Yes, I’m serious–because she was black. 
He felt because of what he was trying to do, a black woman wouldn’t help him achieve the standard or establish the standard he desired. I thought about Sidney Poitier:  he had a decade long affair with Diahann Carrol (WHO I LOVE LIKE I LOVE PHYLICIA RASHAD AND LIKE I LOVE MY MOTHER!), and ended up with a white girl.
Perhaps we thought that Jesse was inoculated against that urge to abandon us. Perhaps we thought that he saw what we as black women saw in each other, and…are quick to snatch away from each other:  beauty and purpose.
Why would we extend Jesse Williams more than we extend any other man? Is he not, too, susceptible to the same temptations that are common to man? Am I making excuses for him? No. I am a staunch believer in people do what they deem important, and you have every opportunity to tell a married person that pursues you “No.” 
Jesse could have told this broad no, she could have told him no, and he could have gone home to his wife. Yet, according to gossip reports he told his wife he just didn’t wanna be married anymore. I can respect that. I really can. The bogus thing is that…this is an old story but new folk.
The word of God tells us, reminds us not to put people on pedestals, to not make people idols. The danger in that is we forget that those people we elevate people to a God-level, and the only being that can be at God-level, is GOD.
 Aryn is not the first woman with a famous husband that she sacrificed for, prayed for, and believed in that dipped out on her. She won’t be the last, in public or private. I’m sure Aryn has seen women look at her husband as if he were infallible and impossibly handsome. 
I’m sure she’d  had to discern what female friends to bring around, trusting they won’t try out her husband. I’m sure she had seen the shade posts, gossip links and random nattering of silly, clamorous women talking about how pretty she isn’t or should be. What do you think that did to her? Does to her? Did to their marriage? Even the strongest woman, has a weak moment. 
In those moments, we tear down our own houses. We tear ourselves apart. We make lists of what we have, need to get, and don’t possess to become…perfect. That perfection we give to the world. We give it to the world to assuage one wave of onslaught to be woman–to be physcially pleasing. 
Once we have that, we can go anywhere, right?
I cannot imagine what it is, would be, to be married to a man that is lusted after, idolized by a throng of women that don’t know the hitches and issues he has. They don’t know how when you ask him something when he’s upset he rolls his eyes, and then his swag is off. They don’t know that you worked like mad to help your daughter sing and he could manage her, or how you worked so he could audition, or how you  helped put him through school so he could ‘take care of us’. 
The world outside don’t get the privilege to see the ugly parts, the mean parts–the world sees the perfect parts. 
The dresses, the cars, the smiling pictures on the internet or framed on walls. With Jesse, we saw the perfect parts. With respect to the perfect parts, we get the the idolized version of a person.  
As people, we hate to be fooled. We love being able to assume the sanitized, idolized self is truest self, that way you can compare that self, that person with the person in your life–causing a level of strife in your life that is unneeded.
I hope that Jesse and Aryn work this out. I hope that Jesse sees what is really out there, now that he’s out there. I hope that Aryn sees what it is to be whole again and realize that her relationship will not define her to the point that she ceases to exist without him. 
I hope that reconciliation can happen, and she not be swayed by other people that want her husband for themselves, and would love to see her miserable. I hope that the children they have know their father for the man he is, and what he will give them–to arm with what it is to be dynamic in this world. 
I hope the world can see Jesse for what  he is:  a man. No more. No less.  With that shroud of mortality, he still is capable of stupidity, selfishness…and redemption. Not for us, the consuming voyeurs, but to himself and Aryn.