Dear Phillip, the Last and First

Phillip…I love you.

I cannot express what you have brought to my world.  I thank you for being able to an anchor amidst everything else swirling round about. 

I want to thank you for all that you have done  in the life of our children and our family. I thank you for being able to take the whelps of a Mother Bear, and raise them as your own blood. I thank you for all you have done.

I have watched you grow into fatherhood. I watched you go from timid to tender. I have watched you be able to discern what is an imaginary monsters in closets or bad days at school. I thank you for being the thunder in the room that puts to bed all that is unruly or flight what would cause nightmares.

I have watched you embrace this journey of being a married man with children. I have watched you grow up that much more. I have watched you put hands and thought to what it is you desire to build; fortify what it is you want no one to take. I have watched you realize that strength sometimes means apologizing, listening and allowing space for life to not be perfect. I have watched you become more intent on doing the right thing for the right time for the best outcome. I have watched you walk in whom you’re going to be.

I have been witness to you being a better husband. I have watched you wonder after me, wanting to know why I do what I do for you. I only respond, “…because I love you, and want you to be okay.” I have seen you pour pieces of yourself into me, and into our US…and even when it has not turned out how you wanted.

We decided that we wanted to ‘do life’ together, and there have been storms we have encountered that would have killed average people. Those storms have rocked the boat we were in to the point that it splintered, and all that was left to hang on to…was one another.

All that is still left to hold onto…is one another.

In all that we have, and all that we will maintain…you told me that I could hang on to you…and you to me.

On Father’s Day, I want to thank you for all you have done for us. When it was easier to leave, leave broken and resign to apathy.

Thank you for the fight, babe. Thank you for not succumbing to the fears passed down and on that would keep you planted in malice, suspicion and doubt. Thank you for being what is needed when the right thing isn’t easy…or always comfortable.

Thank you for letting me know how not to be strong all the time.

Thank you for showing our children that Daddies are human, and they need love and support too.

Thank you for showing the girls that the man that says they love them, must SHOW them.

Thank you for being able to see past the pretty, and love the woman beneath all of it.

Thank you for being able to take my hand, and hold it, when all the world gets dark and scary.

I love you.














Happy Father’s Day To The *#FatherlessTribe

I was fortunate to have my father for 17 years. It has now been 19 years past that. The most interesting thing about this holiday is that my birthday follows it. In essence, I was my father’s present.  How awesome is that?

For the 19 celebrations since his departure, there are some years that are harder than others. There are some years where I can drum up memories and smile, and not cry at all. Then there are years, like these, by which someone whom I know has, too, become a part of the Fatherless Tribe.

There is no explaining to a small child or a teenager such as I was, why their father is dead. Whether by weapons of war, medicine, or man, there are few things that ease it. There are fewer things that make it all make sense.

The troubling thing for those of us whom have walked along this path for some time, is the memory, memories and their preservation. 

As you age, certain things get forgotten about, replaced and are harder to recall. Parental memories are some of the most precious created, and are the hardest to replace. I have been without my father for almost two decades. 

At the realization of it? I wept.

I wept because this chasm created by time and space cannot be repaired. What has said, has been meant. What was offensive is now unforgiveable. What is unsaid is now silent. In that silence, you have to remind yourself to keep living.

There are people, with great care, who put their social media-ascribed holiday imagery up, whom randomly text you after outings with their living fathers to ask, “How are you?” And more often than not, you lie to get off the phone or don’t answer.

There have been twenty summers almost since I lost my father. Twenty. There are births and birthdays he has missed, along with the mundane that comes along with this life–phone calls, hugs and visits. There are days where something will happen and I will know exactly what he would say. And I laugh so hard my body shakes.

Then there are days, where I fight to remember his voice. Where I have to remember his birthday. New, more pertinent facts have taken place of the spaces that align to his memory. 

These are the days, going towards these holidays in those years where I feel like a bad daughter. Where I think that I need to forget the little things to remember the big things…like his voice.

I’m not that 17 year old girl anymore.

But if I could talk to her, I would tell her this-

Death is one of the few definers of  this life. Do not let it consume you. Although he is not here, you are the evidence that he did live. You shall not die as he did. Your life is stretched before you. 

Give weight and wait to the days ahead, Jennifer. They will require your strength and discernment. From that, you will learn what it is to be the daughter you will need to become. Being able to grieve does not make you less strong.”

My advice, my wisdom, my love to the #FatherlessTribe this Father’s Day is this:


Do not wall out the world, but remain a part of it. Remember self-care is all that is required of those that love you.


To honor is a form of love as well. There is no greater honor than love.


The day  is to honor your Father, whether he be bound my earth and stone or in  his favorite chair or a ballgame. The day is not to forget you have a father, but to celebrate him. 

Allow yourself the privilege of celebrating or even not celebrating. You are allowed to remember him. It is okay for your memory to be jogged with company and pictures.
 Celebrate him. Love him. Make new memories to secure the old ones.

Few things are solved by forgetting.


*Follow @theladyofharris on Twitter and use #FatherlessTribe if you are celebrating Father’s Day without your father/father figure. Offer advice, comfort and encouragement. Thank you. JBHarris.

Dear Daddy


It has now been so long since I have heard your voice, laugh or stories. I am now almost a score (20 years) without you. So much has happened in the world now, Daddy. So much has changed, and yet stayed the same. I became a Mom, the country got a black President and I became a published writer who preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I miss you, Dad. I miss when the safest place was your shoulders. I remember how full your laugh was, and how you taught me how to hustle and not take ‘no’ for anything I wanted. I remember what you told me about people who design to stop me–and how to avoid foolishness at all cost. I’ve tried my best to do that, Daddy. Being meek as a dove, and wise a serpent, the Good Book says.

I tell the kids about you, show them your pictures, and relay your legend by my memory and voice. I tell them how you grew up, how you got to be so intelligent, and how because I am your daughter, they, too, shall excel and do and be.

In my writing now, I confront the impasses of time. I try to correct them through imagination when memory’s imagery tells me otherwise. 

I remember as I grew up, I began to feel as if I couldn’t do anything right, nothing was good enough, and the fact that I no longer wanted to be cardio-thoracic surgeon? But a writer? That seemed to devastate  you.

 The fact that I wanted to heal with word and not deed seemed to push me further from you. From that root, I began to despise you…with all I held, until I could no longer find love…until I could not find you again.

There is an impasse now, Daddy. This great chasm that I cannot come to you or you to me. Between us now is regret and time. You have not seen the woman that I have become. The things that I have overcome, the willingness to be passionate and go after what I want. You will ever remember me as a seventeen-year-old girl. Oblivious to her thirty-five year old counterpart.

I made the decision to forgive you, Daddy. I made the choice to forgive you for being what you thought was adequate to equip me. That’s the job of good fathers:  to be prophets for their children, to help them around blind curbs and dark alleys. Some of us get those lessons in toughness quicker than others. Some times, those prophets know they won’t be there always to hold the left children to assure their passage.

I hated that I didn’t feel worthy, that I didn’t feel good enough. I hated that I couldn’t fix this, Dad. I am jealous now when I see my friends still enjoying their fathers in their midlife still. I try not to be, and have adopted Father-figures at points by other older men in my life. For that, I am grateful.

I understand that there are irrevocable, non-negotiable  things in this life. Death is one. Parental love another. I know you loved me, Daddy. I know that you tried as hard as you could to be there with me, and make sure that I was okay…gon’ stay okay, and remain okay.

You said that one day we would sit around talking about you. Welp, you always knew you would be a legend…just didn’t know how big.



Seeking, Sought, Fulfill

For so long, I

forgot what strength

was and the ability to

realize what it truly is

I have been shattered more

than once,

being forced on such

occasions to put shards

back together on instinct

not truly knowing how,

and at the same time knowing

that the whole, once I make it

so will be different than

it ever could hope before

somehow along this path

the fire that I relied on was misplaced,

the passion was taken

what I once saw in myself was

falsified, made a mockery of

I had no way of knowing that it was

gone until I made attempts to

find it once more and could not

understand why I could not draw upon it


such things cause the heart to cry,

force the spirit into dark confusion

yet, hope remains…stable and true…pure beneath the underneath

lying in wait for me to find it once

more, whispering softly that I can, I shall, I will

and it can be done

I find these shards, moving past the fear of

losing them, and even looking for them

fearing that they may never be what I wish, will and want

them to be again

I find them in weeds, among the sands, in murky waters

and in roses, they were always here


as the pieces are found, they are put together

slowly, glowing in faith…the faith that was never taken

my spirit heals, begins to hover

the embers surrounding this jewel that I
hold, glow and crackle

it has never been extinguished, merely smothered,

smoldered, and unsuccessfully snuffed…somehow the

embers…these small certain things remain

they will burst forth soon

I find more shards,

more lost pieces of me that I thought

I would never attain again

the charm, the wit, the sureness of self…

Hidden in tall grasses, behind the vacant and

unused potential

these embers become small flames then

soft burning begins

it whispers louder now

telling me that all that I need, I have

and I will always have


I am not my circumstances, stumblings, shortcomings or laziness


I need not look to those who

have no intent on showing me whom I may

be, who I am or what I am capable of

my spirit becomes whole

again, the fire returns, the fire that

I have sought in others through word

and deed,

I find more shards to this jewel

this ever-present and precious gem

it is mine to protect, and I have not done so

at the best of my talent

as I realize these things, the more shards


I am half done with it now,

each time I acknowledge where I have fallen

I know that I cannot remain amongst these that still remain

wallowing in what they may change but have

no desire to…they have lost themselves

just as I have…just as I did


I wipe my brow, bandage what is broken

and I continue, I have no

choice but to do so

I must find all of me…I must seek my jewel

my own power

my ever-present being…I must prove to myself
that the eyes that peer back into mine

in mirrors are truly mine and

I am a worthy and able to look back into them

they will no longer be chilled and distant

passion will return, faith will be

squared and solidified, the fire will fuel this drive

I will not linger, or tarry where I am not

able to keep this jewel into

the light where it must be

to allow the light to decorate the many

facets, spilling and dispelling the

darkness that wishes only to

draw me into its fathoms once more

where there is no warmth

no trust, no love, only deception and stagnance

I must arise from this from which

I have fallen into

preserve the jewel that has be given to

me, I must find all the shards

the light must return to it

it must in order to heal and soothe my

aches, and wash away bruises and tears

once it is whole, I will be

whole, I will be me once more,

lost nevermore

(c) Jennifer P. Harris 2004, 2017

*Performed June 2017 at The Center on Vandeventer at a book signing event hosted by Southards Art Studio.

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.

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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´╗┐


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


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.


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.