Version 2.0

Culture, healing, politics and bullshit - Not necessarily in that order

The general, socio-political and very personal rantings and ravings of a hip hop head from the hood hustling for change... Of himself.

You all know me and are aware that I am unable to remain silent. At times to be silent is to lie. For silence can be interpreted as acquiescence.
—Miguel de Unamuno


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Anika Tene Harris

Today is a solemn day for me. It's been three years since I lost one of my closest friends. I still don't know how I'm able to get along every day without her.

Anika Tene Harris was a kind, gentle and robustfully knowledgeable woman of the world. Talented, opinionated, strong and very much so a leader she personified everything that I wanted to be when I grew up. Nikki was a mentor of young girls and also an avid lover of sports, primarily football.

She had talent unparalleled. To have read her, whether it was talking about daily tasks or her vision of what the heart painted in her mind, was an amazing merit to all of what God has to for us to enjoy. I had opportunities in the years that we've known each other to witness that process first hand, and just the way her mind worked was incredible. To have been able to understand what was left off of paper or edited out of some typed composition was to really understand how the human mind is such a beautiful and creative thing.

Her words were colors that you can hear and feel once you laid eyes upon them.

Nikki and I met in 2003. What started as flirtatious curiosity from my part ended in a kinship of creativity and struggle and trying to understand who we were and what we wanted to contribute to the world.

I wanted to do bigger and better things and I chose writing as a means to get there. Nikki showed me that it would take much more than just stringing together complex words and phrases, it would take an understanding and overstanding of what hope and desire was in order to manifest that properly so the public could feel where you were coming from and maybe that would make my transition into society as a writer that much easier.

We didn't want the same things. When we traded barbs verbally and would send each other partial posts and short stories and little writings I recognize rather instantaneously that this woman had a talent beyond anything I have ever seen or read.

Her words were rhythmic and did not need a drum beat because the pattern of how strong and how she place them together was rhythm enough. You got lost in it. You swayed in her genius. Those words could propel you too sheer excitement or lull you to sleep. She was also a cunning composer of the erotic thought sprinkled with emotion and spirituality that only Marvin Gaye could comprehend.

She was also a dreamer. She was my sister and kinship. We spoke daily about our hopes dreams and desires, and we always wondered aloud how we could assist each other along with other people and making it to the points in life where we wanted to go. She was educated and she continued her education. She was worldly, but travel mostly in the continental United States. Her desire was to both get back to Brooklyn, and continue to be a mentor in Atlanta. She knew she had a talent from very early on in her life and she wanted to make sure that little black girls with pigtails have more than just simple opportunities dictated to them by society and other men. She knew that opportunities existed beyond the realm of scope of normal things, and whatever she had to do to motivate and inspire these little darkskinned women's imaginations.

She was an avid lover a sports. She wrote for a blog on the West Coast that channeled her feelings about football among other things. She wanted to sharpen her chops and also expressed to the world how it wasn't just about creative writing for art's sake, that commentary political, sports or otherwise can be expounded on from a young black woman's perspective.

Although she didn't pursue a career in creative writing, her and her brother were willed a brownstone in Brooklyn. If she would've had the timing, gotten a chance to relocate to New York to remodel that brownstone, being in such a sports capital, such a media market, such a capitalistic mecca, maybe she could've gotten a chance to be as poetic as she wanted to be on that grand stage of the Big Apple as well as express how she felt about politics and sports. It could have been her global launchpad.

Those dreams would never be realized.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was November 2008 and she told me over the telephone that you had a tickle in her throat. I bothered her about it for weeks and weeks prior to this that she needed to go and get that checked out. There was just something about a cold or virus that just wouldn't leave her system that bothered me. She got it checked out and I remember her telling me a doctor told her that it's possible that she had mono. Misdiagnosis number one.

I always knew something was up, but I never pressed her on it. Nikki had freed herself from a relationship sometime around mid 2008 and began to date a close friend of mine. Once she began to go to the doctors and get these different diagnoses, she asked me something that I probably did not want to honor, but I did.

Nikki asked me not to tell or share any information to her then boyfriend whom I was very close to. That was very hard to do.
There was a lot of peculiar behavior from her during those next 5 to 6 months. Nikki had gone to DC after the election of Barack Obama because she needed to see for herself this inauguration. She needed to witness for her life's perspective to witness the installation of the first black president. She needed to be in the moment. She needed to be a part of that so her experience could be celebrated as being a member of historical rememberence. She quickly made some new friends, traveled to DC on a serious whim and stood out in the 20 below zero weather to witness this. I thought this chick was crazy because I knew there was something else going on that she wasn't telling me. It was.

So I'm getting phone calls, text messages and e-mails about Nikkis peculiar behavior. I calmly told folks that I didn't know what was going on. Meanwhile, Nikki was telling me everything. She chronicled her trip to Washington, then New York, she spent time with her friends and then she came home. She had a few job interviews lined up and she also had opportunities in New York. It looked like Nikki was going to make it to Brooklyn and revitalize that brownstone and begin something that was probably going to end up international with all kinds of awards and acclaim. That didn't happen.

The next thing I know it was March of 2009, I was having problems in my marriage and Nikki was counseling me because she have problems and hers in previous years. I was hanging on her every word because I didn't know what to do.

I did not know that from most of the month of March and a part of April she had to lay on her belly because the disease that she had began to ravage her body.No one has friends like this, people that are going through medical treatment not meant for them and receiving misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. Nikki was going through a lot of pain and she didn't express a whole lot of that but I could tell. We still spoke over the phone every day, would still text message, send voicemails and e-mail each other as well as chat on Google or Facebook. I thought it was incredible and amazing that she still opened herself and offered her opinion and advice to me even though she was struggling to live.

The month of May had finally rolled around, and I was looking forward to leaving Chicago. I decided at that time to go on the road and try out a few new cities to give my then wife a chance to feel comfortable and find something in her niche and also be happy and satisfied. It was something that I was advised not just by Nikki but with other friends. Happy wife, happy life I was told, and I took that to heart. Our first stop was Atlanta. Nikki had told me she was getting out of the hospital and we promised to hang out real hard during the month of June so we can watch the NBA finals together. The day I get to Atlanta I'm speaking to Nikki, we already arranged to meet at a sports bar to watch game one of the NBA finals. I didn't hear from Nikki until two days later.

I called a friend of mine that lived in Atlanta and I found out to my chagrin that Nikki was back in the hospital. Now here's the thing, I could call Nikki on the telephone and we would speak. I can find Nikki on either Facebook or Google chat and we will chat. I would send e-mails and text messages and she will respond back. But for some strange reason she did not want me to come to the hospital. So I asked my friend to find out what hospital she was in... This created a kinship between my friend and Nikki that would never die. My friend found out what hospital Nikki was in because Nikki would not tell me, and her former boyfriend at this time was really hitting me hard and pressing me for info. I began to talk to him and I revealed to him all the things that I knew. He was heartbroken. I was devastated because I knew I was losing my friend. To what level, that is the only thing I did not know.

Nikki had lost a lot of weight, the disease that she was experiencing had made her to look less than what she used to. She did not want me to come to the hospital and see her. I understood that, so I kept my distance. Sort of. Here I was living in Atlanta, literally down the street and around the corner from one of my closest friends in the world and she did not want me to see her in that condition. So I sent my friend and and believe it or not, that kinship that was created was such that she became my ambassador. I was informed of EVERYTHING  now. That devastated me even more.

Now understand the reason why I ended up leaving Atlanta is because I was still in the process of trying to save my marriage at that time. Nikki and I still  talked regularly, and she assured me that she was getting out the hospital and that things would be better.

Once I left Atlanta city limits, she dropped the H-bomb on me. Things weren't going to get better. I believed she kind of knew how much time she had before any of the rest of us knew. It took that much distance between us for her to tell me exactly what was going on. In the weeks to a couple of months that I left Atlanta, Nikki prepared me for her not being here beyond a certain date.

By this time it was late summer 2009, and I made it to Las Vegas. Living there was pleasant even though the economy was already destroyed. The real estate market was the first hit, so there was a lot of apartment vacancies and a lot of empty homes. We had found a source of comfort from some friends who moved their family to Vegas temporarily and we took solace in being among and around them.

I began to text pictures of our road journey  and then everyday living in Las Vegas to Nikki. She really appreciated it because she told me that I had become her eyes to the world. I never liked that statement, and I didn't like the title because I knew things would get better despite of what I was told.

We begin to speak sparingly to each other while I was in Las Vegas because Nikki had gone on to an oxygen tank. I knew that, she explained it but she also kept texting e-mailing and going or chat with me to make up for the lack of telephone usage. I appreciated that..

A week or so at passed and something had happened at the hospital that I didn't like. Nikki's lungs were collapsing and sticking together. The disease was just taking too much of a toll on her.

So it was a Wednesday, August 26th and I remember it like it was yesterday. The phone rang, I looked on my caller ID and I saw it was Nikki. I picked up the phone and I heard her voice, but it was too much of a murmur. I thought the connection was bad and I told her that I could not understand. She snatched off the oxygen mask and began to talk to me clearly and coherently. She was calm, relaxed and told me to shut the hell up and just let her speak. That phone conversation was one of the most surreal happenings in my entire life. Nikki was preparing me for her eventual death which would come just a handful of days later.

She did ask me to explain some things to her former boyfriend. She created distance because she wanted to go home and be at peace. She wanted to spend time with her family and she loved Atlanta. That was something that I knew but I didn't know how important it was to her. When I traveled to New Orleans, I just expressed how deeply I loved that place and how I wanted to move there because I figured that New Orleans living, living amongst those people could possibly save my marriage and make me happy at the same time.

As much as Nikki wanted to escape Georgia, she had a love for Atlanta, a love for her mother, I love for her stepdad and a love for her brother that was unparalleled. She HAD to be in Atlanta.

I heard about what happened that Friday. I heard about what happened to her mom. I knew that Saturday was a more accommodating than Thursday and Friday was. I decided to go off line on Sunday and for some odd reason I had the most calmest and relaxing sleep that I've ever had in my entire life. I slept through most of the day. I was at peace. Nikki passed away on that Sunday and I didn't know. About 4 AM Monday morning I got a phone call from her ex and I was informed about what happened the previous day.

I was devastated, but I was prepared.

I took the next couple of days and drove to California to spend time with the brother who was my brother because he was with my sister. We talked, we drank and I explained some things that he did not know that I didn't reveal over the telephone those past months. I believed that I put him at ease, but I know that I didn't. I thought he was coming to Atlanta to go to the funeral because I needed him with me to make it through that. He didn't come. He couldn't come. I went and I paid my respects. I paid my respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wigfall and to her brother Aswad. I also got a chance to pay my respects and share good memories with a handful of her friends that I never got a chance to meet in person before then.

The one thing we are all had in common is that we knew and loved Nikki like she was our own sister. There is a deep void and a hole that will never be filled in our hearts for this woman. She was a loyal, and trusted friend. We shared secrets, hopes, dreams and desires with each other. We supported each other. We critiqued each other's work. We spoke to the world. We laughed. We spent time and broke bread together.

Somethings can never be taken away from you. The friendship and kinship that I have with Anika Tene Harris will never leave me, nor will it fade away into my distant memory. She is with me every day.

It's funny, as much as she loved Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra, whenever I hear those songs I giggle about the jokes that we shared and the time that we spent together. Whenever I see a sunrise and definitely whenever a moon of any type appears in the sky, she is thought of. Most times whether I'm riding in a car or traveling, when I look up and see the moon I give it ahead nod and I say "what's up Nik". Her presence is acknowledged in a lot of things that I do and say.

My sister, I miss you. You will never be forgotten. There is always a space in my heart and there will forever be that empty space on the manuscript where it says: co-written by... That will always be yours.

You are loved. You are missed. Your friendship and kinship will always be treasured.


BluJewel said...

I blogged my reply

The Brown Blogger said...

I thank you.

Big Mark 243 said...

Other than my daughters, I never have had the opportunity to have the friendship with another human being that would inspire an outpouring such as this... man, I ache for your loss and your grief...

♥ CG ♥ said...

Man,'s been three years...

My interactions with Nikki were always pleasant and supportive. She left a lasting impression on me, so I can only imagine the void her passing left in your life. She was a light to us, her legacy lives on, and she was deserving of every heartfelt line of your tribute.

The Brown Blogger said...

Although Nikki's physical presence is no longer here, her spirit lives along with all of us...

I thank y'all for coming through and reading. I know it was kinda' long.

LadyLee said...

Poignant post, bruh. Brings back memories of her indeed.