When I see them, I am reminded that even though pain is a universal feeling, it scars us all a little differently...
I remember how I felt last year when I first watched the Netflix series When They See Us. I remember the battle of me trying to pray away my anger or at least remain in control of it. I was saddened, I was resentful and I felt helpless because what I was watching was history, and no matter how I wish it hadn’t happened, the reality was that it already did.
Personally, I typically try to stay away from traumatic real-life stories because of the impact and imprint that they often leave in my mind. I’ve experienced more than my fair share of trauma and every time that I connect with another person’s tragedy, it often seems like it adds to the weight of my own. This, however, was a trauma that I knew I would have to consciously take on. Because as a black person and a black mom of a black son, I had to make room to feel all the pain that those boys felt that day when their innocence was unjustly taken away. I write this today not to discuss all the details of the series felt around the world, but because a year later from being introduced to their stories, I finally mustered up enough courage to watch Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now. I knew that the actual Exonerated 5 would be on the show and in the midst of a world full of filters, I needed to pause and experience something real! When the 5 men took the stage, it was yet another battle within me to see the interview all the way through. It was a task within itself to even look at the men in the eyes as they told their stories.
"That stabbing feeling in my chest came back as it had once before, but instead of running from the feeling, I decided to give myself permission to feel it."
I looked on as Antron McCray spoke of what was done to him and how it instantly made him hate the world. He had lost all hope in God and after being exonerated, the only people that restored some of that hope is his wife and kids. The resentment he still holds for his father who convinced him to falsely admit his involvement to the police, and the guilt he carries because he couldn’t save his mom from dying of cancer—Lord, that cut me deep.
Again, I felt helpless, and I knew that the one thing that was always in my control was the power behind my prayers. And now I pray...that wherever Antron is in this very moment, that God meets him right where is is and wraps his arms around him and never let's go. I pray that those 5 men and every person affected by the injustices of our justice system is able to find strength and comfort in the Lord. May they trust him to turn their pain into glory! So now as I sit here reflecting as the screen credits scroll by, I realize just how lost many of us still are when it comes to what matters the most. We walk around every day complaining about the littlest of things, consumed with what’s going to be the best angle for our Instagram picture, too busy showing skin instead of focusing on fixing what’s within, dreading our responsibilities of taking care of our homes, or the commute to work, or about actually having to spend time with our own children. I wonder if at any moment Antron, Korey, Yusef, Raymond, and Kevin would’ve traded places with the very moments we take for granted. If anyone knows me now, they know that I have a low tolerance for empty complaints that lead to no solutions, negative energy, or situations that have no purpose. Today I was reminded once again that life is bigger than us, and that pain although different in circumstance is not just unique to me. How quickly we forget the trauma within our people when the media isn’t projecting our stories and reminding us to focus in on them.
I say this to say that, we all could be doing better. We all can be appreciating even the littlest of things a whole lot more. “I know you seen things, maybe had to do things, defend yourself, survive, whatever might have happened. But in the end, you have the same heart.” -Angie Richardson