In response to It’s like an injection of love into the soul… of Songs of a Caged Family
It’s February aka Black Her/history Month [Feminist adjustment].
In recognition, a friend challenged folks to read three books:
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Although I’ve read The New Jim Crow almost half a dozen times, I cracked it open once again and started back at chapter one. I would need something to entertain me while I waited for Between the World and Me and Just Mercy to arrive in the mail.
Day 12 of Black Her/history Month
Nearly halfway through the month and I’ve made significant progress on my re-read of The New Jim Crow but that’s not where I want to focus my attention at this present moment.
Instead, let’s focus on Just Mercy.
Lord, this book has given me L-I-F-E.
What an interesting choice of words I’ve used: “Given me life.”
If you’ve read Just Mercy, or know of its content, you’d assume I was being “punny.”
As much as I love a good pun, that was not my intent.
You see, a book detailing the efforts of Bryan Stevenson defending the most vulnerable-those serving life sentences and those on death row, awaiting execution; death- has given me life.
Just Mercy has helped to restore my faith in humanity, while still navigating the inhumane world we reside; a world that causes you to die [figuratively] inside with each injustice we see and/or experience.
In Just Mercy, Stevenson shared heartbreaking, yet, simply beautiful moments of those incarcerated. Whether it be finding the ability to laugh as the clock ticked towards execution, writing poems or advocating for other inmates, the individuals depicted in Just Mercy, somehow, managed to find light in their darkness.
I’m not sure I would have the same type of strength. But I guess you never really know what you’re capable of until you’re in that situation.
If women and men serving life sentences– some impatiently waiting for their fate on death row- can see beauty in the world, have compassion, remain committed to their faith, and whole-heartedly believe that justice will prevail, despite their current circumstance, I can too.
And you know what? You, too, can do the same.
I usually scribble, color, write, fold pages and do all types of other random things, while reading a good book so that I can go back to whatever profound word, phrase or quote intrigued me at that moment.
I couldn’t do that with Just Mercy.
Despite the knowledge, wisdom, passion, anguish, pain and triumph that flooded through the pages, I just sat and read; being present in the moments I shared with the text.
I’m currently on the last chapter and I don’t want it to end.
So instead of pushing on, I went back and re-read the Introduction.
There we have it.
My first scribble.
On page 17, Stevenson wrote:
“Walter’s experience taught me how our system traumatizes and victimizes people when we exercise our power to convict and condemn irresponsibly- not just the accused but also their families, their communities, and even the victims of their crime. But Walter’s case also taught me something else: that there is light within this darkness.”
There is Light Within This Darkness
I received a letter from my brother today.
As I’ve shared in previous posts, he’s currently incarcerated. While his incarceration is not a new experience for me and my family, this time is different.
This incident may lead to a lengthy sentence, something he, personally, and my family has not yet endured.
My brother and I decided to work on a project, together; Songs of a Caged Family.
Our hope is to provide an opportunity to express, through written word, the impact incarceration has on the individual behind bars, as well as the impact on the family, friends and loved ones that are imprisoned with them; an opportunity to find, explore and embrace the light within the darkness.
In It’s like an injection of love into the soul… my brother talked about the darkness he’s experiencing, saying, “I am currently struggling with my reality behind these walls.”
That is understandable.
As he said, “So many people get lost and forgotten about behind the walls,” left to make one of many choices; two being stay lost in the darkness or muster the strength to find the light.
But how do you find the light?
One option is faith. A recognition that God will not put you through anything that you can’t handle and that there is a reason for every season God has you endure.
But what else?
Of course, I had to turn to Mother Google.
Option two: Appreciate the small things.
No matter your circumstance, there is beauty – light- around you.
I see this while driving through the most impoverished neighborhoods of Wilmington. If you look closely, through the muck, you will see children laughing, community members dancing, dad’s holding the hands of their children as they cross the street, and the smell of a good barbecue in February when you get a rare 50-degree day.
Beauty – light- is all around you.
You just have to take the time to notice and appreciate the small things.
They will add up.
They may not change your situation, but they can help alleviate the pain and give you the strength to do what it may take to make your light shine a little brighter.
Option Three: Acceptance. Stop resisting. Accept.
The sooner you are able to do this, the sooner you will be able to set your soul free from the figurative or literal prison in which you’re encaged.
You can refocus the energy you directed towards your suffering and use that newly directed energy to grow your light.
Now, I’m turning to you.
How do you find the light within darkness?