Posts by Linda Sharon Connelly

Email me at LindaSharonConnelly@gmail.com for freelance writing services in the South Florida area. Follow me on Twitter @writerconnelly Instagram @lindasconnelly

Lessons from When They See Us

Trigger warning, today’s post is about When They See Us. If you are not in a place to deal with this heavy topic I suggest you take a moment and come back to it later.

I knew peripherally about the case first known as The Central Park Jogger. I confess it was one of those cultural antidotes that I knew about but did not truly understand. Today, I know more thanks to the Netflix series and engaging in my own research into the case.

The series is more than another show. It’s a nuanced telling of how these children were not seen as such. They were given the moniker Central Park 5, convicted of the crime of rape. In 2002 the real perpetrator , Matias Reyes confessed to the crime. Their convictions were vacated.

In 2012 a documentary titled The Central Park 5 produced by Ken and Sarah Burns came out, which started the conversation. However their story was not fully seen until now thanks to Ava DuVernay and this series.

It’s the story of our country, the things we choose to look away from about our system of justice in order to be comfortable. The pain Yusef, Kevin, Raymond, Korey and Antron endured and still do today has finally been acknowledged.

How many other people are living with this same pain and don’t get their story out? Too many. The story of the powerful and the vulnerable plays out again and again in our communities.

The entire cast and crew did an exemplary job with this art. I’m grateful for these men now known as the Exonerated Five being so willing to tell their story. I watched it twice through and Episode four which focuses on Korey Wise’s miraculous survival three times. I didn’t want to miss a thing, the least I can do is watch, they had to live it.

The connection to Kalief Browder and his time in Rikers while awaiting trial for a charge cannot be ignored either. The two cases gave me chills at how much they echoed each other. The documentary about him is also available on Netflix, Time, The Kalief Browder Story.

It stayed with me for days. I spent hours researching the case on Google. I saw that this series was asking more of me than simply consumption.

It’s not enough to watch and be upset. It has asked me to question the narrative set before me. It asks me to be more engaged in my community, to know who are these prosecutors and judges that are often names on a ballot. It’s important to question the narrative the media puts out.

It has me asking how has my ignorance of these things contributed to injustice? How do I now going forward be a conduit for change? I’m not a lawyer or an expert on the penal system but I have learned enough that there needs to be change.

I’ve been expanding my book shelf this last year and a half, following activists on Twitter and To rethink what is justice. We need to listen to the truth, pay attention to what is being done with our tax dollars under the guise of justice and ask questions. The phrase don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time needs to eradicated. What I’ve learned is this, the justice system is not as cut and dry as I once believed.

So much pain has been caused to these men, as well as the victims of the real perpetrator. I’m grateful their convictions were vacated and they won a lawsuit against NYC and later New York State but it’s too bad it came after so much pain was endured. No amount of money will give them back their youth but I pray that they do get to have peace and healing.

When They See Us and the Oprah Special When They See Us Now is currently streaming on Netflix.

Here are some links to get started

The other survivors of Reyes

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thecut.com/amp/2019/06/the-attackers-other-victims-in-the-central-park-five-case.html

The connection between of Kailef Browder and Korey Wise cannot be ignored

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/nyregion/kalief-browder-settlement-lawsuit.html

Check out the Innocence Project

https://www.innocenceproject.org/

Raymond Santana’s clothing company

https://parkmadisonnyc.com/

Linda under a tree

The Edges of Grief

This time of year can bring unexpected emotions for me. It’s an odd time, the season is Spring ( or if your down here in Florida, bordering on Summer), a time of renewal. And yet it contains the edges of grief.

Just over a week ago, a writer I respected passed away quite unexpectedly.Rachel Held Evans was a well known Christian writer who loved Jesus, people and gave so many a pathway as they questioned the idea of faith. This loss is immeasurable, most especially to her young children and husband. ( if you want to better understand the impact that one life can have, spend some time reading through the hashtags #prayforRHE and #becauseofRHE).

In thinking of her life and the grief that follows, I began to also think of all those living with the edges of grief.

Grieving takes a different shape for each of us. It’s complex and undefinable. Though in our desire to understand we try to categorize it. Define it by stages , which to be fair do exist but not necessarily in any particular order.

I lost my mom unexpectedly when I was twelve due to a brain aneurysm.It was a blow to my family that still reverberates to this day. Our relationship was tenuous, complicated. I I felt robbed of getting to develop a relationship with her.

Grief never truly leaves. It becomes less heavy, less prominent but ever present. It lives on the edges of our life. It’s the moment of laughter tinged with the thought I wish _______ was here for this. It’s years later after navigating through those family celebrations that one year I wanted the old way back. Just for a brief moment. Those thoughts don’t take away from the present joy, they are simply part of things as they now.

I think of these things as I reflect on the 27 years without my mom. I’m grateful for the relationship with my Aunt who stepped into my life when my mom was unable due to her mental health. I’m grateful for our relationship today, as we have come far from those initial days of grieving. I’m grateful for the stories about my mom that now flow without effort or that sting most times, I’m grateful for my sisters, who remind me of her and whose love keep her memory alive.

I remind myself that it’s ok to grieve still. Jesus wept after all. I think too often we want to just get through and check off the list. We need to lament, to cry out and to remember. Regardless if the grief is raw or not. There is no time limit on grieving. It took me time to understand how much grief had changed me. How it informed first my lack of relationship with God. But also helped form my current relationship with God.

Living with the edges of grief doesn’t mean I live a life lacking joy or happiness. It’s simply another part of me. And that’s ok.

Between Faith and Hope

Living in faith is hard. Having faith means having hope and hope can be painful. It can be especially hard when seeing so much heartbreaking news. On Easter my pastor walked us through the doubt Thomas had in believing Jesus was alive.

It’s hard to believe in the hope of Christ at times.

When churches are burned down in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana.

As the Norte Dame burned last week.

When families worshipping are violently killed.

When a young mother has to be put into a comatose state to prevent her condition from worsening .

It’s hard to hope in the midst of all that. To doubt that God cares about any of that. To have hope in the middle of hardships and pain.

In these things I see the care and love of God. I watch as people donate money to rebuild churches. As people sing hymns in the streets of Paris, worshiping, weeping and seeking. As people come together to grieve for worshippers killed at their Mosque. As Christians endured this tragedy this past Sunday. As prayers for Rachel Held Evans trend on Twitter, I see faith and belief and love take hold.

I see Jesus. He is there in the midst of it all. In the grief and the coming together, the messiness of it all.

Having faith doesn’t mean having everything fixed. It doesn’t mean everything is just right.

For me it means sitting with hope in the midst of hardship. It means sitting in grief because grief doesn’t negate hope. It means making room for questions but also for answers.

Having faith allows me to reach for hope when I fear the pain it might bring. Faith has allowed me to understand hope in the struggle. Sometimes it looks like living in the in between of faith and hope. In all of it Jesus meets all of us.

Expanding My Bookshelf

I love to read well everything! Books, articles, Twitter, the side of cereal boxes Reading has been a habit since I learned to read. One of the best experiences is being pulled completely into another world. So much so that it takes a few minutes to adjust to the real world.

Something I’ve been working on is expanding the authors I do read. It’s easy to get into the habit of reading the same or similar writers again and again.

Taking the time to read books written by people who have different life experiences only helps to enhance empathy and knowledge. Two things that can seemingly be absent these days. Below will be a list of some of my recent reads. Take a look at your book shelf. If you have a majority of authors from one race or gender, or ideology then it’s time to expand that bookshelf. Take a moment to google or heck ask your local librarian for suggestions.

Making time to read can be daunting. There seems to be so much to do each and every day. Making time to read has been a challenge at times. I get sucked into social media at times. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to read a few pages or if I am able to finish a book in one day. Or if I’m just not liking a book, it’s just fine to set it aside.

This is also something I’ve applied to my writing but that’s another post.

Books and articles are more nuanced and not as reactive as social media. They take time, thought and research to create. Cost isn’t as prohibitive thanks to your local library and e-libraries. I love using the Hoopla and Libby apps! If you have to return an unfinished book, when you borrow it again the LAST PAGE YOU READ IS SAVED! (As you can see this part really excited me ).

I mentioned Twitter earlier because it has been such an a great place to find new authors. Authors that have challenged me and expanded my library a little bit more. Such as Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans and more recently Kaitlin Curtice and Candice Marie Benbow. I also have to thank the podcast Levar Burton Reads which has also introduced me to other authors such as Ken Liu and Octavia Butler.

I’ve started to incorporate more non- fiction books into my rotation such as Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X Kendi and The Cooking Gene by Michael K. Twitty.

Challenge yourself in what your reading. Expand your shelf a bit more.

Some other Books I’ve read recently, list is far from comprehensive.

The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips

Maisie Dobbs Detective Series by Jacqueline Winspear

Letters to the Church by Francis Chan

The Last Days Of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

Turning Forty

As I celebrated my fortieth birthday a few weeks ago, I got a bit reflective. Forty years went by quickly, I mean relatively speaking. Time is funny, it can sometimes go by quickly or slow or even both at the same time. I feel as if I’ve blinked and all of a sudden I’m here, in this moment. I’ll blink again and another forty years will have passed by (Lord Willing). My pop culture references instantly date me ( Seinfeld anyone?), and my bedtime for sure reflects my current stage of life. (Of which I have no regrets on that, sleep is my jam!)

I wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties or thirties because though there were good times, they also belong in the past. Romanticizing the past just puts a different filter on it.

I’m grateful for the the person I am today, right now at this moment. I’m grateful for the hard things and the joyful things I’ve experienced. I’m grateful to have the relationships I have loved ones. Most of all I am secure in my faith in the Lord.

I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t know Jesus. I used to be an angry person, unable to let go of hurts and slights. I used to believe that I was unloved though I was surrounded by it. Without Jesus, I would not have any sense of what peace and contentment could begin to look like.

The idea of being Forty used to look like something else to me. It used to look like I had checked all the right boxes. Boxes that I never truly strove to check off. I don’t know if I was ever meant to check off those boxes. It used to look like I was supposed to have all the pieces of the puzzle of life in place. The reality is in my life, the puzzle looks more like a mish mash of pieces from different puzzles. Some of which fit together well and others that don’t which I have learned to stop forcing to fit. I have this inkling that those puzzle pieces I’ve been searching for and even those I haven’t will start to fill in. Creating this beautiful but still incomplete picture.

I’ve learned it’s not so much the boxes I check off but what my heart is looking at. My heart today strives for the Lord. In my thirties my heart struggled to understand what this could look like or even mean for my life. In learning to let go of those ill fitting puzzle pieces, I’ve seen God all the more.

At forty , I’ve learned a few things but I still have so much more to learn. I look forward to this new decade of Life.

Forgotten Laments

Grief filled hearts cry out

Laments that are soon forgotten

Until the next time

Where Again

grief filled hearts cry out

Whose laments are soon forgotten

Until the next time

Again and again and again

Grief filled hearts cry out

Again and again and again

Laments forgotten

Lord help us to remember

To grieve alongside the grieving

To remember the laments

Again and again and again

Being Single & Seeking Community

Living alone has great benefits. There is no one to fight for control over the remote, wearing  whatever you like and eating whatever you like. It can be the absolute dream of being an adult. But there are times when it can be hard too. Coming home after a long day of work to an empty home can either be a relief or hard. 

A relief when the day has been long and stressful. When all I crave is a nice shower or bath, a bit of food and quiet before bed. Hard when craving companionship and no one is available because well life. Then there are those days when it’s a mixed bag, when you desire a bit of both. 

Right now, I’m in a peaceful place with my life and therefore my state of singleness. I’m coming up on my first year of living in my own home, becoming more settled in my position at work and growing more in my faith in the Lord.

But I have been in a place when it wasn’t good. When I listened to the lies to start with, the ones that say I was not worthy of God’s love and care. When my defenses are down and exhaustion seeps into my life I’m more susceptible To seek out comfort or weakness and sin . I turned away from the truth of who I am in Christ. Choosing instead to believe the lies,that I am forgotten or unloved. 

Thankfully I’ve been connected to a healthy church for most of my Christian life. Writing those words I understand how privileged that is to write . Because without a healthy community to rely on a person can fall into becoming disconnected.

Falling away from community doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly, bit by bit until one day looking up and realizing that it’s just not there as it once had been. 

Finding a healthy church community is hard. Maintaining a connection to one is hard too. It means trusting strangers with all that we carry in our souls. People have been hurt because those they trusted disappointed them and so have withdrawn from pursuing community. 

A lot of factors can contribute to disconnection. Changes in work or school schedules, family obligations, personal health and mental health to name a few. Or perhaps there are difficulties with friendships or a feeling of a lack of care or finding understanding from your church. 

The thing to recognize first is do you believe that the Lord is your Savior ? I mean really believe that you are the beloved child of God? Without first believing this, then the rest doesn’t matter. Nothing else written here can help you. 

If you find yourself in a state of disbelief who can you reach out that you trust to discuss this? 

Pray for your belief in Him and in the community He desires you take part in. 

Peel back the layers of your struggle with connecting with others and seek the Lord’s wisdom in letting go of your defenses. Allow walls to tumble down in order to connect or reconnect.

Reach out to renew old relationships that help you to strive for the Lord. Some old connections do need to stay in the past. Be wise here.

Stay connected, living in community takes belief, trust and effort. It can be hard, but it is so worth it. Make the effort to join a group offered at church or volunteer.

I’ve learned to open myself up more, to be vulnerable with people and honest with people in my life. Instead of holding things in and it allowing bitterness to seep in. I try to reach out to people in my life and to stop assuming things about them.

I tend to long to be invited to things and so I had to challenge myself to also invite people into my home. Doing these things has helped me in those hard times of be alone.

Working at relationships has helped me to understand the Gospel even more so. Having a strong community of women who love Jesus has helped me in learning to disbelieve those lies.