Because of my new found commitment to the dynamics of justice, I’ve spent a lot of my time over the past several years working with families in pain. Pain caused by the criminal acts of another upon a loved one. My brother and I stride to give these families a voice through our radio show.
Early in the show's history, I became aware of a 7 year old girl that was poisoned to death in a small town outside of Jacksonville, NC. Kayla Allen's death was extremely tragic to the entire community and I worked the internet to develop leads in an otherwise stalled case. I learned that justice does in fact prevail given the right push. Some cases, such as the Johnnie Beck case, are lessons in patience. You know it will be resolved, but it will take an enormous amount of time and energy to persuade the right people to see things the right way.
Every case is different. Every case offers testimony to the power of a system of justice that usually ends up landing on its feet.
I have met and become friends with some dedicated people in law enforcement. It is easy to recognize them because of their shared qualities with my brother Marc, a retired 24 year veteran of law enforcement and an FBI National Academy graduate.
The past twenty some years of my life have been spent being a freelance purveyor of propaganda. I mostly create television advertising campaigns as an art director for nationally known products. The latest of which is a Sony Wega TV spot that will broadcast during the playoffs this weekend. I am a well paid "prostitute" that relishes the free time that this profession provides me to speak up for Lady Justice.
I began writing a few years ago for one of the oldest family owned African-American newspapers in the country, the Wilmington Journal. I spoke out in columns against what I perceived to be political injustice. My opinion was my opinion, you either agreed or disagreed. I took no reward or disappointment from comments of praise or criticism. I stood my ground based on the thorough investigations warranted to uncover some of the sticky wickets I found laying about the City.
Through all these investigations and painful relationships with various families I have come into contact with, I have been blessed to find a spirit that lingers around each of them, a spirit of hope.
I am all about hope, even if it is false hope. I know it sounds insane to hope for something that may never happen but what is the alternative? For sometimes it can be something far worse, a lack of hope.
I have recently been blessed in becoming familiar with the family of an abducted 23 year old. Michelle Bullard was born to a 15 year old mother; she was loved by her aunt and grandmother in the early years as if she was their own. Each of them, her mother, aunt, and grandmother took turns alternating Michelle's care. They all worked, went to school and found time to devote their lives to this newborn. Folks, this is the way it used to be, the way it ought to be.
Michelle grew up and like so many others, being a bit rebellious in her teenage years, yet she always knew the difference between right and wrong. She was forgiven when she strayed the course, but more importantly she was repentant, she apologized. When she made a mistake, she worked hard to correct it.
Michelle's grandmother told me today that Michelle, at 23, would crawl up in her lap to be rocked, to be loved.
Michelle's mother no longer is married to Michelle's father, both have long since moved on, but this morning, in a moment of stress induced exhaustion; Karen Riojas apologized to her ex-husband Julian Bullard for an extremely brief exhibition of frustration directed towards her ex a day earlier. A perfect example of acceptance and understanding between two people that share a love for a child, dealing with an emotional obstacle so that it will not interfere with the primary objective, Michelle.
No matter what, these pained people, this family that is forced to deal with one of the most horrific terrors that any mother, father, sister, grandmother could possibly face, know instinctively, how to care for the emotional well-being of each other. No matter what, Michelle is blessed to have such a family.
I wish you could meet the grandmother, Mrs Brown, a woman that is so grounded I cannot imagine her yielding one inch away from her faith. I also wish you could meet Michelle’s aunt who came up from Georgia to offer anything she could to help. She is cheerful and full of a mom's wisdom, I know her husband and two daughters are missing her right now, yet she has left a lifetime of love and trust inside them to hold them a couple of more days. Michelle's father is a classic picture of bold determination. Quiet and reserved, cautious and yet welcoming, you just know his heart is torn apart; I know this because I recognize how a man will build up a strong defensive wall to hide the pain. His wife, Michelle's step mother, is his compass, I see it in her eyes, and he does too. My heart nearly broke, it was all I could do to not hug Michelle's mother when I saw the pain in her eyes this morning. She had to have been crying all night, in fact she said she never slept. This is a mother that knows, a mother that I suppose fought selflessly every inch into the pages of the big book of life, deep into the chapters of worthiness and respect. Perhaps a late bloomer in life, but a protector and positive influence on her two daughters, Lydia and Michelle.
None of the family seem to have any problems other than the one they have been faced with since Monday, yet they are handling it like pros. I have learned so much, I am so blessed.
Late in the afternoon, while we all stood by the pond as a boat and cadaver dog searched for Michelle, we talked and talked about Michelle, about life. At one time during that tail-end of the adrenaline fueled day, I began to tear up, not because of anything specific, but because in these, the worst of times, a moment no one is familiar with, we awaited the now thankfully non-discovery of a loved ones decomposed body. There was hope, it surrounded us. There was hope in something bigger than any of us, hope that someday we will learn why people have to suffer such horror, hope that lessons learned are lessons we can use to help others and hope that nothing really matters where we stand, it only matters who we stand with.
I began my day today at 3AM, at 3:30 I found myself laying in bed, eyes closed, walking through the town of Broadway looking for Michelle. I left the house at 4:30 to go find her. It was so foggy that I could barely see past the hood of the car but I drove around anyway, windows down in case I heard anything, a call for help. I believe Michelle is alive and she is. Mrs. Brown taught me that today on the hill over looking the pond, when lovingly she said, Michelle will always be alive. And she is right.