“I prayed for days like this, when I would be able to breathe without crying, and be able to look outside and enjoy life. I prayed for days when I could move on and be happy, truly…”
My expectations of a young widow were completely contrary to my first impression of Nicole Bell, but in good way. Leading up to our interview, I was prepared to be intimidated by the presence of the late Sean Bell’s widow; the groom-to-be who lost his life unjustly at the hands of law enforcement the morning of his wedding day 10 years ago. It would take 50 rounds of shots aimed at Sean and his groomsmen to wound two and murder one- one being Sean himself. His death would not only make headlines, but also make history, as one of the biggest displays of police injustice that would trigger the onset of more injustice, and the upset of a nation.
I brace myself to tip toe around the elephant of the conversation in order to avoid offending Nicole during our interview. But when Nicole walks in, I see a strong Black woman full of love, laughs, faith and hope. I see a woman who looks as though she has a story worthy of both listening and learning from. I see myself.
I wanted Nicole to reminisce, with caution, on the pain she first felt when the first love of her life was murdered moments before their “I Do’s,” but without being too intrusive. I also wanted to learn more about her decision thereafter to dedicate nearly a decade of her livelihood to finding justice for both Sean and those widows and families in similar circumstances. I wanted to know about her ability to find love again, and finally make the walk down an aisle with her new husband, years later. I wanted all my research to come to fruition and tell the heroic take of a woman whose experiences have allowed her to prevail despite undergoing insufferable times.
Yet, to my surprise, I did not meet a woman scorned, broken or in the least bit defeated from her past. Instead I met a powerful Nicole. She was living her life as a new wife, mother and an advocate after turning her trials into triumphs. She was coy yet courageous— and it was contagious.
“I never get tired of talking about it. As long as other people are benefiting from my journey, I feel it is necessary. When I became an advocate for activism, it was second nature for me. I was doing what I had to do because of what happened to Sean. This must’ve been my calling from God.”
I was able to sit down with a woman stronger and braver than I had ever imagined her being and humble in every which way. What could have been a depressing conversation of “Woe is me,” empathy, instead turned into a moment of empowerment, inspiration and motivation for both me and all those listening in on the conversation. Nicole’s voice drew in everyone on set, from the stylist to hair and make-up . As we all had no choice but to listen to each word and learn.