Pearls & Vodka

#justiceforCJ

I’ve been a little absent on the blog lately, or a lot absent actually.

 

A lot has happened and I feel some wind in my sails again, so here I am.

 

A few weeks ago a friend said to me, “please don’t stop writing.” I’ve thought a lot about that. I’m not sure I ever could quit writing, it is just ingrained in who I am. I also think the reality is that as much as is happening in the world around us, I could never not share my voice. It’s not even that it has to be heard, or shared, or acknowledged, or even seen. It’s just a venting, a source of therapy, a sense of relief.

 

So here I am, writing, again, and probably always.

 

Though my words have been few on this space as of late, the world has continued to spin and things have been happening at a rapid pace.

 

The last time I blogged we lived in North Carolina.

 

We now live in Texas.

 

The move happened quickly, as is always the case with us. I caught myself even trying to work in additional time, to stretch out the move. Didn’t work. It was still fast and furious. That seems to be the only pace our family comprehends.

 

When we moved to North Carolina in July of 2016, I really thought we’d be there forever. It was my dream to live at the beach, and we did. It was amazing. So many cherished friendships and memories. And then life happened. It got expensive. Job growth wasn’t happening. We needed more. So we made the quick hop to the Queen City, still in North Carolina, as I thought it was the only place for us. We made some great friends. And we will take them, and that fact, with us forever. But Charlotte was not the town for the Asberry family. Judd and I never seemed to acclimate. Arron is Arron, the man can fit in anywhere and enjoys life wherever his family is. I want to be like him, in that regard, when I grow up.

 

Arron gave me a list of criteria he was confident I could never attain to make another move happen.

 

I had to find a job in Texas, it had to be a director level position, I had to be making a considerable amount more, I had to find a one-story house, I had to find a good school for Judd and it had to be near a Torchy’s Tacos.

 

If you know me at all, when Arron gave me his list, I simply said, “hold my drink.”

 

I found the job in Texas that was director level, with a nice salary. I found the one-story house, with Judd’s school right across the street. And the Torchy’s Tacos? Less than 10 minutes away.

 

Never tell me I can’t do something.

 

We’ve been here two weeks today.

 

And so far, we love it.

 

Jobs are good, school is good, friends are great, family is close, house is awesome (and finally unpacked!)

 

So that’s the update on the Asberry family, and where we are on the map.

 

I can’t say we will live here forever, but it’s got that “homey” feel so I think it just might last!

 

There’s been a lot happening outside of our family lately, hard to imagine since we have felt like it’s been a crazy circus ride inside our family.

 

Donald Trump has been, well, Donald Trump.

 

Prince Harry got married in one of the best services I’ve ever witnessed. If you haven’t heard Reverend Michael Curry’s sermon from the wedding, you seriously are missing out.

 

The North Korean summit was scheduled and unscheduled and then Trump tweeted some more about scheduling…

 

Another Star Wars movie premiered, with a “disappointing” $103 million opening.

 

The Cavs and the Warriors have made it to the NBA finals, again, of course.

 

The Southern Baptist Convention has continued to fail it’s parishioners and not removed Paige Patterson from the speaking schedule for the Convention in a few weeks. He was “removed” as head of the SWBTS, however retains an Emeritus title, lifetime salary + benefits and housing on campus. The disgrace continues spearheaded by the silence of these powerful men leading churches all over our cities.

 

All of these newsworthy things have occurred since my last blog, but last week something larger happened that I want to talk about. That I need to talk about. And that I should talk about.

 

A young man named C.J. Ellis was shot and killed, with one gunshot, to the head in South Arkansas last week.

 

He was murdered by a woman named Tonya Barnett.

 

I chose my words correctly there, “murdered.”

 

Unfortunately for the Ellis family, they are still waiting for investigators to charge Barnett with murder. And the nauseating thing about our society is that they may never hear those words.

 

C.J. was a graduate of Southern Arkansas University where he played football. He went on to play arena league football. He was the father of two precious boys. He was a beloved son, a cherished brother, a loved uncle and nephew. He was the love of our friend Adrienne’s life. He was a friend to all. You cannot find someone who will speak ill of C.J. that really knew him.

 

C.J. was murdered by the woman he had been hooking up with.

 

That’s not politically correct to say. But it’s the truth. And perhaps we’ve spent too long worrying about semantics in this society.

 

C.J. had decided to end things with Barnett and officially get back together with his soulmate, Adrienne. The mother of his son Peyton.

 

I’ve heard of a lot of reasons to kill someone. But killing someone because they ended their “relationship” with you? That’s a new low.

 

Barnett claims that C.J. was assaulting her early that morning. She claims he was choking her until she passed out, and when she came to, he was still assaulting her. So she shot him.

 

You might read that and think, “oh, it was self-defense.” And if she was telling the truth, I would concur. And you know what? I wasn’t there, maybe she is. Unfortunately for C.J., no one was there but the two of them, and he’s not around to tell his side of the story.

 

As with everything, there are three sides to every story. His side, her side, and the truth.

 

I am writing this today to honor C.J.’s life, to request prayers for his family and also, to shine a light on the injustice in his death.

 

Again, I wasn’t there, I can’t swear on my life the events that took place.

 

I can tell you though that the idea of C.J. assaulting a woman is a foreign idea to anyone who knew him.

 

And maybe most importantly, I can tell you that it’s absurd to believe that a woman was that severely beaten and left with absolutely zero marks on her. No scratches. No bruises. No red marks. Nothing.

 

That doesn’t add up.

 

I think unfortunately there are a lot of societal issues at play in this case.

 

I think race does play a role. And I think gender plays a role.

 

And I don’t think it’s PC to say either thing. But that doesn’t negate the necessity of speaking the truth.

 

C.J. was a black man. Tonya Barnett is a white woman.

 

If the roles were reversed and Tonya Barnett was the deceased party here, C.J. Ellis would be sitting in a jail cell. To argue that reality is just a waste of breath.

 

And this is just one of the countless issues with our justice system.

 

It’s ignorance on our part, as a society, to act as if the criminal system isn’t skewed towards black men.

 

And it’s also ignorance on our part that we don’t demand repercussions towards those who are dishonest about events like abuse.

 

Domestic violence, any violence, is a horrible thing. And there are many men and women who are victims of these horrible acts that deserve our support and our help.

 

But there are also men and women, every day, who falsify claims of violence to excuse their behavior and to keep themselves out of trouble. We might slap a misdemeanor on them, we might make them do a little community service. But that’s it. That’s all the punishment for destroying someone’s life by lying about their actions.

 

C.J. is gone. His sons are left without their father. His mother and father, sisters, aunts and uncles will bury him this weekend. His love Adrienne will have to find a way to carry on with her life for their son, without him. His friends will have to make new memories and face new battles, without him.

 

And what will happen to Tonya Barnett?

 

I’m not sure.

 

I wish I could say I know that our system will do right by C.J., and his family, and that Tonya will stand trial for her actions. She placed a single bullet into the head of a man, claimed he beat her, showed no signs of assault and has, so far, walked free. No handcuffs, no interrogations, no jail cell. Nothing.

 

Where is the justice for C.J.?

Where is the justice for the real victims of domestic violence?

 

What should  we teach our sons on how to handle the  realities of our justice system?

 

You can teach a child right from wrong, all day long, but you cannot control the action of those around them; and how do you teach them to function in a skewed system against them based simply on their skin color?

 

#justiceforCJ

#heartsforPeyton

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