Pynk Magazine kicked off their 2016 Power issue with a cover story of the courageous and powerful Nicole Bell-Paultre, widow to the late Sean Bell. As you may already now, back in 2006 Sean Bell’s death made headlines (and history) as one of the millennium’s first highly publicized acts of police brutality gone viral. Sean was gunned down by officers on his wedding day, just hours before his trip to the alter. As the story goes, offices let out 50 rounds of shots on Bell and his groomsmen, with Bell being the only victim to suffer fatality.
Almost instantly the day she became a widow, Nicole (then 22 with two daughters), went into activism and fighting for justice for victims and families of victims of police brutality. Fast forward 10 years later and the would-be wife of Bell has now remarried and expanded her families, and at 32, is only just getting started with her journey to justice. Check out the excerpts from the interview.
On What Life Looked Like for Her Following Sean’s Death (and Her Lesson on Mourning):
After Sean died I remember not doing my hair. I remember the day after I didn’t do my hair and I was getting ready to go out looking like a hot mess. For a while I felt like that, but now I can shed light on that stage in my life. The mourning phase is not permanent, it’s just a period that has to pass through. No one should live their life in mourning being sad and depressed all the time. For me, my family, my community, and my activism slowly but surely helped me overcome that period in my life. If I haven’t went through those stages, I would not be the woman I am today. These obstacles made me who I am.
On Having to Raise Two Daughters as a 22 Year Old Widow (in 2006):
They were too young to understand. Jada was about to be 4-years-old and children are extremely fragile at that age. As for the baby, I remember not even having the strength to fix a diaper or fix a bottle. I remember those days. That’s why I say family is everything because they made sure to be with me until I was strong enough to do it on my own.
On Letting He Guard Down in order to Let Love in (she got married in 2013):
I went back to school and while I was at York, I met Jay. He was an adult starting over as well. He was a father; he had a daughter who was the same age as mine. We were friends for a while, we never took each other seriously.
After getting to know him and hanging out with him I started to let down my guard. He was such a funny person and being around him showed me a part of myself that I was missing for the longest. Being able to smile again and just have fun, I started to get this familiar feeling again. It’s like “woah, am I actually liking somebody?”
I had given up on love and I had given up on myself at such a young age. I didn’t even know where to begin to move forward. From being a victim to becoming victorious, there is no single thing that you could do to get there. Love is just one of those things that you don’t know when or where it’s going to hit you.
On Her Death Complex following Sean’s Murder:
To be completely honest when I first fell in love with [my current husband] Jay, I thought that he was going to die too. I had a complex about death and I had to tell myself that I needed to let go of the past and accept [life]. We stayed friends for a long time because I wasn’t ready to move on. In the end, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In the end, I realized that nothing is ever going to be perfect, but what I found with Jay was perfect for me. That’s what I love about the life that I’ve chosen. Not everybody can go on.
On Her Decision to Change Her Name to “Bell,” Despite Losing Sean Before their Wedding:
When I lost Sean, I legally changed my name to Bell. That was a decision I made with his parents that felt like the right thing to do. When I got married to Jay in 2013, we went to the justice of peace to be legally married. I didn’t plan on doing that. Originally, I thought I was going to have this big wedding, but now it was the union that was more important than the wedding. So when Jay asked me to marry him, we were both on the same page. We said that we didn’t need a big elaborate wedding because we had each other. Jay was really understanding.
On How She Feels About the System 10 Years Later:
Black blood has been a constant victim of the justice systems’ reckless and brutal acts of “serving” the community. In 2016, we are still opening the front page of the newspapers to see our young men and women slain in our own neighborhoods by the people who are under qualified and overly equipped with a deadly weapon—one built to take lives and ruin families. In 2016, we are still suffering through the executions of black and brown citizens in an unconstitutional and unlawful way. It seems like black lives are still worth less.
I think that people now have a higher sense of consciousness of the things that are going on. In 2006, there was no Instagram and Facebook and all these technologies. Now, we are able to see these things and witness them ourselves. What kind of change have we seen though? Since about 10 years ago, how many police officers have we seen convicted or even tried for these murders? We’re witnessing executions right now. There have been policies put into place like the body cams and things like that. I can’t sit here and say that it’s not some small step towards change, but it’s nowhere near where we need to be.
We need laws in place that protect us. We don’t need baby steps, we need the government to take a leap.
On Her Non-Profit for Other Families Impacted by Victims of Police Brutality (When it’s Real, It’s Forever):
Every day is a new hurdle. It’s hard because sometimes people are afraid to support you. Sometimes they feel like supporting a cause like this may be conflicting with law enforcement, when really it’s not. We believe that if you are wrong you’re wrong. It’s not an attack against the entire police department; it’s a fight against those who do wrong. We are not anti-police, we are anti-wrong.