On the suicide of Rebecca Sedwick

Rebecca Sedwick
Photo of Rebecca Sedwick. Photo credit: Unknown.

"John says he is now on a mission to expose bullies and urges anyone who is a victim of bullying to speak up and alert others. He says Rebecca and the alleged bullying are something he thinks about every day."

Read the story of Rebecca Sedwick here:

Obviously, given my previous blog post, this story has caught my attention. A 12-year-old girl, Rebecca Sedwick, jumped to her death (from the top of a tower) due to being bullied online (the technical term is cyber-stalking). John, quoted above, is the ex-boyfriend of Rebecca, who committed suicide, and the boyfriend of the bully. He said he did not know the bullying was taking place, and if he had known, he would have tried to stop it.

Personally, I'm still struggling to understand why anyone would want to do this: why someone would want to spend their precious time calling someone else names and being so cruel. Since my previous post, several people have contacted me with their own personal stories of being bullied. And I thank everyone for sharing your stories, because it really does help to know that I am not alone. We are not alone.

Bullying is much more common than I realized. Like John, I agree that bullies should be exposed and victims should speak up. But I also know how very difficult it is to do: expose bullies and speak up. But I will gladly join John on his mission.

My thoughts and prayers are with Rebecca and her family.

** UPDATE: The mother of one of the girls who bullied Rebecca was arrested this morning and charged with child abuse: ... in the comments section to this news article, a person named Tom Dog wrote: "Well children do learn from their parents... I would look into the other girl's mother too and see if the abuse is where the bullying came from. I think most bullies harass others because they have been bullied themselves. I think the parents may have some of the blame for the girl's bullying."

More than one of the police officers I met with in my own bullying case said essentially the same thing: that the person who bullied me had to learn the behavior from somewhere, and the most likely place is his parents or home environment. This cycle is certainly sad and tragic, but note it does make standing up to bullies much more difficult :-(


On Being Bullied & Broken (and Nelson Mandela)

Broken Window in an Abandoned Restaurant in North Carolina. (Lynda Ward,

It occurred to me last week that when calling the police: I've never before had a conversation with a police officer.

When I've called about traffic accidents, or the time I found a dead body in my yard, or the day I found an abandoned baby in the street in front of my house (I lived in rather questionable neighborhoods when I was in college/grad school), I've only been asked for "Just the facts ma'am": the who, where, what, and when and nothing more.

But recently, when I contacted the FBI and police about cyber-bullying, the officers wanted much more. They wanted to hear "my story," much like an old but somewhat intrusive friend might want to hear what I've been up to over the past five years—the exception is that I had never before met these friends and they each carried a notepad and a gun. The officer asked, "When did you meet this guy?"

Rather nervously and somewhat embarrassed, I began: I met British photographer Jez Coulson in New England, five years ago, on a warm, sunny November afternoon just before sunset. I was at a religion conference and had taken a break from a publishing panel and decided to check out the city's Skywalk ...

Prior to my contacting the authorities, I had read many stories and articles on bullying/cyber-bullying. I had seen numerous news reports on bullying/cyber-bullying. In fact recently on CNN there have been several stories of bullying victims who committed suicide. And I had a friend who was a victim of bullying and who committed suicide because of the bullying.

Not until now did I fully understand why someone might commit suicide as a result of being bullied.

Imagine getting daily message rants (some days more than one rant a day) for months and months that belittle and demean you in horrible and painful ways. Now imagine you can do nothing to stop it: no matter how hard you try.

Bullying is insidious, and it leaves you broken in ways that are incompressible to someone who has never experienced it.

In my case the messages were sent by a friend, Jez Coulson, on whom I had once written a feature article for a magazine, and someone I dearly loved and admired for many years. But I'm not sure if it ultimately makes a difference. I doubt it matters if the messages are from friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Their vicious content and the sheer volume of the messages—for over at least five months in my case—is what is particularly harmful.

The officer asked me, "Can you think of a certain day or incident that may have brought about this behavior from your friend?" (The officer was careful to clarify that he didn't want me to feel he was blaming me but rather he was trying to get information on "what kind of person we're dealing with here.")

I took a deep breath. I knew what I was about to say would sound crazy. I said, "Yes. Most recently my friend says I am deserving of his abuse because I used the word 'embodied' in a sentence as in 'Nelson Mandela embodied some of his Christian faith in his campaign for justice in South Africa.'" (if you'd like a fuller version of the story please check out my previous blog post titled "Never Say Nelson Mandela is a Christian" at:

The FBI guy laughed. One of the other officers said, "You're kidding!" Another said, "Twilight Zone-ish sure, but not surprising. These guys always sound like they come from Crazy Town."

Although my blog is a mixture of a photography blog, a writing blog, and sometimes a movie review blog, periodically, over the next few months or perhaps the next year, I will be posting on Bullying, particularly Cyber-bullying. Maybe my story will help someone in some way. That is my hope. But since I am a writer (as well as a photographer), I have been encouraged by many to write about my experience as a way of dealing with it. So I will be doing that as well.

Bullying and Cyber-bullying, for many states in the USA, are new crimes (laws are on the books against it, even here in North Carolina, but the laws are new and still developing laws), and the authorities are still being trained in how to take the reports, navigate the statutes, and how to deal with the victims. Because of this, at least in my state, inquiring about reporting the crime or even actually reporting the crime takes time and patience. Victims should expect to have to be diligent in calling, patient in being transferred to different departments and officers, and willing to tell and re-tell their story to numerous officers (it is best to have as much information about the person who is bullying you as possible, including specific examples of the bullying — in my case this meant samples of the numerous electronic messages — as well as a written bullying timeline/flowchart).

Not sure if you're a victim of cyber-bullying? Here is the criteria:

Cyber-bullying is the use of the internet or other electronic means to harass an individual. "Harassment" must meet the criterion that a reasonable person, with the same information, would regard it as enough to cause another reasonable person distress.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing this, please contact the authorities or encourage them to contact the authorities.

It's awkward and strange and embarrassing and painful — yes — but well worth it because it is also very empowering. And bullying hinges upon the bully playing a power game with the victim.

Coming up on my blog, I'll be talking about how these sorts of bullies often suffer from personality disorders, such as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (, and I'll be exploring if encouraging people, particularly children, to stand up to such bullies, is good advice or not.


The Spectacular Now: Song for Zula

Song for Zula on Vimeo:
Screenshot from Song for Zula on Vimeo:

Last week I saw the film The Spectacular Now (, a coming of age film for a new generation (very much different than the John Hughes films from the 80s !!). The film is well done, well shot, well acted, and very well written in the sense that the characterization is nuanced and the plot is not as predictable as you might think for a teenage, coming of age film.

As the credits rolled, I was struck by the choice for an end song. They chose: Song for Zula by Phosphorescent. Given the film's ambiguous ending --- as well as the main character's point-of-insight at the film's climax --- this song was well chosen. The song stayed with me after the credits and still today, so much so I finally did a Google search and found the song. Compelling lyrics, and this short video on Vimeo's interpretation of the song is interesting as well:


Song for Zula Lyrics are (

Some say love is a burning thing
that it makes a fiery ring
oh but I know love as a fading thing
just as fickle as a feather in a stream
see, honey, I saw love,
you see it came to me
it put its face up to my face so I could see
yeah then I saw love disfigure me
into something I am not recognizing.

See the cage, it called.I said, "Come on in"
I will not open myself up this way again
nor lay my face to the soil, nor my teeth to the sand
I will not lay like this for days now upon end
you will not see me fall, nor see me struggle to stand
to be acknowledged by some touch from his gnarled hands
you see the cage it called. I said, "Come on in!"
I will not open myself up this way again.

You see the moon is bright in that treetop night
I see the shadows that we cast in the cold clean light.
Ah, my feet are gold and my heart is white
and we race out on the desert plains all night
See, honey, I am not some broken thing
I do not lay here in the dark waiting for thee.
Oh my heart is gold, my feet are light
and I am racing out on the desert plains all night.

So some say love is a burning thing
that it makes a fiery ring.
Ah but I know love as a caging thing
just a killer come to call from some awful dream
and all you folks, you come to see
you just stand there in the glass looking at me
but my heart is wild, and my bones are steel
and I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free.


Definitely not your typical Coming-of-Age film, but I would definitely recommend it.

Lynda :-)

Canine 9/11 First Responder Remembered

Sirius: Age 4

Today, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, our Special Operations Museum has placed memorial flags on its lawn to honor each of the 9/11 "first responders" who lost their lives trying to save others. As an animal lover, I was touched to see they had placed a flag for Sirius, age 4, a police dog who lost his life on that fateful day.

I was also inspired to read the names and ages of all of the brave people who ran to the site to try to help save lives. Thank you to them for their courage and service.


Find me on Facebook at:

Parker's BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina

Lynda Ward /

Last week, I took a trip to Wilson, North Carolina to have my cat ( cremated. Because the process takes two hours, I had the chance to visit downtown Wilson and to stop by Parker's BBQ. A friend had been suggesting this place for over a couple years now, so I decided to give it a try. The place isn't fancy, but it is local and locally owned and has a fantastic reputation in Wilson and beyond. When you walk in you're greeted by a line of wait staff, all men, all dressed in white and wearing white paper hats. Anyone who is not serving stands in the line waiting to seat the next person who walks through the door. And, wow, was it crowded!

The menu is simple: BBQ or Fried Chicken. BBQ Pork. Fried Fish. Boiled Potatoes or French Fries. Brunswick Stew. Slaw. Hush Puppies and Corn Sticks (a big basket of these come with every meal). The food is delicious. The BBQ outstanding (melt in your mouth outstanding). And the atmosphere is like that of a church pot luck: casual, laid-back, friendly.

I love discovering local diners with good food and good atmosphere, and Parker's in Wilson has all of that plus it's like stepping back into the past: the 1950s maybe ??? (though I was not alive then).


Find me on Facebook at:

Downtown Troubadour: Fayetteville, North Carolina

Lynda Ward -

Ever since I watched the television show Gilmore Girls, I've liked the notion of having a town troubadour. Fans of that show will remember that the fictional "Stars Hollow" had a town troubadour. This guy, at least for this weekend (Labor Day Weekend), is serving as our downtown troubadour. He was very generous and patient with letting me take his photo --- which meant sitting on the sidewalk in front of him with my camera until I found a moment when no people were on the street or reflected in the window behind him. But waiting was a pleasure because he's an awesome blues guitar player :-)

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Lynda :-)


I HAVE A DREAM: Has justice been realized?

A young man pauses to listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. piped into Dr. King's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Lynda Ward /

I shot this photo back in January in Atlanta while visiting Dr. King's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church: ... Dr. King has long been a hero of mine and being present in the place where he once worshiped was an amazing experience. To sit and listen to Dr. King's voice --- an actual recording of Dr. King offering the sermon on a Sunday morning --- was also a very spiritual experience.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech which caused many people to stop and ask if Dr. King's dream has been realized. At least one poll says no:

I was born and raised in the South and in an all white community in Tennessee, where my all white high school proudly displayed the Rebel Flag. But I admit I've never understood racism. Why would someone hate another person simply because of the color of their skin? It doesn't make any sense.

But at its root injustice isn't about the color of someone's skin. It is about power. People with power alongside those people who want power --- to be or to feel superior to others --- must use all sorts of irrational devices to gain power and/or the feeling of superiority. Whether it be demeaning and abusing someone because of the color of their skin, or their religious beliefs, or their economic status, or their sexuality, or their gender, or whatever else power hungry people might dream up ... injustice, at it's core, isn't about someone being the wrong color, it's about a person's or group of people's quest for power or superiority at the expense of another.

Racism is bullying on a grand scale.

Thank you, Dr. King, for being an example of how to stand up to bullies and how to give a voice to the voiceless. I join Dr. King in saying that "in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream" that someday bullies will win no more.


My Photo is on the Cover of Kakalak Magazine! Yay!

My photo on the cover of Kakalak Magazine 2013!

My photo is on the cover of the new Kakalak 2013 magazine!! Yay! I'm very excited!!

The magazine is a cool, artsy Carolinas Art and Poetry Magazine. It's currently on sale for $9 if you'd like a copy. Follow this link to find out more about the magazine and the contributors and to also check out sample poems from inside the mag:

To see the original version of my cover photograph visit:

The magazine actually has a wrap-around cover, so my photo stretches from the front to the back cover of the magazine!!


Find me on Facebook at:

20 Feet From Stardom: Lisa Fischer is Amazing!

This documentary film is amazing. Why? Because of Lisa Fischer. Her story is amazing. She is amazing. She has one of the best voices I've ever heard. Possibly one of the best voices on the planet. Or rather, listening to her sing isn't a passive activity, it's a spiritual experience. There's a line in this film about true artists that says true vocalists are vehicles for the soul. If this is true, Lisa has access to the souls of a thousand saints.

Lisa is mainly known as The Rolling Stone's backup singer though Lisa is also a backup singer to Sting and Luther Vandross. She tried (and even won a Grammy) but ultimately did not "make it" meaning become famous in the music industry. Her story is what makes this film ultimately a tragedy. Someone with a voice so clear and with such range, someone who sings from someplace deep in her soul --- or perhaps from deep within the souls of us all --- needs to be heard.

Something about Lisa's singing --- her voice --- I don't know how to describe it other than to say it's healing. Listening to her heals me.

Definitely check out the film if it comes your way and check out Lisa on Youtube.

Here she is in concert singing "Beneath the Wings of An Angel::

And here she is doing promos for the film (singing a song from Porgy and Bess):

and signing a capella at a preview screening:

And singing live "Fever" at the Sundance Film Festival:


Celebrating Music & Photography: Cape Fear New Music Festival


The academic year 2013-2014 is about ready to begin. And this year at Methodist University our Cape Fear New Music Festival (which will be in the Spring of 2014) will celebrate the relationship between music and photography. We have invited as our guest photographer an internationally renowned and award winning photographer. For this year's festival, his photographs will be interpreted, musically, by musicians who will compose original scores to compliment his photographs. Our guest photographer will also be the judge of an awesome photography contest. We will have photography exhibitions combined with musical performances, as well as theatrical interpretations of our guest photographer's photographs. The festival also includes an exhibition of our photography contest winners, lectures, and workshops. And so much more!! Anyone who loves photography and music will love this festival!!!

We are still working out the dates, the details, and are gathering information for official posters and press releases. Of course I will post them here once I have them. So please stay tuned!! :-)