Things That Matter

Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week And Supporters Have Already Started A GoFundMe

After spending half of her life behind bars, Cyntoia Brown will be released from prison on August 7.

The 31-year-old was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, when she was 16 years old, for killing a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. At the time, she was a sex trafficking victim under a pimp named “Cut Throat.” While Brown was a minor, she was tried as an adult.

The case made national headlines last December when a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

At the time, celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West, Lebron James, and Cara Delevingne, among others, expressed their outrage on social media, with some advocating for her release and others funding legal support.

“Something his (sic) horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life,” Rihanna captioned a post on Instagram in November 2017. 

Kardashian West, who shared the singer’s post on Twitter, added: “The system has failed. Its heartbreaking to see young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right.”

In January, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) granted her clemency following the mounting pressure.

At the time, Haslan called the sentence “too harsh,” especially considering the “extraordinary steps” Brown had “taken to rebuild her life” in prison.

Derri Smith, founder, and CEO of the nonprofit End Slavery Tennessee agreed.

“She is light years today, as a woman, different from the traumatized 16-year-old that she was,” he said in January, according to CNN. “She’s mentoring … troubled youth, working on her college degree, she is planning a nonprofit so she can help other young people.”

Brown earned her associate degree from Lipscomb University in 2015 and, as reported by The Tennessean, obtained a bachelor’s degree in the Tennessee Prison for Women in May. She’s also been working with the state’s juvenile justice system to help counsel young people at risk.

For many, Brown has been a “model inmate” throughout her incarceration. 

“I learned that my life was — and is — not over,” Brown said in a documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”

In 2004, a then-16-year-old Brown was living with a 24-year-old pimp named “Cut Throat,” a man who she said physically and emotionally abused her as well as forced her into sex work. According to court documents, on August 7 of that year, Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen brought Brown to his home and paid her $150 in exchange for sex. While at his residence, Brown said that Allen showed her multiple guns in a cabinet. At one point, she alleges that the man reached under his bed, seemingly grabbing a firearm. Believing he was going to kill her, Brown said she took a gun out of her purse and fatally shot Allen.

Brown long claimed the killing was self-defense. However, the prosecution argued that the motive was robbery since Brown took Allen’s wallet after she shot him. She was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery.

The convictions carried two concurrent life sentences and eight additional years.

According to Refinery29, during Brown’s original trial, she was not allowed to testify. As such, she was unable to present evidence of her traumatic childhood history, including her time under the care of the state Department of Children’s Services, and her neurodevelopmental disorder. 

For her supporters, Brown, a survivor of sexual and physical violence, has been doubly wronged, first by men who assaulted her and again by a state who locked her up in an adult women’s prison for more than a decade instead of protecting her. Many have taken to social media to express their joy over Brown’s impending freedom.

“15 years too long for self-defense the whole world is waiting on your release August 7th you will be free,” wrote one Twitter user. “Freeing #CyntoiaBrown is the Greatest thing I’ve heard all Year!!! She never should’ve been Locked up in the first place,” added another.

Additionally, Brown’s representatives are raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to ensure an adequate start to her new life upon her release.

At the time of writing, the so-called second chance fund has raised nearly $16,000.

As part of the terms of her commuted sentence, Brown, who will be freed on Wednesday, will have to report to a parole officer regularly for the next decade. She is also required to stay employed, participate in counseling and perform community service with at-risk youth.

“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said in a statement shortly after her sentence was commuted. “My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”

Read: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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Two Black Moms Took Their Kids To Play In A Fountain On The Mall Then Secret Service Officers Swarmed Them With Guns

Things That Matter

Two Black Moms Took Their Kids To Play In A Fountain On The Mall Then Secret Service Officers Swarmed Them With Guns

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Two Black mothers headed to our nation’s capital last week to give their children some playtime in the fountains at the World War II Memorial. The day was hot and the mothers thought the memorial would be a perfect place to let their children cool down and have some fun.

Unfortunately, the day quickly turned sinister when the women and their children were swarmed by Secret Service agents who pointed a rifle at them.

Last Thursday, India Johnson, 26, and Yasmeen Winston, 25, were driving their infants to take a splash in the fountains at the memorial when a Secret Service cruiser drove into their front left bumper.

The two women have reportedly been best friends since seventh grade and are mothers to boys: 13-month-old Sir Quincy (Johnson) and six-month-old G’esus (Winston). Both Sir Quincy and G’esus were sitting in the back seat of the car that they were driving. According to the women, Mother Goose Club was playing on the radio. Then, within seconds of the Secret Service cruiser driving into their car, an officer pointed a rifle at them and yelled “Get out!” and “Put your hands in the air!”

Soon enough, more officers surrounded them with guns. Eventually, Winston and Johnson were handcuffed and separated from their children. According to both women, they were detained without being given a reason as to why and were spoken to by police officers who did not wear masks, despite the current coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Washington Post, “Initially, the women said, an officer told them the vehicle had been reported stolen and that the suspects were two Black men. But the women, both African American, said no men were with them and provided proof that Johnson was the owner. She told the Secret Service she had never reported the car stolen. Eventually, the women were released — without an apology or answers to their questions.”

Winston and Johnson are now demanding that the Secret Service investigate the incident and release the details to the public.

“This incident took place near our national monuments across from the White House,” Timothy Maloney, the women’s attorney, wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray over the weekend. “It occurred after eight weeks of unprecedented national demonstrations about excessive police conduct, some of which took place right there on Constitution Avenue. Has the Secret Service learned nothing this summer?”

Speaking about the incident Winston told the Washington Post “I could have been another Breonna Taylor. I could have been another innocent woman who has no record and got shot.”

In a statement to the Post, a Secret Service spokesperson said that they had received a “query requesting the agency investigate an alleged interaction between Uniformed Division Officers and two members of the public” and that they are looking into the incident.

Winston says she and Johnson have spent the days after the incident completely traumatized.

Winston told the Post that she is currently seeking therapy and their friend is avoiding going outside of her home. “We don’t get in trouble. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. I thought the police were here to serve and protect us, and now it’s really uncomfortable,” she explained.

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Netflix Is Bringing Back Seven Classic Black Sitcoms And They’re Already On My Binge List

Entertainment

Netflix Is Bringing Back Seven Classic Black Sitcoms And They’re Already On My Binge List

StrongBlackLead / Netflix

Netflix has seriously upped its streaming game in the past few months. While 2020 rages on with all of its drama and chaos and heartache, at least Netflix is giving us all some much-needed distraction and entertainment.

The streaming giant already has a fairly large library of amazing Black content for us to binge to our heart’s content, but they’ve just outdone themselves with a brand new slate of some of the best classic Black sitcoms ever made.

With a tweet from the streaming giant’s Twitter account @StrongBlackLead, it was announced that seven hit Black shows from the ’90s and 2000s are hitting Netflix throughout August, September, and October.

Netflix will be adding seven hit Black shows to their lineup and the Internet just can’t handle the news.

Yup, you read that right. Shows we used to watch on networks like UPN, the WB, and BET like Sister, Sister, The GameGirlfriends, and The Parkers will all now be available in once place. Finally. And as if this news wasn’t already enough, Netflix’s @StrongBlackLead also premiered a video celebrating the big announcement with literally all of our favorites: Cue Tracee Ellis Ross, Essence Atkins, Jackée Harry, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Tia and Tamera Mowry, and more making us cry with their collective greatness.

Of course, fans could not handle it, and within minutes of the big announcement Moesha and Girlfriends was trending on Twitter.

“Netflix is finally streaming MoeshaThe GameSister SisterGirlfriends and The Parkers starting from next month. seems like the second half of 2020 won’t be bad after all,” wrote one user.

Here’s a roundup of what we have to look forward to in the next couple of months:

Moesha

Brandy (yes, that Brandy!) playing a high-school student in LA facing very real issues including friend with teen pregnancies, racism, trouble at home – this show had it all and it honestly helped me grow and mature as a kid.

Moesha ran for six seasons on UPN (which IMO was one of the most underrated networks!) and went on to become the biggest success for the relatively new network. Bernie Mack and Usher were frequently recurring guest stars on the show and you never knew who else might back a guest appearance.

Sister, Sister

Tia and Tamera Mowry are identical twin sisters who just happen to reunite in a chance enounter. That’s the opening premise of this next-level show, Sister, Sister. But it’s so much more than that. Everyone from the Olsen twins to RuPaul and Tyrese made guest appearances on this show and I lived for every moment.

In January 2018, a revival of Sister, Sister was confirmed and is currently in the works but as of 2020 it is currently unknown when or if the revival will happen.

Girlfriends

One of the longest-running Black-led TV series, Girlfriends was on the CW for a full eight seasons and won numerous awards. Comprised of an ensemble cast led by Tracee Ellis Ross the show featured major talent in guest appearances including Big Boi, Common, Kelly Rowland, Idris Elba, and Erykah Badu.

The Parkers

A hilarious spin-off from the equally hilarious Moesha, this show had it all! Another show on UPN, The Parkers ran for five seasons and had some big name talent in the likes of Mo’Nique and Countness Vaughn.

And for all you Angelenos, the show is largely centered around Santa Monica College which so many of us went to.

Half & Half

Set in San Francisco, Half & Half aired on the UPN for four seasons and follows the lives of two half-sisters who were completely separated for most of their lives but then come back together. Michelle Williams and Essence Atkins were two of the major stars on the show which went on to be nominated for several awards in each of it’s four seasons.

One on One

One of the hit shows from the UPN network, One on One was on the air for five seasons and took place in Baltimore (and LA in the final season). Everyone from Lil Zane to Chris Brown, Eve, Solange Knowles, Lil Kim, Smokey Robinson, and Lisa Leslie made an appearance on this show – it was fire!

And that theme song, ‘Living One on One’, ughh so good!

Since the murder of George Floyd and the widespread Black Lives Matter movement, Netflix has added a new addition to its platform called “Black Lives Matter.” The new platform is home to all the movies about Black communities, celebrities’ topics, etc. with movies like Moonlight and documentaries like Becoming. Hopefully, with the release of these popular Black sitcoms, more may be added to Netflix like MartinLiving Single, and Fresh Prince.

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