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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Nordstrom Has A New ‘Inclusive Beauty’ Category To Highlight Black-Owned Beauty Brands And It’s Where The Money Is At

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Nordstrom Has A New ‘Inclusive Beauty’ Category To Highlight Black-Owned Beauty Brands And It’s Where The Money Is At

Gallo Images / Contributor

If you’re looking to be more intentional about where you spend your cash, Nordstrom has just made your efforts to support Black-owned businesses easier.

The department store recently launched a new Inclusive Beauty online shopping category to highlight Black businesses. In a post to the site’s Inclusive Beauty landing page, Nordstrom encouraged users to “Check out these need-to-know Black-founded beauty brands that we’re proud to have in the Nordstrom family.” The new category includes beloved lines like  Brioge, Epara and Beauty Bakerie!

Even better, the Inclusive Beauty section features a wide range of makeup shades to suit all complexions as well as hair products like silk pillowcases, and hairpieces.

Check out some of the featured Black-owned Beauty brands below!

Bomba Curls Dominican Forbidden Hair Mask

$28NordstromSHOP NOW

Briogeo Repair Rituals Hair Care Set

Briogeo

$20NordstromSHOP NOW

Baby Tress 3-in-1 Edge Styler™ Tool Blush

Baby Tress

$15NordstromSHOP NOW

Epara Hydrating Mist

$56NordstromSHOP NOW

Beauty Bakerie Black Blending Egg Makeup Sponge Set

Beauty Bakerie

$18NordstromSHOP NOW

BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector Cream

$65NordstromSHOP NOW

Mantl Face + Scalp Invisible Daily SPF 30 Broad Spectrum

Mantil

$27NordstromSHOP NOW

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The Street Outside Of Trayvon Martin’s High School Is Being Renamed After Him

Things That Matter

The Street Outside Of Trayvon Martin’s High School Is Being Renamed After Him

Ben Gabbe / Getty

Eight years have passed since the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. The Black 17-year-old was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida one evening on February 26, by George Zimmerman while walking home alone from a nearby convenience store. Martin’s death sparked nationwide rallies and protests and a month after his death hundreds of students at his high school took part in a walkout to support him.

Now, nearly a decade after his death, Martin’s legacy is set to be memorialized with a street named after him.

Earlier this week, officials in Miami-Dade County passed a resolution to rename a portion of a street outside of the murdered teen’s Miami, Florida high school after him.

Trayvon Martin Avenue will make up a portion of 16th Avenue from Ives Dairy Road to 209th Street. The street resides outside of Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School where Martin was enrolled during the time of his death. It will now be named in his honor.

Martin was murdered back in February 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman after an altercation in which details remain murky. At the time, Zimmerman claimed he shot at Martin out of self-defense after fearing for his life. Martin was found unarmed.

After being charged with second-degree murder, Zimmerman was acquitted on July 13, 2013.

The Oct. 6 memorandum calling to make the roadway name change described Martin as “beloved by his family, friends, and other members of his community.”

Government officials pointed out in the memorandum that Martin’s death was a massive catalyst in the conversation around ongoing racial injustice and the creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“Although Trayvon Martin’s life was tragically cut short, his death elicited national conversations about race relations, racial profiling, gun rights, and stand your ground laws and was a catalyst that set nationwide demands for social justice reforms in motion,” the memorandum explained.

“In July 2013, in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s
killer, #BlackLivesMatter (“Black Lives Matter”), was first used as a social media hashtag and later evolved into a global political movement dedicated to protesting police brutality and racially motivated violence against Black people, as well as other social justice reforms; and WHEREAS, Trayvon Martin’s tragic demise was also the impetus for the creation of the
Trayvon Martin Foundation (“Foundation”); and… Black Lives Matter and the Foundation were both founded as a direct result of Trayvon Martin’s death and provided a means for people across the world to voice their opinions and channel their anguish as they grappled with the murder of an unarmed child who was returning home with a drink and candy that he purchased from a convenience store,” a portion of the memorandum reads.

Martin’s family and friends have worked tirelessly to advocate for racial justice and stricter gun control in the years after his death.

In 2018, Paramount Network released the Rest in Power docuseries that documented the shooting of Martin and examined the unrest that was brought about across the country as a result. Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton said at the time that she wanted the series to “show the love that two parents had for Trayvon, and this will tell people who he was… We want to make sure that other families don’t go through what we went through. We miss him every day.”

Fulton has spent the years after her son’s death advocating for stricter gun control. She started both the Trayvon Martin Foundation and Circle of Mothers which works to unite and empower parents of children whose lives have been lost to gun violence.

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