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

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot Has Overseen A Huge Drop In The City’s Violent Crime Right And This Is Why

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Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot Has Overseen A Huge Drop In The City’s Violent Crime Right And This Is Why

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Chicago, Illinois, is one of the mayor American cities that faces big challenges when it comes to fighting violent crime. Historically, the city has been renowned for the role that organized crime has had on politics and also because deep social inequality often leads to marginalization. Even though the city experiences high levels of criminality that need to be tackled, there are some promising signs as 2020 begins. And the newly elected mayor Lori Lightfoot might have a lot to do with it, and has some thoughts on why the city has experienced a double-digit fall on violent crime indexes. 

Lori Lightfoot, a queer Black woman, has had a great inaugural year in office.

Credit: Chicago Tonight / WTTW

Lightfoot is part of an important shift in local governments that has seen the number of female incumbents increase more than ever before. As NFINCE reported in its end of year recap of good things that happened in 2019, “with the April election of Lori Lightfoot in Chicago, a record number of black women (eight) served as mayors in the 100 largest cities in the United States.”

Lightfoot has been strong from day one, making masterful political moves such as firing a senior police officer that many had not dared to touch. As the Chicago Sun Times reports: “… she fired the retiring police superintendent she had celebrated one month earlier after accusing Eddie Johnson “lying” to her and to the public about the circumstances surrounding an embarrassing drinking-and-driving incident in mid-October. From a practical standpoint, Lightfoot’s decision simply means Johnson is gone a month earlier than the Dec. 31 retirement date he announced in October. But, from a political standpoint, it’s a sea change”. So yes, while in power she has made sure that the establishment knows that she has the upper hand. 

While cities like Baltimore experienced a spike in crime during 2019, Chicago’s went down by up to 10%!

As the non for profit The Crime Report points out: “Crime in Chicago is down. Though it hasn’t returned to 2014 levels, compared to late November of last year, reported crimes are down by 10 percent. That decrease is driven partly by significant declines in property crime. Violent crime has fallen by 11 percent”. This is great news for the Windy City, which has often been singled out by Republicans as evidence of Democrat failure in government. Let’s not forget that mamy Obama aides and Obama himself learnt to do politics in the tough Chicago scene and the city is a somewhat safe Democratic bastion.

In a televised interview, Lightfoot outlined what she thinks are the reasons behind this positive drop in violent crimes.

Credit: CNN / YouTube

The Chicago Mayor told CNN that one of the reasons for the drop is the alignment of the different government departments in the city to guarantee public safety. But above all, she stated, was the work with what she called “community partners” while being “on the ground”. This is a very similar approach that the Obama-school of Chicago politics advocates for. She also credits the support that the city government has been giving to victims of crime. Lightfoot also singled out the use of complex technology that alerts police when there is a shooting so they can act faster. Technology is being deployed in the most violent areas of the city. There is a constant flow of information that can be sent to the field to track cars, victims and shooters. 

But there is still a lot to do and the situation in Chicago remains less than ideal, so come structural changes are being put in motion.

Credit: WBEZ

As The Crime Report sums up: “Chicago is on track to record fewer than 500 homicides this year, a 35 percent decrease from 2016. Even if Chicago returned to its 2014 murder rate, that would still be three times higher than the national rate”. There are other challenges faced by the Chicago police, such as the low number of solved homicides in the city. 

One of the most significant changes to law enforcement structures enacted in 2019 was a considerable increase in the number of detectives in the city. As the Associated Press reports, the Chicago Police Department “is beefing up its detective ranks and spreading them around the city in the hope that it can catch up to departments in other major cities that solve a far higher percentage of homicide and other violent crime cases”. Authorities are optimistic about this change, as the AP further reports: “Police officials said will get detectives to crime scenes more quickly and give them a better chance of finding witnesses to interview” and “the move will foster public trust in communities, particularly those with high crime rates , and will allow residents to regularly see the same detectives”.

Violent crimes are down, yes, but other offenses that affect communities are up, as reported by The Wall Street Journal: “A rise in carjacking across Chicago has spooked residents even as police celebrate a drop in violent crimes such as shootings and homicides”. So there is still a lot of work to do. 

Authorities Have Identified Gabriel Romero As The Person Who Killed Two People In The Pearl Harbor Shooting

Things That Matter

Authorities Have Identified Gabriel Romero As The Person Who Killed Two People In The Pearl Harbor Shooting

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All mass shootings are travesties. Whether they occur in a public place or a school, they always instill fear, sadness, and numbness mainly because they happen so often. When a shooting occurs on a military camp, it is just as daunting and debilitating because servicemen and servicewomen are there to protect and serve. Yet we also know they too suffer from an array of mental health issues simply because of their profession. The shooting at Pearl Harbor is another example of the gun violence crisis gripping this nation.

Officials have identified the U.S. sailor who killed two people and himself as 22-year-old Gabriel Romero. 

On Dec. 4 at around 2:30 p.m., authorities say that Romero began shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. He shot three Department of Defense workers at the Dry Dock 2 on the base, the New York Post reports. Two of the victims, both males, were declared dead later at the hospital. 

One witness said he saw the shooter and assumed he was a sailor “because he was in a sailor uniform.” He also reports, according to the New York Post, that he recognized the sound as gunfire and also witnessed the shooter shoot himself.  The third victim is currently recovering at a local hospital. 

While all the victims were working on the base, they are considered civilians, not military.

Credit: @nypost / Twitter

“These victims are not only dedicated [International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers] IFPTE union members, they are hard-working public servants who go to work each day to serve the taxpayers and our military forces. They are reflective of the thousands of workers at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere that go to work to earn a living and serve their nation,” the organization said, according to the Star Advertiser. “No worker should have to go to work without the expectation of safely returning to their family and loved ones.” One of the victims has been identified as 32-year-old Vincent Kapoi Jr., a local of Hawaii. The names of the other two victims have not been released. 

“We are saddened by this incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, said in a statement posted on Facebook. “The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is a vital part of our Navy ohana, and we have generations of families who work there. Our security forces are working closely with agencies investigating this incident, and we are making counseling and other support available to those who need it after this tragedy.”

Officials have not reported a motive by the shooter. At the time of the shooting, Romero’s duty was to guard the USS Columbia, a Pearl Harbor-based submarine that was in the drydock for maintenance at the time.

According to the Navy Region Hawaii, Base security, Navy investigative services, and other agencies are investigating the incident. However, Hawaii News Now is reporting that Romero had been ordered to take anger management classes. The outlet says that Romero “was having disciplinary problems at work,” and was instructed to seek help for his anger issues. 

Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, told reporters that he wasn’t sure if Romero knew the people he shot. Shipyard Commander Capt. Greg Burton did send a message to families of the victims, saying, “Looking ahead, we will honor the life and legacy of those lost,” Burton said, according to Hawaii News Now

“Even now, as we mourn the loss of members of our ”ohana, please take the opportunity to reconnect with each other and to reinforce and strengthen the bonds with each other.”

This Saturday marked the 78th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and elsewhere, including in San Diego.

Credit: @HeavySan / Twitter

“We still owe a great debt to the greatest generation,” Scott McGaugh, the marketing director for the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, said to the San Diego Tribune. There are very few of them left. When we honor these kinds of days it reminds all of us that our nation can come together and unify for the greater good. That was certainly the case in World War II.”

On Dec.r 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii, killing  2,335 military servicemen and women, and 68 civilians.  It is unclear if the Saturday anniversary event at Pearl Harbor will pay respect to the people who died this week. 

READ:  At 104 Years Of Age, Ray Chavez Hits The Gym He Can Visit Pearl Harbor