Recognize the name? I was one of the many people who rallied behind Cyntoia Brown after reading about her case and the protests for her clemency. I had all the intention of writing a letter to Cyntoia after the facility address was leaked online. But, let's just say...my intention was a bust. So, maybe *fingers crossed*, Ms. Brown will read this one day and know..I, too, along with Kim...along with Rihanna...Snoop...LeBron, never gave up and never stopped thinking about her...and definitely, never stopped fighting. Cyntoia Brown (pictured below at graduation), after almost 16 years, will be released next week as a free woman.
Cyntoia was sentenced to life in prison as a result of Nashville (TN) killing. Brown was abused and forced into prostitution and ended up killing one of her clients out of self-defense. Though only 16 at the time, she was tried as an adult and given a life sentence.
Last year, Ms. Brown’s story attracted widespread attention and she garnered support from many celebrities, such as the aforementioned. Lawmakers and rights activists highlighted the years of abuse and forced prostitution that she endured in her youth and lobbied the Governor of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam, to grant her clemency before his term ended.
Gov. Haslam granted Cyntoia's clemency on January 7th, 2019, stating this: "Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope."
Today, I thank you Mr. Haslam.
If you're reading this (or I'd like to think maybe it'll get around to you some day) Cyntoia, welcome home. I prayed for you so much...like I knew you. I rallied behind you so much...to fight for you. I thought about you so much....in hopes that one day maybe we'd cross paths. But who knows what the future holds for us...or for me. The most important thing is...girl, YOU ARE FREE. I can't imagine reintegration into society being easy...not when you were forced to leave at 16. I can't imagine that you can just pick up and get back what "could've been had" in you 20s. I can't imagine...that you will just enter our world and life will all of sudden will be...happy. I imagine...you still need healing. I imagine...you'll have to navigate this new life and sometimes, perhaps, you'll stop and think "Why me?" Maybe it'll get hard and you'll wonder "I can't do this." The reality is, though,...you can. Because we didn't fight for you because we "believed" you should be free. We fought.....I fought...because I am you...and you are me. And you, beautiful, deserve whatever life you want to come out here and have....you DESERVE...to be free. So, in those times when it gets rough...remember every person who fought for you...every black girl...just like you....we're counting on you...to be you...and to be happy.
When you're down, Cyn (can I call you Cyn?), here's what I did. Here's the email that I flooded Gov. Haslam's inbox with...and rallied all of my friends to also send...and kept re-posting. Read this...and be free. Welcome home baby.
SUBJECT: State of Tennessee vs. Adia R. Louden
Fri, Dec 14, 2018, 11:56 AM
My name is Adia R. Louden. Governor, I’m afraid...our country that we both call home...forgot about me. The country we both call home...has oppressed...and watched me live in isolation...when my soul wants to be free.
Years ago, I was attacked. Our country, they told me it was my fault...they told me life was about choices. But...it wasn’t my fault. And this life, the life I lived....that was not all on me. I am a victim. I was attacked...and I panicked. And I shot my abuser. I killed him, because I thought he was going to kill me.
Two years later, a jury convicted me. I was only 16...and there I was before a bunch of white faces sentencing me to first-degree murder and robbery...and later? Much worse-a life sentence. I was told I’d have possibility of parole....one day. I was told...one day I would POSSIBLY be free. I would just sit and think that this was my next slavery- no different than my abusers on the streets. My “one day” was going to be at least 51 years later before I could ever THINK about being free. My hopes in a cell, my dreams buried, my womb closed. America...didn’t love me. America...never loved me.
Governor Haslam...today, the decision for Cyntoia Brown’s clemency lies in your hands. The story you just read was hers, but it is also me. And before you leave your office in January 2019- I am making a humble, yet URGENT request that you grant Cyntoia the freedom that she deserves. Because I am her, and she is me.
And so I ask you...the same question Justin Lang did: how will you answer to this human rights violation that the state of Tennessee is committing by keeping her incarcerated? But most importantly...I ask you the same question the late President John F. Kennedy asked us- Ask not what your country can do for you...ask what you can do for your country?
Thank you for your time, and I hope...you fight the GOOD fight, Governor.
Cyntoia, welcome home.