NEW Podcast Episode: DBW Loves Cyntoia Brown
Update 1: The Tennessee Supreme Court issues a unanimous decision that says defendants convicted of first-degree murder on or after July 1, 1995, and sentenced to life in prison become eligible for release after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison. This means Cyntoia is not eligible for parole until she’s served 51 years.
Dear Black Women is an affirmation movement for Black women by Black women, no matter where they are. Months ago, many of us learned about Cyntoia Brown, a young Black woman who is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Cyntoia is a victim of physical and sexual abuse for most of her childhood and in her early teens was forced into sex trafficking. At the age of 16, forced to prostitute by a pimp named "Kut Throat", she killed a 43 year old man who paid for sex. She shared on multiple occasions that this act was in self defense. Yet, she was sentenced to life as an adult. More on her story: PBS documentary, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story", also New York Times coverage here.
The pipeline to prison is rife with women like Cyntoia who face extreme challenges, abuse and neglect with very limited support and resources. We believe that Cyntoia, and the many women like her, deserves safety, rehabilitation and love. Not life in prison. Yet, in prison she is. We decided to have our affirmations, from women across the country, find her there. Read on and listen.
Affirmations Letters to Cyntoia Brown
Dear Cyntoia, Thank you. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for allowing the world to know of your existence, for being unapologetic in your right to self defense, and for continuing to wow us with the strength of your smile. I am reminded of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” when I hear of your story and see images of your composure and grace. Only you could walk in the shoes you are in. Salute.
I am My Sister's Keeper. I hope that you know that we are lifting you up, we are keeping your story alive, and we are making sure that we affirm you daily to remind you of the beautiful queen that you are.
Cyntoia Brown. You are a fighter. Part of being a Black Woman is forging ahead in the face of things that seem impossible to overcome. You protected yourself, and in doing so gave us all that much more courage to do the same when we are called upon to fight. Thank you. Lay your head down every night knowing you are in our hearts, that the fire burning in your soul keeps our souls alight.
Nothing is stronger than a woman who still stands after everything tried to break her. Prison is designed to break the spirit, don’t let it break yours for it is the spirit that stands tall when the body cannot. You are more than your past, you are a woman of strength that has the power to change the world. Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Fannie Lou Hammer... you are stronger than you know.
Sincerely, Your Sister In Love (Former Criminal Defense Attorney)
I’ve been meaning to write you for a few weeks now but I want you to keep your head up. You are a beautiful woman and I pray you receive justice and be freed! There are so many women who know about your story and feel for you. We are supporting you and sending prayers up! Thank you for standing up for yourself! I pray for your healing mentally, spiritually and physically. You deserve love, happiness, joy, peace, freedom, wealth, prosperity, and everything else you want out of life. Your life is not over, it will soon just be beginning. We love you!
Love, DaChana Blaydes
Dawn Hawkins, Indiana
I hear your story & think about women like Assata Shakur and Angela Davis. It is not easy being an example, but women like this are your sisters-- you are not alone. They imprison the body with hopes of breaking the spirit; don’t give them the satisfaction. Your spirit is beyond the injustice you are facing. Know that we love you. We think of you. We stand by you, wishing we had what it takes to break down those prison walls and set you free. We will not forget you. I hope you remain free in spirit.
With love, Dawn Hawkins
There is a community standing up with you, and others, who have been abused by the way things are. We know that the way things are is unacceptable and we are willing to put ourselves on the line to fight for change. May you enter this year with the energy to keep fighting for your humanity. We are here for you.
Dear Cyntoia Brown - though they've tried to render you invisible and silence your story, we see you. We hear you. We stand by you dear sister. As we all contend for your freedom, I pray that God's peace would guard your heart and your mind. We speak your name, we tell what we know of your story, because we remember you and treasure you in our hearts. Sending you so much love.
Flo, New York
Dear Cyntoia Brown,
Forces were against you before you were born. Generational pain passed on through you before you could even have a say. We know. We understand. We care. Despite all of this, there is a force within you that is enduring, a light within you that continues to shine. You are eloquent, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful and worthy of safety, love, joy, peace, support and healing. We want you to know that we see this, because we see you. We see you beyond the trauma, the pain, the prison sentence and the hell you've had to survive and continue to survive. We see you and we are rooting for you.
Johanne, New York
I love you even though we have not met yet, you are a light for us all. I am praying for your freedom so that you may continue to light the path for others in liberation. Much blessings to you queen.
You are WORTHY and DESERVING of EVERYTHING good! You are WORTHY and DESERVING of love and joy! You are WORTHY and DESERVING of peace of mind You are the embodiment of Gods’ love. We love you! We send you love and light! We send you encouragement! We are here behind you, waiting, praying and loving you! You are loved! Never ever forget that.
I just want you to know that you mattered before you were WRONGFULLY incarcerated and you matter now. I'm sorry that no one protected you and all of your magic. I'm sorry that I couldn't send you a love note when you were suffering before. This world hasn't given you a fraction of what you deserve, and for us black women I know this isn't new. But I want to name that you deserve more and you are worth so much more than just everyone's response to your circumstances. I want to name that our society has put you in a place to make your experiences and struggle invisible, but you are not invisible to us. We (black women) know you're in there, going through something different every day. And we hope that you can find moments of joy or at least content in a place no one should have to be in. I hope you have BW pen pals and even other women in there who have affirmed that your life matters and that you are loved.
With so much love, Natajah
Nikole Vargas, Michigan
You deserve love. I see you and know that you matter. I have no idea what it is like to be you, but I want to support you anyway that I can.
Ontonette, Washington, DC
Dearest Cyntoia! You are a STRONG, BRAVE, COURAGEOUS WOMAN! You are VICTORIOUS! For all that you have been through you have kept your will to live and I personally SALUTE YOU! I pray you feel all the love and support we have for you and that you know God is on your case no matter what it looks like.
Cyntoia, your story has ignited women all over the world who are now standing right next to you. Regardless of what happens know that you are not alone. We are all fighting for, praying for and supporting you however we can. The justice system may not value you but I do. It may not love you but I do. It may not want to best for you but I do. It may not see a young, beautiful woman who deserves the opportunity to live freely but I do. I see you Cyntoia, and I’ll never forget your name.
You are loved! You should not be in prison. You did nothing wrong and I'm so sorry that this is where you are. I'm so sorry for every wrongful hurt done to you. You're in my prayers. I pray that although your body is in prison, your mind and soul are free. I pray you are meditating on His word and finding great delight in it for His word is truth, light and the greatest love Jeremiah 15:16-17
T'la Nu Iam Neci
You are a beautiful light diety shining ur truth to unite womankind. A strong warrior that is unbroken by men and unfair justice. Your story keeps us pushing for better women's rights and respect.