Hysom Zarroug

Free At Last: Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week

Hysom Zarroug
Free At Last: Cyntoia Brown Will Be Released From Prison Next Week
 

Free At Last: Cyntoia Brown

Cyntoia Brown is a victim of a racist and flawed system. It’s no secret that prisons were designed to uphold the oppressive institution known as slavery while funneling endless streams of money into an already capitalist-centric society. And you can run but can’t hide from the fact that blacks are much more prone to harsher sentences than their white counterparts. It is what it is. 

In 2004, the state of Tennessee sentenced Brown to life in prison for fatally shooting a 43-year-old Nashville man who purchased her for $150 in exchange for sex. On August 7, 2019,  Brown will walk out of the confines of hell and reintroduce herself into society, precisely eight months after former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted the 31-year-old clemency following years of pressure from the public and a number of celebrities, including Rihanna, LeBron James and criminal justice reform advocates.

At the very least, Brown reacclimating into society after being robbed of 15 years will be an uphill battle. Sadly, it’s a fight all too common for those of color. In 2011, I became privy to Brown’s story after watching a documentary by USC professor Dan Birman titled, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.” It explained a painful and tumultuous upbringing faced with hardships that most could never fathom. Forced into sex slavery by a pimp named “Kut Throat,” Brown met Johnny Mitchell Allan, a real estate agent, at a local restaurant. After taking the 16-year-old to his home, Allan began showing Brown his collection of firearms while detailing his experience serving in the military as a sharpshooter. Later in the encounter, Brown said she grew fearful of the older man and shot him while he was in bed, as he appeared to reach for a gun. In many cases, this act would be deemed self-defense. Sadly, that defense doesn’t necessarily exist when your skin has a tad bit more melanin. 

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Despite a harsh and unjust sentence, Brown used the time to advocate for herself, working to obtain an associate degree before earning her bachelors from Lipscomb University as a part of the LIFE program -- which provides college level courses for young  women at the Tennessee Women’s prison. Upon her release, she plans to continue helping people in situations akin to her own.