FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Chelsea Fuller, Chelsea@teamblackbird.org, Troy Blackwell Troy.Blackwell@berlinrosen.com
NASHVILLE, T.N. —After more than 14 years, Brown, who was incarcerated for fatally shooting a man who bought her for sex, assaulted and abused her when she was 16 years old, will be returning home before the end of the year. Haslam’s decision came after weeks of actions led by a coalition of organizations and supporters who created a national campaign urging Haslam to make the decision he made today. Leaders of the coalition have released the following statements:
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center.
“People said it was impossible and that Cyntoia Brown didn’t stand a chance. Many felt that she was doomed to fall through the cracks of a ‘criminal justice’ system that is working exactly as it was designed. But today, after more than a decade in a cage and after years and months of fighting for her freedom, we learned that she will finally receive full clemency. This announcement comes with many lessons. One is that nothing is impossible when people of good will in pursuit of justice fight together. We can get our people free from the cages that bind them. Political prisoners can come home, and there’s power in multi-tactical strategies being moved by coalitions. This is proof that we can win big when we come together. Today’s announcement is a victory for Cyntoia, her family and loved ones, those who fought tirelessly for her and for others in similar situations who have given up hope. Liberation is possible and it’s within reach. We just have to keep fighting.”
“We know there are other cases like Cyntoia’s that deserve our attention and commitment to action. We know that policies need to be changed so this never happens again. We know that Cyntoia being on parole for ten years, when she never should have been sentenced this way in the first place, is a miscarriage of justice. But today we’re simply grateful that she gets to come home. We’re sending radical love to the great cloud of witnesses around the nation and the world who helped get Cyntoia Brown full clemency. When we fight, we win.”
Brittany Paschall, Organizer Black Lives Matter Nashville
“Cyntoia Brown should have never seen the inside of a cage, but today she was granted her well-deserved clemency. Today is a just a glimpse into a world in which all Black lives matter, a world in which Black women and girls are free. It is in this world that none of our people are criminalized, especially not for defending themselves against people threatening to harm them. We join in the celebration of this victory alongside her, her family, and all of those who made today possible. We offer gratitude to our ancestors and those before and beside us in this work. And we commit ourselves more fully to our continued struggle for liberation. We will win.”
Tarana Burke, Founder and Leader of The ‘me too.’ Movement
“Today is a day that we fought for, but didn’t know if we’d ever see. The fact that Cynotia will not have to spend another year behind bars is something that should bring hope to other women and girls in similar situations, who have been told that their lives, their bodies and their humanity don’t matter. If Cyntoia’s life matters than your does too. If she can come home after having spent half of her young life behind bars for daring to defend herself against sexual violence, than you can be free too. We’re sending love and support to Cyntoia and her family and friends who are preparing for her return. But we also know that this victory is one battle in a longstanding war. We have to keep fighting to protect people, especially Black and Brown women and girls and people of color from sexual violence and criminalization. We have to keep talking about sexual violence as a residual effect of systemic oppression, and it’s our responsibility to continue creating opportunities to work in coalition with other movements, allies and supporters to dismantle the systems that allow young women like Cyntoia to lose their freedom for trying to protect their lives.”
Clarise McCants, Criminal Justice Campaign Director at Color Of Change
“Today’s decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown is a step in the right direction that finally gives recognition to Cyntoia’s dignity and humanity. This would not have been possible without the leadership of Nashville organizers and an outpouring of support from the thousands of concerned people that called and wrote to Governor Haslam, wrote to their elected representatives, partook in the Clergy Day of Action, and wrote letters to Cyntoia — all these efforts and those from over the past decade resulted in the Governor’s action.
Despite today’s victory, more work still needs to be done. Black and brown girls are continually criminalized for simply surviving, and it is unacceptable that Cyntoia’s history of abuse was ignored when she was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison. And it is equally unacceptable that she now still faces 10 more years of parole when she shouldn’t have been in prison at all. Everything she’s been put through is a miscarriage of justice. There are more Cyntoia Brown’s in this country, and we will continue to support and fight for the protection of survivors and pressure prosecutors and judges to end the practice of criminalizing young Black children before they have a chance to thrive.”
For more information about Cyntoia’s clemency or to speak with the leaders quoted above, please contact Chelsea Fuller, firstname.lastname@example.org or Troy Blackwell, Troy.Blackwell@berlinrosen.com
Black Lives Matter Nashville is a local chapter of the Black Lives Matter Network. The Black Lives Matter Network is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black liberation movement.
The ‘me too.’ Movement is a global network of survivors and allies fighting against the systemic issues that allow sexual violence to persist in our communities. Rooted in the theory of “Empowerment through Empathy,” The ‘me too.’ Movement centers the needs and experiences of survivors in all its work, with the ultimate goal of ending sexual violence and increasing access to resources and services that will enable survivors to create the healing journeys they need and deserve.
The Highlander Research and Education Center is the nation’s preeminent social justice training and leadership center, serving as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the U.S. South.
Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by over one million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. Visit www.colorofchange.org.