For Cyntoia

This photo was taken during inmate Cynotia Brown’s incarnation in the Tenneessee Department of Corrections. Today, will be her release after 15 years served out of a 51-year sentence. Netflix has a documentary called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story.

*Cynotia Denise Brown is 31 years old.

She was sentenced to 51-years-to-life after murdering a john, after being put out on the stroll by a pimp named Kutthroat. After her backstory came to light, a (needed) movement began to get her free. After 15 years, she is free.


While in prison, Cyntoia has steadily improved her life. She has completed her high school education. Cyntoia has gotten a college degree from Lipscomb University. She has accepted the responsibility for what happened, and is making strides to make her life not just her own–but better! However, what I want to focus on is my wish for her going forward. These desires will be from the vantage point of a mother and big sister.

I want her to go outside the gates of this prison and feel the sun, all of the sun, on her face. I want her to look at her hands like Harriet Tubman did once she was free! I want her to have clothes that fit her well, and smell like Gain laundry detergent. I want her to have sneakers that make her feet feel secure and supported. I want her to close her eyes, remembering that the rest of her life is up to her. I want her to have this moment, and savor every second.

I want her to be protected from predatory media. I want her to be around people that love her, that will shield her from the biographers, photographers and the vultures of the internet.

I want her to take time to sleep in. To sleep late. I want her to have a King-sized bed with pillows, in a house with a tub and shower. I want her to begin to put her life together in such a way, in such a space, that she will remember how blessed she is! I want her to feel loved–by herself first! I want her to not do any book deals, give copious interviews for the first 6 months she is free.

I want her to rest. The thing most women, most Black women, never give ourselves the space or time to do.

I want her story, her life, to not be totally wrapped up in her life of sex work, her abusive upbringing and her incarceration. I want Cyntoia’s life to expand beyond trauma. I want that so bad for her. But what I desire for her is not that she fade away–but she have the privacy to rebuild. I want Cynotia Denise Brown to have the privacy to cry from relief, scream from suppressed rage! I want her to own her personhood again outside of a TDOC outfit, or ID card with a correlating number.

I want her to be able to breathe and be, without the whole world watching.

*There are many women like Cyntoia Brown whom are currently serving in the United States justice system. They, too, need support and guidance as it relates to navigating life during incarceration and post-incarceration. If you want to know how to help women like her and others, here are a few organizations which help women in prison. Click here for a the BUSTLE article for more details like:

-bail assistance

-donating hygiene products

-donate books or start a book drive


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