Cyntoia Brown, a 30-year-old woman from Tennessee who has been imprisoned since she was 16 years old for killing the man who allegedly solicited her for sex, has just been served a life sentence. Cyntoia has been sentenced by the Tennessee Supreme Court to serve an additional 51 years in prison before she will be a free woman. This is a result of her year-long battle to overturn her initial conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery, and the subsequent sentencing of life in prison at 16 years old.
Cyntoia's life story has been nothing short of heartbreaking, as she was placed for adoption at two years old, where her journey was riddled by sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and substance abuse. As a teenager, she was sold into the treacherous world of sex trafficking by a 43-year-old pimp "Cut Throat" who forced her into prostitution where she was subjected to even more abuse. In the documentary about her circumstances Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story, she gives a glimpse into the paranoia that accompanies such a horrendous experience, making it impossible for viewers not to empathize with her situation.
Nonetheless, initially in 2004, during her adolescence years, she was tried as an adult for shooting her abuser who she thought would kill her first. The Root describes her accounts during the trial:
"She said there was always a gun pointed on her during her captivity. She said she was hit, choked and dragged. She feared for her own life, and she acted out of that fear."
Cyntoia has since served 14 years in prison.
Her story has caught the attention of many people, including celebrities who lobbied for her release such as Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna. Kim even backed her legal team affording her the same defense as O.J Simpson. CNN reports that she was granted a clemency hearing in May, when at first the Board of Parole could not reach a definite answer, and then later unanimously decided to have her complete 51 years before she is to be free.
Though I am no judge, it is hard to believe that it is constitutional for a woman with such a background of abuse at the hands of the slain be detained until she is about 69 years of age. The sentence itself seems excessive, cruel, unusual, and quite frankly it seems to be a message that the legal sentence is trying to send to Black women: you do not matter.
Though the district court pointed out she wasn't sentenced to "life without parole" and just a life sentence, it burns to know that a human life can be valued so little. Regardless of the undertone of defeat that this sentence bears, we must continue to uplift and validate each other in sisterhood. Cyntoia's life matters, and each day that she is imprisoned is a reminder of the struggle of power within the justice system.
Make no mistake, our voices are also powerful and we will keep her name on our lips, spreading her story, and expressing our outrage at this injustice:
YOU CAN'T SOLICIT SEX FROM A MINOR. and also YOU'RE CAN'T SOLICIT IF THE PERSON IS BEING FORCED INTO IT IN THE F… https://t.co/rbbcjNPGNq— Gay Chevara (@Gay Chevara) 1544208478.0
Adult Brock Turner only served 3 months for raping an unconscious woman because serving jail time would “ruin his l… https://t.co/oPbpZed7Sg— The Volatile Mermaid (@The Volatile Mermaid) 1544356269.0
There is no court in America that would try a 16 year old white girl as an adult, convict her and sentence her to 5… https://t.co/gnuhKKKEko— Bishop Talbert Swan (@Bishop Talbert Swan) 1544391486.0
#CyntoiaBrown is why we march — because women and girls should not be punished for surviving. Because women and gir… https://t.co/A4qoeWgChS— Women's March (@Women's March) 1544225950.0
All I want for Christmas is Cyntoia's release. #FreeCyntoiaBrown #FreeThemAll Send a letter of encouragement: Cyn… https://t.co/X7RVwH5yPb— Alyxandra Ackrite 🤘🏽 (@Alyxandra Ackrite 🤘🏽) 1544464860.0
Featured image by Jae S. Lee/AP via CNN.
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- Cyntoia Brown, sex trafficking victim, must spend 51 years in prison ... ›
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- Cyntoia Brown must serve 51 years before she's eligible for release ... ›
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- Cyntoia Brown, convicted of murder as a teen, must serve 51 years ... ›
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New Jersey native creating a life that she loves while living in gratitude. She loves using beauty, and fashion to create a balanced lifestyle while prioritizing wellness. A devoted fur mom, and a full-time lover of laughter. She is out for revenge against the darkness by being light, taking her own advice, traveling the world, and letting you know that you are so lit! Connect with her via IG @iamzaniah and please visit Zaniahsworld.com
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Many have wondered if one time is ever enough to see Queen Bey. Some argue yes. However, many of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, including myself, would disagree. Beyoncé's "Renaissance World Tour" is a universal yet varying experience for everyone who attends. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, the concert is "transcendent." For millennials, we have over two decades of her catalog that has served as the soundtrack for many of our lives and painted a personal portrait of our most coveted thoughts. Her music provides mental clarity and self-expression by serving as a universal language that has united fans from all walks of life through community, fashion, self-acceptance, and healing.
With a multi-layered approach to her artistry, just as she did on that winter day in December 2013 with the infamous digital drop of her self-titled album, she changed the game again on February 1, 2023, when she announced her world tour in support of Renaissance, her seventh studio album. Her cultural impact set the internet ablaze, with everyone trying to gather their coins, barter for presale codes, and figure out which cities to attend. The group chats were lit, and the Beyhive was stressed trying to get their hands on tickets.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
Unfortunately, I was in that number. As the concert dates passed by and the one in my city drawing near all roads led to disappointment. With time ticking on the day of the Miami show and less than two hours to spare, my wallet bit the bullet, and I purchased three last-minute tickets, costing roughly $700.00 a piece (including fees) for me, my 9-year-old and 16-year-old nieces in Section 121 at the Hard Rock Stadium. With 10 minutes before showtime, we eagerly awaited the Queen to take the stage. A sea of metallic fringes, cowboy hats, disco fans, and western boots were in full effect and filled the entire stadium.
As the lights dimmed, a flood of emotions instantly overtook my body. It continued with each note she belted, along with nearly 50,000 roaring fans. The reverberating sound of the music through the stadium transported me from one era of my life to the next. As a teen girl in her bedroom daydreaming about her first love to blossoming into an unapologetic Black woman who is still on a road of self-discovery while learning to lean into the power anthem of "You won't break my soul." For over two hours, and with each set, I felt joy, love, peace, and a commanderie with fellow concertgoers. It was therapeutic as I danced like no one was watching and sang as if I were alone in my bathroom mirror.
There were no bars held, and I realized at that moment, "Nobody can judge me but me." The "Renaissance World Tour" proved to be so vast, and my Black girl joy was re-invigorated. It was magnetic and liberating, and I had to attend again, but this time, I needed to be up close and personal; I needed to be on the floor. In the days that passed, I watched more social media clips in different cities and asked myself if I would really splurge again to attend another Renaissance show.
Photo courtesy of Dontaira Terrell
After all, this would be my thirteenth time (maybe more because I lost count) seeing Beyoncé live, whether she was on tour with Destiny's Child, as a solo artist, or doing a live appearance. I contemplated for a while, but it worked itself out on its own. I was gifted two tickets and the next thing I knew, I was off to LA to attend another Renaissance show with floor seats at SoFi Stadium during Beyonce's 42nd birthday weekend! This time, things were different: no kids were allowed. It was adults only this go round.
Although the energy at the Miami and Los Angeles shows was empowering, infectious, and a celebration of life, happiness, and identity, they each provided their own unique experience. However, both concerts were what I needed for my well-being, leaving me with sore feet from dancing the night away, on vocal rest for the next few days from screaming at the top of my lungs, and on an indefinite high on life.
My introduction and love for Beyoncé began in 1996, while my older sister lived in Houston, TX, right before Bey hit the scene in 1998 with "No, No, No" as a budding R&B member. Her evolution twenty-seven years later as an international superstar and into womanhood has been an incredible journey to witness. As Mrs. Carter reminds each of us in the audience every night before the curtain closes, "I want you to remember this moment, where you're standing, who you came with, and take it with you. I hope you feel inspired."
I truly felt inspired, so thank you, Queen Bey. You awakened my inner child, and I will definitely remember these moments and take them with me.
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Feature image by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood