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Redemption: Cyntoia Brown Finds Her Voice

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Cyntoia Brown was supposed to spend 51 years in prison before she could even be considered for parole but her precarious case caught the attention of criminal justice reform activists, A-List celebrities and eventually Bill Haslam, the Governor of Tennessee. Upon learning of the details surrounding Brown’s case and calling on a higher power, the former governor granted Cyntoia Brown full clemency August 7, 2019, releasing the 31-year-old from the Tennessee Women’s prison.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

To say Cyntoia Brown’s life has been complicated is an understatement. Brown is a young, black woman sentenced as an adult to life in prison when as a teenager, she killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old man, who had solicited her for sex. Brown maintained she killed Allen in self-defense after he purchased her from a pimp and later appeared to be reaching for a gun to kill her. Prosecutors insisted Brown robbed and murdered Allen in cold blood.

Brown was supposed to spend 51 years in prison before she could even be considered for parole but her precarious case caught the attention of criminal justice reform activists, A-List celebrities and eventually Bill Haslam, the Governor of Tennessee.

Upon learning of the details surrounding Brown’s case and calling on a higher power, the former governor granted Cyntoia Brown full clemency August 7, 2019, releasing the 31-year-old from the Tennessee Women’s prison. Brown who once had given up hope after losing all of her appeals, had been granted “mercy” in a socio-political climate that readily demonstrates anything but mercy or empathy towards black women.

Brown, who strengthened her relationship with Jesus, found a God-fearing husband and the importance of education while in prison, set about to making her new lease on life count by continuing to do what she calls “God’s work” and share her story in order to help others.

One of the many ways Brown is sharing her story is through her book, Cyntoia Brown: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System (Simon and Schuster).

Brown’s book offers a detailed look at Brown’s life behind bars and her traumatic childhood, which Brown attributes to the unfortunate direction of her early life. When speaking with Brown, it is clear she is getting used to her newfound freedom and has not had the privilege of thinking too far into the future.

Her answers to the questions are short and to the point and focused on the past and the here and now. When asked what motivated her to write a book, Brown states matter-of-factly, “God.”

“I prayed and felt that it [writing the book] was necessary. God gives us testimony so we can share them and not so we can sit on them,” Brown offers. The discussion of time is a constant in Brown’s answers.

She is a young woman who has gone from having nothing but time with a life sentence, to a new world where everyone wants some of her time.

Brown has a clear understanding that time is of the essence and she has to capitalize on new-found fame and empathy if she is going to help young girls struggling in their young lives just as she had when turned out as a child.

How might her life have been different if she knew at a young age there was more for her? “I know that a lot of people have been through what I’ve been through, so I felt it was necessary for people to see representations of their own experiences,” Brown says. “They need to know there is help out there for them.”

Help that evaded Brown at every stage of her early life. Brown, whose birth mother drank during her pregnancy, giving up for adoption at age 2. Her adoptive mother provided a stable home, but Brown didn’t get the treatment or help she needed to address her issues with fetal alcohol syndrome and abandonment, leading to her life as a runaway.

As a runaway, Brown was drugged, beaten and sex trafficked by a pimp named, “Kut-throat.”

Brown, who received therapy and treatment to help cope with her traumatic childhood while in prison, found writing the book took her to some “dark places.”

“I thought I had done a lot of processing of my childhood, but once I was working with (co-author Bethany Mauger) and she was asking me questions, I had to go back into those moments and that was kind of tough some times,” Brown says quietly. “This is Bethany’s first book too,” she adds letting me know they both underestimated the effect going into those dark corners would have on their lives.

Brown had endeavored to write this book many times while in prison but couldn’t do it. She would start and stop. Start and stop again. The disappointment of losing all of her appeals and not having the judges find any mercy or compassion for her and all she endured as a child wreaked havoc upon her mind.

Always a believer [in Christ], Brown kept praying and asking for what she wanted and was not getting it, which was difficult to understand. Brown credits relinquishing control of her life to God with the freedom that would eventually come. “After I realized I had to give God complete control over my life, that’s when things started changing,” including her ability to write her book.

“I was at a church service and the minister had come around and was anointing everyone and she said God said write the book. I went back to the cell and I called my husband and I said what do you think? He said write the book,” she shares. “I started writing the book and it started flowing out of me. Within three months I had a manuscript.”

Brown’s story has been covered all over the news, social media outlets, criminal justice reform spaces, college campuses – you name it and #FreeCyntoiaBrown has been a topic of discussion.

When asked, what will people get from her book they haven’t already gotten from the media and she responds, “The full truth.” “For one, everything in the interview is very surface level, cleaned up and it’s not entirely correct,” she states. “You’re going to get the full truth. It goes a lot deeper than anything you’ve seen in an article. So many people have told me after reading the book, they got to experience it,” says the first-time author. It refers to the traumatic life she lived up until being sentenced to life after fighting for her life. “So many things affected me from the time in school, to the time in the facilities and you really get to walk through that journey with me.”

Readers will be able to fully step into the shoes of Brown and understand all of the things that had to happen for society to lock up and throw away the key on the life of a 16-year-old black girl who had seen the worst life has to offer from her beginning in the womb.

Despite the horrific acts that transpired in Brown’s young life, she is aware that some people think she should still be in jail and should not be forgiven. Brown who believes everyone is “entitled to their opinion,” knows she has to focus on telling her story to help the girls who are currently in the same position as she was as a teenager.

When asked what advice she would give to girls mired in the same dire circumstances she faced, she simply states, “I want them to know there is another side of life.”

The criminal prison reform advocate adds, “There were so many times when I felt there was nothing and nobody out here to help me. But, you have to allow yourself to be helped to get to the point to see there’s better for you and it’s possible. Know who you are in God. Know that he’s looking out for you even when you can’t see it,” says Brown, a free woman who has clearly found her voice.

Although she speaks energetically about God, change and submission to God’s will, Brown shies away from questions about movies or what movie star should play her in a movie about her extraordinary life.

Brown grows quiet, and says she has no idea. “I haven’t even thought about that,” she says, giving voice to the fact freedom is still new for her.

The here and now appears to be her safe place and criminal justice reform is where her attention resides. Brown’s sense of urgency is wrapped in her obedience to God, the need to help save others from the painful path she took as a child, the desire for redemption and the recognition that time waits for no one.

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COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.
The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Burl “The Coach” Jones, Sports Editor, Houston Forward Times

Recently, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban made a statement that Texas A&M bought every player they signed with NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deals.

Alabama came in second in recruiting this year. That has rarely happened since Saban stepped on campus at Alabama. He also stated that Jackson State University, an HBCU coached by Deion Sanders, signed the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal.

The NIL phenomenon was created in June 2021 by the NCAA. This allows athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image, and likeness. Previously, the NCAA made billions in revenue off the backs of college athletes. With the advent of the NIL, expect a shift in the landscape of college football recruiting.

Schools like Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma, have very rich boosters and alumni who have access to millions. They will come up with very creative ways to offer lucrative NIL deals to 5-star recruits. This apparently doesn’t sit well with Coach Saban, who is used to having his way, and getting most of the 5-Star recruits to sign with Alabama.

This will definitely level the playing field and gives schools like Texas A&M, that hasn’t won a National Championship in decades, a chance to recruit 5-Star athletes on a national level and could eventually lead to them winning a National Championship in the near future.

At least that’s what they hope in College Station.

As far as Coach Saban’s statement about Jackson State signing the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal is concerned, that was quickly debunked by Coach Prime, who immediately tweeted that he will address that lie. He followed that up with this statement:

“I haven’t talked to Coach Saban. I’m sure he tried to call. We need to talk publicly- not privately. What you said was public, that doesn’t require a private conversation. Let’s talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation.”

Coach Saban is speaking from a place of privilege and bigotry. He is used to having his way and getting the players he wants. How dare a little old HBCU such as Jackson State get the #1 recruit in the country? It’s a slap in the face to all HBCUs to insist that they must pay a Black kid to attend an HBCU.

Paying recruits is certainly not new; it has been going on for years.

Former Houston Texan Travis Johnson, who was a 5-Star recruit, recently stated that Alabama offered him six figures in 2000 when he was being recruited.

“Y’all were the NIL before the NIL,” he said.

Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.

Coach Saban needs to be concerned about that pipeline that he had in Texas, getting those 5-Star recruits to leave the state. That oil money in Texas will be keeping those boys at home. Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC in a few years and that will also influence Saban’s ability to recruit in Texas.

With all those factors coming into play, here is a bit of advice Coach Sabin:

SHUT UP AND COACH!!

“I’m just Telling It Like It Is!!”

The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th. Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head. Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people. It’s that simple and that sad. Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.
The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D., Houston Forward Times

Racism is a longstanding social illness in the United States of America. Seemingly, there is no cure for it.

It has been with us for as long as I can remember. The result of it has created heartache and heartbreak.

Lives have been lost and it has left the stain of disgrace on this country. Accomplishments, it could be argued, are sometimes overshadowed by our blatant disregard for some members of our beloved community.

I know for sure that racism will be around for as long as I live. It has been a part of my life experiences.

Unfortunately, and I say this with no pride, I have witnessed racism up close and personal.

I have been around long enough to watch the many levels of racism that exist in this country.

For example, we have had educational racism. Segregated schools were the norm until the case, Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka ended it.

Did that stop us from getting an education?

The answer is a resounding no!

Black colleges, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were founded in order that higher education was afforded to African Americans.

At this moment, HBCUs are the hottest and most talked about educational venue in the land.

Everybody wants to attend an HBCU. I am a graduate of an HBCU (Johnson C. Smith University), and I know the power and influence they have.

The right to vote has always been problematic for African Americans. It is a fundamental right for all Americans, according to the Founding Fathers.

The problem is that the ‘current fathers’ don’t see it that way.

Will that stop us?

The answer is another resounding no!

African Americans are now voting in record numbers and that trend will continue.

There are states in this union that are creating trumped-up rules to keep us from exercising our privilege at the polls.

Some in this country have taken racism below ground zero. There are people in our states who hate Black people and want to kill us.

That is a powerful statement, yet it is factual and true.

Interestingly, there are citizens who believe the opposite. I suspect their experiences are different, and they live in an almost contactless America.

If you are one of those people, pay close attention now.

Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th.

Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head.

Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people.

It’s that simple and that sad.

Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.

The victims were assaulted at a Tops Friendly Markets store and the victims ranged in ages from 20-86.

This crime of hate is unthinkable and was done with malicious intent.

The killer was not a Buffalo resident. He drove approximately 200 miles from Conklin, New York, to commit this heinous crime.

Gendron had already scouted out the place for his crime. He knew that many African Americans shopped at that location. That is sick beyond words.

According to reports, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “We found some things that show he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area.”

Gramaglia added, “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”

These statements were made by him to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Payton S. Gendron surrendered to police after this life-altering atrocity.

America, where are we headed? Only time will tell.

The post Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings appeared first on Houston Forward Times.

The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices

NNPA NEWSWIRE — A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.
The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The average price for a gallon of gasoline has hit record numbers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

This week prices rose nationally by four cents, and consumers wondered why the cost is so high.

A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.

“America has an abundance of resources right under our feet, and policymakers should send a clear message that America is open for energy investment,” Smith declared.

API noted that gasoline prices are determined by the supply and demand of crude oil and expenses for refining, distribution, retailing, and taxation. Those fundamental market realities drive prices at the pump, officials stated.

The main components of retail gasoline prices are the cost of crude oil, taxes, refining costs, and distribution and marketing costs, API officials stated.

Of those, the price of crude oil has the most significant impact – accounting for 56 percent of the cost.

“Because of this, changes in the price reflect the global cost of crude oil, which is influenced by current conditions and expectations of consumer demand, supply, inventories, geopolitical events, and other factors, generally have an effect on pump prices,” the organization stated in a fact sheet.

Further, federal, state, and local governments levy various taxes in fees on transportation fuels.

The nationwide average tax on gasoline is 57.09 cents per gallon, including a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and state-level taxes that range from 68.15 cents per gallon in California and 15.13 cents per gallon in Alaska.

API President and CEO Mike Sommers recently discussed the critical importance of American energy leadership “at a time of geopolitical volatility and rising energy costs around the world.”

Sommers urged policymakers to advance U.S. natural gas and oil production to support stability in global energy markets and ensure access to affordable, reliable energy for American consumers and our allies overseas.

“Most everyone knows that the world needs oil and natural gas in a big way and will for decades or more to come; the only question is where that oil and gas is going to come from,” Sommers remarked.

“As much as ever, we need to think hard about that economic truth and our energy future. That means recognizing energy from natural gas and oil as the critical strategic asset it is to America.”

“We can’t treat oil and natural gas as a kind of switch that is turned on or off to suit the moment,” Sommers continued.

“Production and delivery don’t work that way. Yet the overriding policy lately has been to cancel pipelines, block permits and deny leases – all things that discourage investment.

“As more Americans face the consequences of bad policy, the elements of good policy become that much more apparent and desired. We have an opportunity together to re-center the energy discussion with basic realities and good common sense as our starting point.”

Sommers called on the administration and Congress to develop a new five-year offshore leasing program; hold onshore leases on federal lands per the Mineral Leasing Act; approve LNG export applications and allow the approval of exports to non-free-trade-agreement nations, and craft transparent, consistent permitting regulations to enable the development of vital energy infrastructure.

The U.S. has pledged to increase LNG exports to Europe by 65 percent over the next six years.

How quickly could U.S. oil producers scale up production to put downward pressure on domestic gasoline costs?

What could the federal government do to promote that production?

API officials said it begins with access to resources, advancing infrastructure, and enabling – rather than deterring – the industry’s financing.

“Importantly, financial markets have become less hospitable to the natural gas and oil industry partly because of the Biden administration’s positions, policies, and signals,” API officials asserted.

“Those who have capital may be reluctant to invest in long-lived energy assets in such a climate, and a relatively fixed pool of cash flows that could be re-invested by industry have been increasingly spread thin.”

API listed four “concrete actions” the organization believes the Biden-Harris administration could immediately take to support American production.

They include conducting federal lease sales, completing a new five-year program for federal offshore leasing, supporting energy infrastructure, and reopening access to Alaska.

“The administration should reinstate the leases it suspended in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the permit development it approved in the National Petroleum Reserve,” API officials wrote.

“These were permitted with stringent environmental standards and could prove a significant source of domestic production over time.”

The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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