This piece is highly opinionated based on my exact thoughts and feelings at the event.
Clark Atlanta University served as a flagship stop for the newly released “#FreeCyntoia” autobiography, written by Cyntoia Brown, a 31-year-old woman who spent the last 15 years of her life incarcerated (released just 3 months ago) for murdering a man in self-defense.
Interviewed by HeadKrack of Dish Nation in crowd of nearly 300 students and faculty members, Brown and HeadKrack discussed her upbringing, incarceration story, and plans for the future in a seemingly uncomfortable and invasive matter for Brown and the audience.
Animated and lively from the very start of the interview, HeadKrack started the energy off right by leading the audience in applause and appreciation for Brown’s presence. HeadKrack then went through the main points of Brown’s life and the novel to better familiarize the audience.
In the midst of providing general information, HeadKrack attempted to bring comedic notes to Brown’s story such as stating: “you were wildin’ at 16, for lack of better words,” “Are you excited for Thanksgiving? Will there be ramen there?” and finished off the interview with “If you had to do this all over again? Would you?”
Brown spent her entire time incarcerated fighting for clemency, after realizing that systematic obstacles contributed to the complexity of her story. Initially Brown struggled with being biracial and adopted by black parents. Despite the attempts of her parents to provide her with a quality upbringing, Brown grappled with issues in faulty school systems.
In times of rebellion, Brown went against her parents religious and structured ways of life. When she rebelled in classroom settings, her zero-tolerance school system pushed her into alternative schools, Brown accredits this to her “feeling like she did not belong, because she was adopted, because she was mixed...and just wanted to belong.”
“From a young age, I started having ‘attitude problems’ I guess you could call it and whenever I would get in trouble it would be easy for the school to just remove me, with in school suspension or being suspended all together from school. When my mom would come ask for help from the school, they’d tell her to ‘just take me home,’ so it was always easy for me to be pushed aside,” Brown stated.
Shortly after being removed from public school, Brown attended alternative school and began to hang with crowds of conflicted teens with criminal records and on their way to get records, according to Brown.
This led her to runaway habits and involvement with her first love “Cutthroat” who turned into her pimp, and forced her to meet and sleep with other men for money at the age of 16. This work is what led Brown into murdering Johnny Allen in fear for her life.
Noting Brown’s series of traumatic life events, most would assume that her transparency regarding a nationwide book tour would provide environments of comfortability to answer any withstanding question, but HeadKrack provided just the opposite.
As an audience member who closely relates to the issues within the incarceration system, I was offended on behalf of Brown. HeadKrack’s insensitivity to Brown’s newly gained freedom and traumatic experiences both inncared and in her past completely went against the type of environment an HBCU should have provided her.
The interview served as a poor representation of Dish Nation, HeadKrack, Clark Atlanta University, and the Mass Media department that specifically worked to establish the event for her.
Being in a black space of education, as a black woman was Brown’s opprotunity to connect with sexual assault surviors, victims of the incarceration sysetm, and those who symplay empathize with her story of triumph. Yet, despite upholding a calm demeanor, there were moments of clear distaste in Brown’s facial expressions.
It was a very unfortunate series of events to see Brown enter a black space, interviewed by a black man, and was continuously disrespected by him after just overcoming a lifetime of disrespect and maltreatment from men.
While it was an honor to hear Cytnoia’s truth, it was painful to see her undergo scrutiny in a setting that was made to appreciate and acknowledge her.