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Cyntoia Brown-Long, speaker (photo credit-Flip Holsinger)

 

Arrested at the age of 16 for killing a man who solicited her for sex, tried as an adult, and sentenced to life in prison, Brown-Long served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence

 

New Friends New Life (NFNL) announces Cyntoia Brown-Long, a sex trafficking survivor and advocate for criminal justice reform, will headline the New Friends New Life Annual Luncheon on Friday, September 18 at 11:30 a.m., at the OMNI Dallas Hotel, 555 S. Lamar St. Event co-chairs are NFNL Board of Directors Members Jane A. Rose and Jessica Turner-Waugh. Community advocates Elizabeth and Eric Gambrell will be recognized as honorary chairs.

Arrested at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown-Long was a juvenile sentenced as an adult to life in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She served 15 years before receiving a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  The author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System and the subject of a documentary about her life, Brown-Long is passionate about shining a light on the injustices faced by women and children in American prisons.

“New Friends New Life is honored to bring Cyntoia Brown-Long to Dallas to share her message of survival, hope, and transformation and to create greater awareness of the injustices faced by trafficking victims,” said Kim Robinson, CEO, NFNL.  “While we have made great strides in the way lawmakers and society view those forced into modern-day slavery, there is much work to be done, and it is critical that we continue having these conversations.”

“Cyntoia’s message illustrates the need for constant evaluation and courageous change within our justice system to support sex trafficking victims who are facing a myriad of extenuating circumstances that leave them trapped in this illegal industry,” stated Luncheon Co-Chair Jane A. Rose.

“Knowing that the average age that a girl is trafficked in the United States is 15 years old, it is imperative that our community understands that the prevention and intervention models provided by New Friends New Life are critical. Without these support systems in place, any of the 400 girls trafficked in Dallas every night could end up with a story as harrowing and unfathomable as Cyntoia’s, or even worse,” Luncheon Co-Chair Jessica Turner-Waugh added.

Brown-Long was born to an alcoholic, teenage mother who was also a victim of sex trafficking. When her birth mother realized she could no longer care for her, she was adopted by a loving mother; however, she struggled throughout her childhood, heavily influenced by the world around her. A sense of isolation, low self-esteem, and alienation drove her straight into the hands of a predator, and she was trafficked during her early teenage years. At age 16, she was arrested for killing a man who solicited her for sex. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 51 years. Her trafficker was never arrested. In prison, Brown-Long’s life took a dramatic turn when the prison education principal took her under her wing and introduced her to a spiritual path. She encouraged her to build a positive life in prison and to resist the negative influences that lead to despair. While in prison she earned her GED, an associate and a bachelor’s degree, both with a 4.0 GPA, from Lipscomb University. Her journey includes a PBS documentary about her life, a profound encounter with God, an unlikely romance (now her husband – musician and entrepreneur Jamie Long), and, eventually, a commuted sentence by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  She received unprecedented national and international support from social media advocates, pastors, and celebrities and was released from prison in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 7, 2019.

Her memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System (Atria Books), written while in prison, documents her early years and the 15 years she was incarcerated and takes readers on a coming-of-age spiritual journey.  Set against the shocking backdrop of a life behind bars and the injustice of sentencing sex-trafficked juveniles as adults, Brown-Long struggled to overcome a legacy of birth-family addiction and a lifetime of being ostracized and abandoned by society.

Brown-Long and her husband, Jaime, founded the Foundation for Justice, Freedom, and Mercy. In January 2020, the Vera Institute of Justice recognized Brown-Long as one of the Best of Justice Reform honorees.  She is also a 2020 Nominee for the NCAAP Literary Image Award and has been featured as a guest columnist for The Washington Post. Brown-Long is a volunteer mentor to young girls through Epic Girl, a program in Nashville that empowers girls to reach their full potential through educational programs, mentoring, counseling, and community activities.

The team at New Friends New Life is monitoring the status of COVID-19 within the community and is working in full compliance with the OMNI Dallas Hotel regarding limited seating capacity and multiple additional CDC safety measures.

Underwriting sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,500.  A limited number of individual tickets at $250 each and above will be made available in August. To reserve your table, please contact Bianca Jackson, 214-217-8650, visit www.newfriendsnewlife.org/luncheon or email events@newfriendsnewlife.org.

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About New Friends New Life:
Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1998, New Friends New Life (NFNL) restores and empowers formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teen girls and children. By providing access to education, job training, interim financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support, New Friends New Life helps women, teen girls and children overcome backgrounds of abuse, addiction, poverty and limited opportunities. In 2019, NFNL served 372 members (clients). NFNL also educates the community and works to eradicate the epidemic of human trafficking through advocacy, legislative reform and strategic partnerships that address systemic causes. In 2018, NFNL opened a drop-in Youth Resource Center (YRC) in partnership with the Office of the Governor to serve trafficked and high-risk teen girls. More than 100 girls visited the YRC during its first year. In 2015, NFNL organized its Men's Advocacy Group to engage men in the fight against sex trafficking and exploitation. For more information, visit http://www.newfriendsnewlife.org.

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