Dear Sprint Fam--
Happy Valentine’s Day! Since today is a day when many of us choose to celebrate the love in our lives, it felt like the right time to reach out and share with you more about Sprint and the deep love that lies at center of this work.
A year ago, right around this time I visited Ghana to bury my last living grandparent, my grandmother Afua Fobi Duffuor. Each night, after a day full of funeral activities, I’d lie awake writing as if I was possessed. Eventually, those writings took the form of Sprint. During that time, I penned two very important letters:
One was to the three men that raped me when I was 17, photographed that rape, and shared photos of that rape with my peers while we were students at Duke University. Another, was to a woman named Crystal Mangum who, earlier that same year, had accused three wealthy, white Duke lacrosse players of rape at an off-campus party and found herself at the center of a national media frenzy--ostracized, villainized, and--it seemed to me at least--silenced. For years, her very public case, its eventual dismissal, and her mistreatment throughout all of it stuck with me. I watched her labeled as a “false rape accuser” and, at the time, it provoked a deep fear in me to say anything about what I’d experienced. From what I saw, I was convinced me no one would believe me, and that I would be the one put on trial for what I’d endured. Almost a decade later, in the throws of my writing Sprint, I penned a poem called “Crystal,” inspired by her resilience, and I wanted her to read it.
I learned that if I wanted to Crystal to read it, I would have to send it to the Southern Correctional Institute in Troy, NC where she was serving a 14-18 year prison sentence for second-degree murder.
This is #WhyWeSprint
Almost five years after gaining notoriety in the “Duke Lacrosse Scandal,” Crystal was tried and incarcerated after stabbing her then-boyfriend in self-defense during a physical altercation in which he’d threatened to kill her. Sadly, he died while under the care of Duke Hospital. Despite having a strong case for self defense, Crystal’s reputation as a deranged and duplicitous “false rape accuser,” resulted in inadequate legal defense and a murder conviction that has kept her imprisoned and apart from her three beautiful children for six years.
Since working on Sprint, I have had the deep honor of getting to know Crystal--first sharing my poem, then more of my work and more of my story with her, and her sharing more of who she is, her dreams, her heartbreaks with me in return. Not only does Crystal’s story powerfully intersect with my own, but it speaks volumes to a larger issue about the criminalization of women of color survivors of sexual and physical violence with limited access to social capital--Black and Brown women, trans women, immigrant women, poor women, sex workers--the list goes on.
This is #WhyWeSprint
Thinking of so many women in a similar situation as Crystal languishing behind bars reminds me of an Alice Walker quote I’ve seen circulating on social media recently:
“We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. And if they are thrown away, it is our duty as artists and as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children, and, if necessary, bone by bone.”
Too many of our leaders-- those who we need to hear from about how we disrupt deeply entrenched cycles of abuse, those among us with the perspective and resilient spirits to be our greatest teachers--are behind bars. As we witness the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns--we are reminded that rape culture, patriarchy, and systemic violence thrive on shame and silence. We are also reminded that the media representations of these campaigns tell a limited story that erases a long legacy of silence breakers who have been met with criminalization rather than celebration. And, we know that the criminalization system does not and has never served our survivors. Love, truth, and connection serve our survivors
That is why today, on Valentine’s Day, I want to share with you the love story that has been the fuel to my fire for this project, and to invite you to share in to love with me. Let us form a loving and powerful circle of support around Crystal.
In the coming weeks, you’ll hear from me about ways that we can show up for Crystal and similarly situated criminalized survivors. Here are four ways we’ve come up with (and we’re so open to hearing more):
Send Crystal a Letter. I’ll host a letter-writing event the evening of Friday, March 2, 2018 for Crystal where we can break bread and pen some love letters. Please save the date. Logistics to follow! If you can’t make it but still want to send a letter, shoot me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send instructions.
Donate your miles - Indigo and I are determined to visit Crystal in March. We have not had a chance to meet in-person yet, and she awaits our visit. It is critical that Crystal’s voice is included in Sprint, and we hope to get there soon without spending the money we fundraised for filming and compensating our artists. Thus, we are requesting donated miles through United, Southwest, Delta, or Virigin to get us there on March 17 & March 18. If you or someone you know has miles to spare from any of these airlines, please let us know ASAP with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Representation - Crystal is incarcerated in North Carolina and in need of legal representation for her case. If you have any leads on criminal defense attorneys in the area who may be sympathetic to this case, please refer to email@example.com
Funding - Any donations made today (2/14) and thereafter to Sprint’s GoFundme page will be directed towards Crystal’s commissary and/or legal fees.
Last time I checked, our community helped us raise $5,000 in just one month to make this project happen, and filming is now underway thanks to y’all! I have every confidence that together, with love in our hearts, we can get shit done. If Sprint is a movement, it is an anti-criminalization movement. It is a healing movement. It is a loving movement. It is a movement of individuals who see art as a vehicle for creating the realities our communities deserve.
This is #WhyWeSprint
This Valentine’s Day, please accept my deep appreciation for all the love you’ve shown us in this work, and for your continued support as we fight and love hard together. Let’s get Crystal home.
Nana and Sprint Film Team