One bride broke with tradition in an absolutely charming way: Lyndsey Raby decided to eschew societal expectations of having young children as her flower girls and ask her four grandmas to take on the role instead.

The Tennessee-based bride asked her two grandmothers, her great-grandmother, and her new husband Tanner’s grandmother to be co-flower girls for her big day on September 22.

90-year-old Kathleen Brown, 70-year-old Joyce Raby, 76-year-old Wanda Grant, and 72-year-old Betty Brown all stepped up to the plate, wearing matching blue lace dresses with jackets.

They carried little white bags filled with white rose petals to scatter down the aisle at the wedding ceremony, which was held at Ocoee Crest in Benton, Tennessee.

Wedding photographer Natalie Caho captured a selection of touching images from the big day, which show all the flower girls are beaming with joy.

“When Lyndsey told me she was having her grandmothers as her flower girls, I was not expecting the level of sass that these girls brought!” Caho told Insider.

“Their energy all day was that of a little girl who is in the same position and they had so much fun all day being such a big part of Lyndsey’s day and sharing the spotlight with her.

“It truly just goes to show that age is just a number.”

“I’ve seen a lot of cute flower girls in my day … but these four gals take the cake,” Caho wrote on Instagram alongside an image of the flower girls with the bride.

Raby told HuffPost that she knew she wanted to involve her grandmother in her big day as soon as she got engaged.

“I felt so blessed to have them all here so I wanted them to be involved too,” she told the news site.

“I do believe they were more excited than my bridesmaids,” Raby said, adding that she encourages other engaged couples to give their grandparents roles in the wedding party.

“It means so much to them and it will mean so much more to you,” she said.

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If all goes well for her, this Nigerian immigrant Zulfat Suara a candidate for at-large member of the Nashville Metro Council in Tennessee, US will become the first muslim to become a lawmaker in the state.

Nigerian Woman Zulfat Suara Set To Become The First Muslim Lawmaker In Tennessee, US

Suara will be running in the general runoff election on September 12, 2019, after advancing from the general election on the 1st of August.

According to TN Holler, Zulfat is one of the 15 candidates running for 5 at-large seats on the Metro Council in the August election.

The report added that she’s the first Muslim woman to have ever run for any position in the state of Tennessee, running in 2014 in Bolivar for school board.

If elected, she’ll be the first Muslim lawmaker ever elected in Tennessee.


"MEET ZULFAT SUARA – Candidate for Metro Council At-Large"

NEW VIDEO: "MEET ZULFAT SUARA, Candidate for Metro Council At-Large" — Zulfat would be the first Muslim EVER elected in Tennessee. She has persevered through intense hate online, just endorsed by the Tennessean. (Boost Paid for By Friends of Zulfat Suara, Samar Ali – Treasurer) "I believe we're one humanity – we breathe the same, we hug the same, we smile the same." – ZulfatPlease watch and share. For more on Zulfat, visit her website: https://zulfatsuara.com – ELECTION DAY AUGUST 1

Posted by The Tennessee Holler on Monday, July 22, 2019

Cyntoia Brown was only 16 when she was sentenced to life in prison after shooting the 43-year-old man who tried to rape her.

By next Wednesday, 31-year-old Cyntoia Brown will be freed from prison. After spending 15 years in Tennessee Prison for Women, Brown’s sentence was commuted by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in Januaryand she will be able to fully enjoy her freedom on August 7.

“I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace,” Brown said in a statement.

“Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years. I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day. I love all of you and will be forever grateful.”


Brown’s case made huge waves in 2017 when celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian spoke about how tragic and unfair her story was. A PBS documentary kicked off years of advocacy for Brown’s release.

In January, Haslam admitted that the sentence was too harsh and granted her clemency before he left office.

“Imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life,” Haslam said.

Brown was a runaway who had been repeatedly abused physically and sexually by men in her life. At the time, she was living with a pimp who was sexually assaulting her while forcing her to prostitute herself for money. She was sold in a Burger King parking lot to Nashville realtor Johnny Allen, who was acting erratically and repeatedly approached her menacingly after raping her in his home.

Allen repeatedly showed her all of the guns in his home and, fearing for her life, she shot Allen in the head as he stood over her. Brown repeatedly said she was acting in self-defense.

Despite being underage and having a history of sexual assault, local news outlets at the time portrayed Brown as been dishonest while trying to protect Allen’s reputation. She was given a life sentence in 2004 and subsequent court cases repeatedly shot down her attempts to reduce her sentence.

Brown was only 16 when she was sentenced to life in prison after shooting the 43-year-old man

Brantley Hargrove@BrantHargrove

Some context: https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/article/13037415/for-a-teens-impulsive-unthinkable-act-cyntoia-brown-got-an-adults-life-sentence-was-justice-served 

Life Begins at Sixteen

For a teen’s impulsive, unthinkable act, Cyntoia Brown got an adult’s life sentence. Was justice served?


Brantley Hargrove@BrantHargrove

If you’re wondering how a 16 year old black girl gets a shockingly lengthy prison sentence for shooting her white, 43-year-old john…

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As more people heard about what actually happened to Brown, dozens of internet campaigns were started to help secure her release from prison. Activists were initially worried because Tennessee’s ultra-conservative Supreme Court decided to uphold her sentence, saying she had to serve five decades to be eligible for parole.

“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me,” she said in a statement in January.

“I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.”

During her time in prison, Brown has been a model citizen, even getting her Bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University in May. There is a GoFundMe that has been started to provide Brown with financial support as she transitions out of prison life. She will remain on parole for at least another 10 years.

“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said.

“My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”



Credit: blavity.com

David Byrd is known around the Tennessee capitol as “Coach.” It’s a throwback to the 24 years he spent coaching the Wayne County High School girls basketball team, before he was elected state representative in 2014. Byrd is such a beloved figure in his hometown of Waynesboro that the high school dedicated the basketball court in his name. He was re-elected for the second time with 78% of the vote last year — even after three women came forwardwith stories about how Byrd made sexual advances against them when they were teenagers and he was their coach in the 1980s.

One of the women, Christi Rice, revealed a recording she made of Byrd apologizing to her in a phone call. “I’ve punished myself so much for that,” Byrd said in the recording, though he doesn’t explain what he means by “that.” As the women came forward last March, Byrd did not explicitly deny the allegations against him. Instead, he issued a statement at the time noting that he hadn’t done anything wrong while in office, and said people should “question the motives of these three former students out of the hundreds of students I have coached.”

“Conduct over 30 years ago is difficult, at best, to recall, but as a Christian, I have said and I will repeat that if I hurt or emotionally upset any of my students I am truly sorry and apologize,” Byrd’s statement said. “I do not believe either of these ladies can show that they made a report to the authorities or received any subsequent mental health counseling for what they have alleged but, again, if my acts or omissions cause them distress I am truly sorry.” Byrd did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Many public officials accused of sexual misconduct in the past two years either resigned or were voted out of office, events often celebrated as evidence of the power of victims coming forward. But for Byrd, a Republican from the most pro-Trump county in Tennessee, the situation has displayed a dramatically different scenario. Not only has Byrd stayed in office, he has enjoyed vocal defenses from multiple GOP colleagues. The American Conservative Union, the group best known for hosting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, gave Byrd an award in February. (The group did not return Teen Vogue’s request for comment.) As a reporter waited in a hallway earlier this year to ask Byrd about the allegations, Kent Calfee, a GOP lawmaker, stopped to point out that Byrd “got re-elected by a huge number,” and asked, “Why don’t y’all get off of him?” Calfee did not return Teen Vogue’s request for comment.

Byrd was promoted to chair of an education subcommittee in January. When a group of female activists showed up at a committee hearing in February to protest Byrd’s promotion — each holding 8.5 by 11 inch pieces of paper in front of their chests with statements like “Resign Byrd” and “Survivor Against Byrd” — they were chastised by Jerry Sexton, a Republican state representative who also didn’t respond to a request for comment. “I think it’s a shame that you can pick certain individuals to pick out and demean,” Sexton said to them before state troopers escorted the women out of the hearing.

The activists, who were working with the Enough is Enough Voter Project, believe that a large reason why Byrd has not resigned is because of Glen Casada, who announced on Tuesday, May 21, that he plans to step down as Tennessee’s Speaker of the House in light of a controversies involving lewd and racistbehavior by one of his top aides and after a vote of no-confidence from his party. Casada ran ads through his political action committee last fall calling the accusations against Byrd “fake news.” He was captured on video in February downplaying the allegations against Byrd, and stated, “if I was raped, I would move.”

“Casada basically propped Byrd up,” Rice, one of Byrd’s accusers, told Teen Vogue. “I really feel like he would’ve resigned if not for him.” She has said that when she was 15, Byrd touched her inappropriately and kissed her multiple times, and told her he wanted to see her naked. Rice told her story to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in a private meeting in March, but he has refused to say what he thinks about Byrd.

The fact that Byrd remains in office without criticism from Republican leaders in Tennessee shows the limits of #MeToo in a conservative part of the South, especially in a small town where high school athletics reign supreme and even people who believe the women’s accusations are fearful of what would happen to them if they said so publicly.

“One person said to me that part of it is we’re a rural community,” Rice told Teen Vogue. “The only thing we really have is athletics and he was a successful basketball coach. That was our saving grace, what the community was known for, and for me to put a black mark on that was a horrible thing regardless of what happened.”

But the Enough is Enough activists won’t let that excuse stop them. They have vowed to keep the pressure on Tennessee lawmakers until Byrd is out of office, and in the past few months, they’ve shown what that looks like.

They stood outside the capitol in January dressed as characters from the “Handmaid’s Tale” with a banner reading “Casada Protects Men Who Abuse Women,” and a week later showed up at Bill Lee’s inauguration as governor holding large cut out letters spelling “Casada Protects Abusers.” In March, they read excerpts during breaks in committee hearings from a recording in which Byrd apologized to Rice for his actions when he coached her. A group of women sat outside of Lee’s office at the capitol in April until state troopers arrested five of them for refusing orders to leave. To make sure Lee knew what they wanted with their protest, they put up a billboard in the Nashville area demanding Lee call for Byrd’s resignation. At the end of April, they hounded lawmakers over their support for Byrd at events around the NFL draft, which was being held in the city. On Monday, May 20, the group purchased a new billboard ad calling for both Byrd and Casada to leave office.

Casada and the governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment by Teen Vogue. Neither did 16 other Republicans in the Tennessee legislature, who serve in leadership positions and on committees with Byrd, that were contacted for this story.

“It’s frustrating when you see a government that is just beating their chest on their religious and moral virtues and then they don’t want to address an issue on this magnitude,” Rice said. “It sets precedent, it sets a standard that other men can do this and get by with this. Political leaders should hold one another accountable — that’s the only way anyone is going to change this behavior.”

Rice explained to Teen Vogue that she decided to come forward after a couple of statements Byrd made. First, he expressed outrage over news in November 2017 that the University of Tennessee wanted to hire Greg Schiano as football coach. Schiano was accused offailing to report Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of children when they worked together at Penn State in the 1990s, though Schiano denies it.

Then in January 2018, the WSMV TV station ran a story revealing that Byrd was part owner of a juvenile detention facility where teens had alleged they were abused and received improper care. Byrd said “it is always important to look into allegations of misconduct, especially when it involves our children,” but the staff at the facility shouldn’t be “harassed by unsubstantiated claims.”

Rice felt like Byrd was being a hypocrite, so she decided to go public. She and two other women told their stories to WSMV that spring. Rice didn’t expect much to happen, but then Michele Dauber called her.

Dauber, a Stanford Law professor who led the successful effort to remove the judge who sentenced Brock Turner to sixmonths in jail (of which he served three months) for his sexual assault conviction, had launched the Enough is Enough Voter Action Project. She had gotten in touch with local activists and wanted to support an effort to make sure Byrd’s constituents knew about the sexual misconduct allegations. A group of local volunteers canvassed Byrd’s district with Enough is Enough organizers, going door-to-door to talk to people about Byrd.

“We weren’t asking people to vote Democrat, we were just asking people to leave that spot blank,” Kristina Richardson, a constituent of Byrd’s who canvassed in his district, told Teen Vogue. “We were telling them we’re bipartisan — it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican or whatever, sexual abuse is unacceptable.”

Byrd was seemingly unfazed. After the allegations emerged, campaign contributions continued to roll in from private prison corporations, the Tennessee Bankers Association, housing and realty groups, and the Tennessee Education Association, according to public records. Casada, then the majority leader in the state house, helped out by running ads on social media claimingthat the women canvassing Byrd’s district were “socialist Democrats” who were bused in to “control our election,” which wasn’t true.

“Dude, I’m on a cattle farm next door — I’m not coming from anywhere like California,” Ashley Massey, another Enough is Enough activist from Byrd’s district, told Teen Vogue.

Still, it seemed like the attacks worked. According to Emily Tseffos, one of the Enough is Enough organizers, there were a couple people who stated “Oh, I know about you” and shut the door as soon as the canvassers mentioned Byrd’s name. Rice told Teen Vogue that people have privately admitted to her, “I’m rooting for you, but I can’t say anything in my position because I’ll lose all my business.”

The Enough is Enough activists said they weren’t entirely surprised that Byrd held onto his support and was re-elected. It’s such a heavily GOP district that Democrats usually don’t bother to run. Research has shown that liberals are more likely to condemn sexual harassment, while conservatives appear more likely to prioritize loyalty over social change. A majority of Republican men said in one national survey last October that they would vote for a candidate accused of sexual misconduct by multiple people.

Few lawmakers have called for Byrd’s resignation. One of these is is Gloria Johnson, a Democratic representative from Knoxville, Tennessee, and she said Casada found ways to get back at her for it. During debate in March over a controversial bill to ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, Johnson stood with her hand up for 45 minutes in hopes of speaking and offering an amendment to add exceptions for rape and incest. Casada refused to call on her. She approached him afterward and asked why.

“It was because of my speaking out against Byrd,” Johnson told Teen Vogue. “He accused me of organizing a rally that took place when the women first went into the committee hearing.” Johnson had nothing to do with the organizing, but had sat near the activists during one of the hearings to offer her silent support, she said. “I had not nothing to do with organizing, but the speaker is incredibly retaliatory.”

Casada removed Byrd from his post as chair of the education administration subcommittee in late March, but continued to defend Byrd from the allegations. “I believe we have two sacred rights in this country,” Casada said at the time. “One, you are innocent until proven guilty, and two, the people make their will known at the voting box.”

“That is such a ridiculous argument to me — voters aren’t a jury,” Johnson told Teen Vogue. “There’s enough there to say this person should not be serving in the legislature, and they certainly shouldn’t have power over all the kids in the state.”

Casada decided to resign from his role as speaker in light of a separate controversy with his staff, but he has not announcedplans to vacate his legislative seat. In early May, local news outlets reported that Cade Cothren, who spent the past decade working for Casada in various roles, used cocaine in the legislature’s offices, exchanged vulgar texts about women with Casada, used the N-word and stated to friends in a text message that “black people are idiots.” Casada had previously defended Cothren, calling the texts between the two “locker room talk.”

By this point, Rice had tried for months to meet with Casada to talk about David Byrd. But in phone calls this month, recordings of which were obtained by Teen Vogue, Casada’s staff told Rice that she wouldn’t be allowed to bring a support person with her to a meeting with him.

“The only way the Speaker will meet with you is if it’s a one-on-one meeting, and we will have a female staff member present as well,” an aide for Casada told Rice in one call.

Casada’s office eventually relented and would allow Rice to bring someone, but according to the Enough is Enough organizers, they didn’t do so until it was too late.

With Casada stepping down from leadership, the activists hope they’re getting closer to pushing Byrd out of office.

“We’re glad Casada is being forced out,” Emily Tseffos said. “But three women say Byrd sexually molested them. He can’t stay in office. The GOP needs to finish the job and remove him.”

Credit: Teen Vogue