Brittney Griner spends 32nd birthday in Russian prison as friends and family step up campaign to bring her home
Caitlin McGarry-Mason is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. She currently writes feature stories for Teen Vogue and has a background in digital reporting and social movement strategy. Her work has previously been featured in Vice, The Guardian, and The Millions.
At the age of only 5, Brittney Griner received a phone call from her mother in a dream. “It was a beautiful day of rain and the sun was going down,” her mother, Carla, wrote on Facebook. “I was walking Brittney down the street to her school when I noticed people throwing little pieces of paper at her.”
The kids had pulled out paper and other supplies they’d collected in their school-run clean-up bin. “It was so sweet. Brittney was really excited to write. I told her to put her favorite letter on the paper and give it out to the people she found most interesting.”
But by the time Carla reached Griner at her school, her students had already made their way to the trash can. That they hadn’t bothered to take the letter home to Griner was likely because the teachers knew to whom she’d been writing it, and in the absence of a response, probably wouldn’t get one.
Carla sent her daughter’s letter to the Washington Post, which ran it on the front page. A month later, on the morning of the 30th anniversary of the March on Selma, a black-white coalition of students from all over the country gathered outside the Post office and asked for Griner’s return. She was a young, black woman who’d just turned 16. In an interview with me, Carla said she understood why the students were upset. The first-year law student at the University of Maryland had not received a postcard from Griner since she’d been arrested and charged with “delivering a letter with intent to distribute,” a charge she eventually pleaded guilty to after the judge dismissed charges against her.
With their letter, the students said Griner had the