Dani & Dannah
By Kanisha Parks

If you haven’t heard of sassy and sweet sisters Dani (7 years old) and Dannah Lockett (6 years old), where you been, Sis?! Since going viral with a video about Dannah’s breakup back in early 2017 (over 10 million views and shares!), these two have been dropping knowledge and sharing their love for Christ all over the web and have even been featured on the Today Show, The Steve Harvey Show, and the Real! This duo may just be getting started but it’s clear they’re here to stay!

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Viral video 'after the breakup'

The girls are truly best friends, even calling each other “sister buddies,” and enjoy making videos together. They started posting about 9 months ago and since have been boldly declaring their faith via social media, holding nothing back!

“Well, if you believe in something or someone and love them so much you can’t help but tell the world about it, right!” says big sis, Dani. “We aren’t nervous about comments, and yes, we read many of them, because we know that everyone isn’t going to believe like we do and that’s ok. They didn’t believe Jesus and he was right in front of them.” Currently, attending a Christian academy, the girls say that their friends know about their success and are happy for them. 


In addition to their faith, the girls also embrace their beautiful natural hair! Their mom owns and runs Healthy Hair Studio salon in Conyers, GA and says she, Dani and Dannah, and her other two daughters are all natural. The girls share, “We love our hair and we like to wear it out, big and puffy the most! Curly hair is all we know and we tell our mom all the time it’s just fine there’s no need to brush it!” 

The girls with mom Danella
Behind the scenes is their momager, Dannella, who is their greatest supporter, fan, and prayer warrior. She discussed with me some of the challenges of running Dani and Dannah’s social media empire and having to deal with negativity, stating: 
“I just always remember that if God is for me then who can be against me and that no weapons formed against me shall prosper. God has our backs and that makes this easy. When we first got started it was a little nerve-wracking because I would deal with silly comments but then I realized everyone isn’t going to believe like I do and some people live and breathe negativity. I also realized some people are just ready to judge. Even though they have their own faults, they want to pick apart others and that’s just to make them feel better about themselves. I see this a lot in other Christians—instead of uplifting or praying for each other they are judging and gossiping. I’m not that Christian. I’m not pointing out your flaws and judging you, hoping to cover my own. So I just pray for them and go! God bless them.”She assured me that she is not a stage mom, and that the girls do this because they want to and ask to. “Some days they don’t post and that’s because they don’t want to and that’s ok. Remember when God gives you a gift with an assignment you want to do it every chance you get!”
Dani & Dannah on The Real
Dannella’s hopes for her daughters are that they continue to inspire others and that God’s perfect will be done in their lives. In the future, Dani and Dannah say they would like to work with Oprah and Beyoncé. Check out their cuteness via their social media!

Do you follow any young youtubers?

Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected] 

By Brittney M. Walker

The deacons are passing around Communion cups, the prepackaged ones with the non-alcoholic wine shots and Styrofoam crackers attached to the top protected with a cellophane wrapping. I am sweating a little in my armpits, nervous about what she’ll say when she notices that I don’t take one. For several Communion Sundays I had been purposely sitting out of her eye sight so she wouldn’t see I’ve been skipping it for the last few months.

LaVerne Knighten & Son Willie Knighten
By Erickka Sy Savané

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but make up the majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated, according to a study conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations on race and wrongful convictions. Blacks constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the Registry (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.” This racial disparity exist for all major crime categories, but the report focused on the three types of crimes producing the largest numbers of exonerations in the Registry: murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.

This, however, was not on Laverne Knighten's mind in 1996, when her oldest son, Willie Knighten, was issed a life sentence in connection with a drive-by murder in Toledo, Ohio. For any mom this would be devastating news, but what made it even worse was the she knew deep in her heart that her son was innocent.
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Her first reaction was to blame herself, perhaps if she and her husband hadn’t both worked full-time time jobs she could have stayed home and things might have turned out different. Or maybe she should have been stricter when she realized that he was going astray. Eventually, she was able to see that she had a choice in how she was going to deal with his life sentence and it was a series of choices that kept her sane throughout the years he served in prison, leading to the day he was released.

The first choice that 50-something year-old Laverne made following the sentencing of her son was deciding to end the pity party that had been going full-blast since the moment he was convicted. It was a co-worker at the factory where she worked, who was relentless in getting Laverne to see that blaming herself for what happened was ultimately going to destroy her. She says,
“In time, I was able to accept what happened and let God take care of the things that I could not change. I knew that Willie didn’t kill that man, but I had to look at some of the things that he did do. I knew that he was running the streets and doing drugs, so I realized that it could be much worse. At least in prison, I wouldn’t have to worry about a phone call in the middle of the night telling me that I would have to go identify my son.”
Now that Laverne had accepted the situation for what it was, she was able to take the next step. She became ‘Little Willie’s’ biggest supporter, along with her husband of 47 years, Pastor Willie Knighten, and tons of church members and friends. They wrote letters to the judge, signed petitions and showed up to one of Little Willie’s hearings via chartered bus, determined to do whatever it would take to free Willie.

Laverne and her crew were no joke. But still, the years passed, each one packed with holidays, special moments, and the two toddlers that Willie left behind growing up fast. What does that do to mother’s  faith? For Laverne, the passing years brought with it the opportunity to make another choice.

“I told myself that God may not always be there right when you want him, but he’s always on time. I believed everyday that went by, we were getting closer to the time when he’d be coming home.”

About six years into Willie’s sentence, Laverne received an unexpected phone call from the mother of the man Willie was convicted of murdering. She told Laverne that she didn’t believe that her son had killed her son and it had been weighing heavily on her mind. She was sorry, and wanted to arrange a meeting with the Judge.

For Laverne this looked like a turning point. Was it the answer to her prayers? With a mix of anticipation and excitement they met with the Judge, armed with information that the victim’s mom had never presented before. However, things didn’t go quite as planned. The Judge had doubts. Why hadn’t she presented this information earlier? For now, Willie would remain behind bars. Laverne was devastated again. But again she had a choice to make.

So she dug her heels in deeper, throwing even more love and support behind Willie, making sure that she and her husband were there for every single visit, whether he was at a facility right in Toledo where they lived, or moved to a prison a few hours away. It was during those visits that she became aware that many of the inmates didn’t have the support that she was giving Willie. In fact, Willie told her that some inmates were committing suicide from being abandoned by friends and family. LaVerne wasn’t having any of that, and became a surrogate mother to some of Willie’s friends.

“My husband and I sent packages and little things to the inmates that didn’t have anyone. Sometimes we sent money. One of his friend’s mom had died was while he was locked up, so I adopted him as my son. If you got a loving heart you know that God is going to bless you regardless. It seemed like every time we reached out to them God blessed us more.”

Lifted by his mom’s unwavering support, Willie joined in on the fight, writing letters to the judge, re-proclaiming his innocence, presenting him with new evidence whenever there was a change to the story, which by that time, was happening with greater frequency. More witnesses began coming forward, changing their testimonies, at one point the judge ordered Willie to take a polygraph (lie detector) test, which he passed three times. Even though polygraph tests results aren’t admissible in court, they did however, place doubt in the judge’s mind. Had he unfairly convicted Willie?

Twelve years into Willie’s life sentence, the Judge was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before dying, he wrote a heartfelt letter to the Ohio Parole Board stating that he believed he was wrong in convicting Willie of murder, and in good conscious he could not leave this earth without informing them. Shortly after he died, and sure enough the Governor of Ohio granted Willie Executive Clemency. After serving almost 13 years, Willie was free.

And what did it mean to his mother?

“It meant a new beginning for the whole family, and more importantly for Willie, as I was able to share with him what I learned during those 13 years. He could be anything that he wanted to be; it’s all a matter of choice. ”

This month marks the six-year anniversary that Willie was released from prison. As of today, he is an anti-gang activist who mentors at-risk youth, he sits on the board of directors for the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio, and serves as a member of the African American Leadership Caucus (AALC). To hear more about his story, check out his Toledo TedX Talk.

This article appeared on Madamenoire.com

Do you know someone wrongly imprisoned?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com