As we enter the holiday season, 13-year-old Nevaeh Savannah Lemons sent a heartfelt letter to Governor Gavin Newsom describing the impact of the 9-year absence of her mother, Tomiekia Johnson. Tomiekia has been incarcerated since 2012 after defending herself from domestic violence. Tomiekia’s sentence is 50 years to Life. Survived & Punished also strongly urges Governor Newsom to grant Tomiekia clemency in time to be united with her daughter and family for the holidays. Nevaeh’s letter and photos are below:
November 24, 2020
Dear Governor Newsom,
My name is Nevaeh Savannah Lemons.
I am a teenager who is 13 years old. It might be odd for you to hear this from a child. You might not know but I am a fighter and I am someone who gets the job done. I am writing to give you a good thought in mind about my mother, Tomeikia Johnson, who was a victim of Domestic Violence and who is behind bars for something she didn’t mean to do and because she was protecting herself. Most of my life has been a roller coaster. The pain and suffering I have been going through since I was 4 years old. The life of a child growing up not being with her mother, and not having a father. It is something we shouldn’t have in life. My life is like a living hell because of this, and to know my mother was beaten by my father hurts even worse.
I think about what if my mom was killed and I would have to live with my father. Would he be abusive to me? Would he do the same stuff that he did to my own mother? There are days that I wish I could go back in time and stop my father from harming her. Or if I was like an angel and told her to get her stuff and leave with me, and somehow it worked. The things I’ve heard from articles and the news don’t explain all the facts. They leave out details to make it look one-sided. Most of the internet is biased and is not open to judgment about the victim. I didn’t know what life was like before but now I do. I see the world as this one judging place where we as people have to live based on what other people hear. Nobody takes the time to listen to the person, like my mom, who lived through the violence.
My life is like a trauma. I had social services come to my house and pull me out of school. They played board games with me and asked me questions. I felt like I was surrounded by people that wanted me to turn against my mother on their behalf. I didn’t want to go for it even when I was very little. I went up to the children’s courtroom and to this day I can remember how it looks and how it feels to go up there every time. No one in my life told me what was going on because I was too young. I had no shame in telling anyone that my mother was in prison and how she got there. People feel bad for me, but I never feel bad about myself. I feel that this life wasn’t a choice of my own, it just shows that nobody’s alike and nobody can have the same life. I am special and my mother is special for having me. She is my everything. My whole life is all about her. People act like they care about her but deep down they don’t have a care in the world or a real feeling in their soul about her. I know that my family and I are the ones that have been there for her through thick and thin. But, I come across two sides of a family. My mother’s parents and my father’s parents. I am shared by both of them. I feel like I can be passed around sometimes and I just sit there and think about how one side of the same family hates her and I go over and act okay about it. But I am never okay with it.
If you didn’t know, my mother was a basketball player and a bowler. She was very talented in both and she has gained great knowledge from those sports and has a great intelligent mindset about her life. She was and still is a very bright person. As much work as she did outside of prison is the same amount of hard work she puts in behind bars.
The dishonesty I have been surrounded by is not something that I like. That’s why I go to church and pray to the Lord. Most of what has happened in my life is because I don’t have my mother home with me singing songs, going places, or to talk to about my first boyfriend. Everything that we talk about is over the phone. She sends me cards and letters telling me how much she loves me. And telling me to leave a special spot for her on Christmas when she comes home. It’s always there but she is never home to fill the spot. She was never here to see my Halloween outfits and wasn’t here when I turned 13. She isn’t here for my first teenage years when I am about to go to high school. I wanted her home for these years. I wanted her sitting right there next to me and telling me how much she loves me for no reason. To give me the love that I have been wanting for 9 years. I used to cry myself to sleep because she was never home for me to crawl up in her bed at night and just hug her. I don’t know what it feels like to have my mom be right there next to me. To hold me down when I need it. To give me that pep talk before I go on the basketball court and win games. Nobody is there to tell me they love me just so they can see a smile on my face.
I dearly ask of you, Governor Newsom, to support her clemency so she can have her freedom back, and so she can come home and I can know what having a mother right next to me feels like. So she can have her daughter next to her, so she can laugh and cry with me. I just want to know, if your mother was hours away when you were a kid, wouldn’t you miss her? I believe people can do the right thing. So, I believe you can sign the paperwork and let her come back to me and the world that she knows and loves very much. I am her only daughter and I have been waiting for 9 years since I was 4 years old. I am also a victim in this case and I hope that my voice and my life matters. Please give her clemency so she can get a job and a life to start with me and to grow again as a person outside of prison.
Nevaeh Savannah Lemons
Tomiekia is incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility in crowded living conditions that include multiple people occupying one cell, making social distancing impossible and escalating her risk of COVID-19 infection. Tomiekia’s family is prepared to warmly welcome Tomiekia home, including creating 14-day quarantine conditions for Tomiekia to secure everyone’s safety. We urge Governor Newsom to support the release of all incarcerated domestic violence victims, like Tomiekia, and to reunite Tomiekia with her daughter, Nevaeh, this holiday season.