How We Met
Long before we bonded over garlic crabs and all things ratchet, we were bonded by love.
In the most heartbreaking chapter of my life, Michele Rayner Whitfield helped me turned the page.
When giving is your ministry, you will always be blessed.
We first met through Facebook. Because we have fifty ‘leven mutual friends, The Book thought we should be friends, too.
Our relationship quickly escalated past liking posts and random shares; Michele became the plug. She would feed me exclusive stories to pitch to my news station. We had a great setup and the bosses really love a producer who can produce more than just teases and headlines.
One day Michele reached out about a story involving the deaths of three teen girls in St. Petersburg.
Dominique Battle, age 16, Ashaunti Butler, age 15, and Laniya Miller, age 15, were found dead inside a car that drove into a pond on March 31st, 2016. The sheriff’s office said the Honda was reported stolen the night before. To this day, the circumstances surrounding their deaths after a police chase on a dark highway remain a mystery. It was the last story I wrote before being laid off the next day.
When Michele reached out to pitch a different angle, I regretfully confessed that I was no longer with the company. Six days after one of the worst days of my life, she hired me as her media consultant.
Natasha Winkler was the first mother I interviewed. We were preparing her statement for the press conference and I was terrified. My goal was to be delicate with her grief. I didn’t push her. I just asked her to introduce me to Laniya, a young woman that I would never have the chance to meet. Her strength inspired me. She was determined to tell the whole truth about her daughter’s childhood.
The next day, I beamed with pride as I watched her paint a beautifully tragic picture of her baby girl.
I cried in the car.
Because of my experience working on this case, I am not only a better journalist, I am a better person. Michele gave me that opportunity.
In 2016, a fell on hard times more often than I can count, but when I moved away, Michelle remained a friend. She’s always there to offer a prayer or write a check. She is the friend I never knew I needed.
When I look at Michele, I know that Ashaunti, Dominique and Laniya are proud. She not only fights for them, she fights for the troubled girl inside of me.
Michele, you are too dope for words.
Attorney Michele Rayner Whitfield is the founder and managing attorney of The Whitfield Law Group (WLG). Prior to founding WLG, Michele worked as a criminal defense attorney for the State of Florida, and for two well-established law firms in the Tampa Bay Area where she handled criminal and civil rights cases. She honed her ability to intelligently and aggressively represent her client’s interests.
A staunch advocate for equity, civil rights and social change, Michele has been featured onNewsOne, Dr. Drew, HLN, and various local radio and television programs. Her writing can be found in publications including The Root, The Huffington Post and the Tampa Bay Times. She is also a regular speaker and commentator on issues of race, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, the criminalization of women and girls of color and the Movement for Black Lives.
How You Can Find Michele