To create a just society in America, we have to get proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful and be willing to do uncomfortable things, according to Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson, who launched the 2016-2017 TVT Speakers Series at TVT Community Day School in Irvine on August 24, also talked to students during the day.[su_simplepullquote]TVT speaker Bryan Stevenson stresses need to do things that change the world.[/su_simplepullquote]
Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is a legal practice that defends the poor, the wrongly condemned and those trapped in the furthest reaches of the U.S. criminal justice system. Under Stevenson’s leadership for 31 years, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.
“Our capacity to change the world depends on our ability to get close to the problem,” Stevenson said. “There are parts of the community where there is poverty, abuse and violence, and people are acculturated to stay away from them. We’ve allowed distance to occur between us and the most vulnerable elements of society.”n in the world, and spending on human services and education is compromised by spending on jails. Some courts may be more committed to finality than fairness. For those reasons, he said, people of color are more likely to be incarcerated, and thousands of children are in adult jails where they are at risk for sexual abuse and violence.
Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy, tells the story of a young lawyer fighting on the front lines to defend a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he did not commit. The book, a New York Times best-seller, earned Stevenson the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and an NAACP Image Award. The book, a New York Times best-seller, “is as gripping as it is disturbing,” wrote Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, “as if America’s soul has been put on trial.”
“I do what I do, because I’m fighting for my humanity and dignity,” Stevenson concluded. “To do justice, we have to deconstruct the conditions that cause poverty.”
TVT is a pluralistic day school noted for its academics, values and cohesiveness. Its mission is to challenge students to think critically and creatively to achieve their fullest potential in an inclusive, pluralistic environment; to prepare students to be leaders, active learners and responsible citizens; and to succeed at the finest colleges and universities. TVT also strives to inspire students to lead meaningful lives, based on Jewish values.
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