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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Author and activist Bryan Stevenson speaks on injustice and change in the United States

bryan.pngAs part of the University's Guy Stanton Ford Lecture Series, author and activist Bryan Stevenson spoke to a full crowd at Northrop Auditorium on issues surrounding contemporary and historical injustice in the legal system of the United States. Bryan Stevenson is the Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, working primarily to advocate for young children, juveniles, and adults who are facing mandatory life sentences and/or a death penalty.

In his talk, Stevenson used portions of his personal narrative to focus on various issues and inequalities in the American justice system and highlighted ways in which we can make positive changes. From his time in college to his experiences in law school, in the field, and as an activist, he explained how he has come to learn that there are four parts necessary for change: proximity, narrative change, lasting hope, and involvement in uncomfortable situations.

Proximity, for Stevenson, is the first step in order to ensure lasting improvements. Through his work, he has realized that activists must be proximate to issues that matter to truly understand the nuances and cases necessary for change. From such experiences, he explained, individuals are able to gain a better understanding of the narratives of the issue and ways in which they can disseminate knowledge to transform the conversation. However, he notes that advocates for change must protect their hope, as he believes that "injustice prevails where hopelessness persists." Finally, he emphasized that in order for effective, real change to occur, people must be willing to do uncomfortable things, because society, he argues, will not change on its own and it is through these uncomfortable actions that people can overcome unwarranted standards of inequity, discrimination, and unfairness.

The lecture concluded with a question-and-answer round moderated by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson. The discussions were fruitful and covered a wide range of critical concerns of injustice, such as the orientation towards finality over fairness in the justice system.
-written by Cameron Mailhot