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Category: Go Big Read News

Upcoming Community Workshop in Middleton on Racial Inequalities

On October 12th, the Middleton Public Library held a community panel discussion of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. This event sparked much discussion about social injustices and issues of racism in Dane County. Five Middleton community leaders have organized a community-wide follow-up workshop in the wake of the book discussion to address racial inequalities in Dane County.

The event, entitled “Equity vs. Equality: An Examination of Racial Inequalities That Exist in Dane County,” will take place from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM in the courtroom at the Middleton Police Station, which is located at 7341 Donna Drive in Middleton. The event will be co-lead by Percy Brown, Director of Equity and Student Achievement at Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, and Laura Love, Director of Secondary Education at Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District.

Participants in the workshop will discuss current racial inequalities in Dane County, what actions are currently being taken to combat these inequalities within the community, and brainstorm other ways to tackle racial inequalities in the community.

One of the planners of the event, Middleton’s Chief of Police Charles Foulke, says, “The Equity vs. Equality training is a logical step in maintaining the momentum that community leaders have been building to address this very real problem [of racial inequality]. I am pleased to be part of the planning team for this training and feel the Middleton Police Department can be part of the solution.” The Middleton Police Department has been actively engaging with the themes in Just Mercy.

The event costs $10 to participate in, and scholarships are available for those in need.

To register for the event, pick up a form at the Middleton Public Library or the Middleton Outreach Ministry Office. You can also register online by clicking here.

You can email Jim Iliff at with any questions you might have or to apply for a scholarship to attend the event.

9th Grade English Students at West High School Read and Respond to Just Mercy

Post written by Kim Schopf and Lynn Glueck, Madison West High School

Every year, Madison Metropolitan School District students in English classes take beginning, middle and end-of-year writing assessments that help students and teachers gauge progress on the critical skills of reading a text closely and writing an argument based on that text. This year, as a way of tying this reading and writing authentically to the English 1 (9th grade English) curriculum and to current and relevant events and issues  in our community and the nation, the team chose to use an excerpt from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.  The excerpt, the story of 13-year-old Ian Manuel who was imprisoned in Apalachee Correctional Institution, for much of  time in solitary confinement, struck a chord with students, many of whom were interested in reading the book. When they reviewed their assessments together as a class it engendered discussions about race, justice, punishment, and forgiveness. While being horrified about the treatment of Ian in prison, they also struggled with notions of appropriate consequences for actions in adolescence. These are exactly the kinds of discussions that foster critical thinking that we want to see in our West classrooms.

In support of engaging students in their learning, there’s a new structure for English 1 instruction at Madison West, in which students choose books to read based on interest rather than exclusively reading whole-class texts. Also, while the focus is still mainly on reading literature, there’s more integration of nonfiction text. So the recent donation of copies of Stevenson’s Just Mercy from UW-Madison’s Go Big Read program is a welcome addition to the classroom libraries.  Students’ reading of the book, and attendance at the Go Big Read event at which Stevenson spoke, ties in well with the curriculum for quarter three of English 1, in which students will dig deeply into a unit of instruction entitled “Because Lives Matter”  and focus on writing argument based on text.  A central focus will be on social justice and exploring the following questions:

  • What is the significance of being able to express self and to be acknowledged?
  • How do readers deepen their content knowledge as well as come to understand perspectives and cultures?
  • How do writers create argument writing in order to examine and convey their ideas?
  • How does research enhance the discovery of storytelling, ideas, and arguments?

We strongly encouraged our 480 9th grade English students to attend the Go Big Read author event on October 26!

A big thank you to UW-Madison for providing the copies of Just Mercy for  West High students. The Wisconsin Idea in action.

An Evening With Bryan Stevenson a Success

Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, visited UW-Madison on Monday, October 26th, and for many, the culminating event of the day, Stevenson’s talk at Varsity Hall in Union South, was an overwhelming success.

Part of the crowd at An Evening With Bryan Stevenson.

Varsity Hall’s doors were set to open at 6:00 pm, but people were already lined up and waiting before 5:00 pm; the hall’s capacity was reached before 6:30 pm. Live streaming of the event was available for those who were not able to attend the event in Varsity Hall.

Stevenson discussed four things that need to change in order to help combat social injustice, racism, and corruption in America’s criminal justice system, and he shared anecdotes from Just Mercy as part of this discussion. The crowd was energized and responsive during Stevenson’s talk, evinced especially by the resounding applause after the talk and the question and answer session.

The number of people who attended Stevenson’s talk was higher than anticipated. Reception of the event has been overwhelmingly positive, which speaks to the important conversations surrounding social justice, race, and the criminal justice system that Stevenson’s Just Mercy has sparked at UW-Madison and in the larger community.

To watch the video recording of Bryan Stevenson’s talk at UW-Madison on Monday, October 26th, click here. (Please note that this video is only available for viewing by those with Net IDs).

UW-Madison Welcomes ‘Go Big Read’ Author Bryan Stevenson on October 26th

This press release was written by Jenny Price from University Communications.

Go Big Read is bigger than ever in its seventh year.

The selection of Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” prompted record participation in UW-Madison’s common-reading program. More than 170 courses are using the book this semester, in disciplines including business, education, English, history, law, nursing, political science and social work.

The UW-Madison community will hear from Stevenson on Monday, Oct. 26, when he visits campus to meet with students and give a public talk as the centerpiece of Go Big Read.

The event, hosted by Chancellor Rebecca Blank, begins at 7 p.m. in Varsity Hall at Union South and will be streamed live and captioned on the Go Big Read website. Stevenson’s talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session, moderated by Everett Mitchell, director of community relations for the UW–Madison Office of University Relations.

During his visit to the UW campus, Stevenson will also meet with students from First-Year Interest Groups, the College of Letters & Science Honors Program and the law school.


Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy” and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, will speak at UW-Madison on Monday, Oct. 26, in Varsity Hall at Union South.

Stevenson co-founded the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, based in Montgomery, Alabama, three decades ago. Since then, he has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court five times and played a role in landmark court cases that have transformed how the criminal justice system deals with violent youths. He has helped secure relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

Last year, President Barack Obama appointed Stevenson to a task force established to recommend police practices that can improve relations between officers and the people they serve, particularly in minority communities. Stevenson is on the faculty at New York University School of Law and the winner of a MacArthur “genius grant.”

More than 5,000 new UW students received copies of “Just Mercy” during Wisconsin Welcome in early September. This month, every member of the UW-Madison Police Department is reading the book. During their orientation week at the start of the semester, first-year law students also received copies to read and discuss before participating in a community-service day.

Other upcoming Go Big Read events:

— “Just Mercy” is being featured on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Chapter a Day series, airing at 12:30 p.m. (and repeating at 11 p.m.) from Monday, Oct. 19-Friday, Nov. 6.

— Thursday, Oct. 22, noon-1:30 p.m.: Daniel Meyer, a professor of social work, will lead a faculty and staff panel discussion of key issues raised by “Just Mercy” from a Christian perspective during a luncheon at the University Club.

— Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 5-7: free conference at the Pyle Center, “A New Politics of Human Rights: Crossing Disciplines, Regions, and Issues.”

— Tuesday, Nov. 10, 5-9 p.m.: Reform Now Programs and Resource Fair, an evening of social justice at the Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., includes a screening of “Reform Now,” a film about Wisconsin citizens who are challenging solitary confinement.

Read the original press release here.

WPR’s “Chapter a Day” Reads Just Mercy

Starting Monday October 19th – Friday November 6th, Lydia Woodland of Wisconsin Public Radio, is reading a chapter of Just Mercy each day as part of the “Chapter a Day” program.  According to the WPR’s website, “Chapter a Day” is WPR’s longest running program. It debuted in 1927. Hosts of the program read a chapter of a book each day. They read entire books in half hour segments.

Listen to “Chapter a Day” by clicking here.

Just Mercy in the Community

Monday October 12th, 200+ people attended “And Justice for All: A Community Panel Discussion” hosted by Middleton Public Library. The audience was made up of community members, including many staff from the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District. The discussion panel was made up of six members: Dan Mahoney (Dane County Sheriff), Dr. Ruben Anthony (Urban League of Greater Madison CEO), Josann Reynolds (Dane County Judge), Percy Brown (Director of Equity, Middleton Cross Plains Area School District), Chuck Foulke (Middleton Police Chief), and a Middleton High School Student Voice Union member.

Community members attending Just Mercy discussion Panel

Community members attending Just Mercy discussion panel

The panel discussion began by reading the passage in Just Mercy where Stevenson talks about his unprovoked encounter with the police outside his apartment in Atlanta (pages 39-42). The panel discussed how Stevenson’s experience relates to the Middleton area and Dane County.

The discussion also focused on kids in the community and how themes in the book may effect them.  Many shared and agreed that the first step is building stronger relationships with the police, within the community, and with your neighbors.

To find out about upcoming Just Mercy discussions, visit our events page here.


Business Students Create Just Mercy Themed Art at Wheelhouse Studios


Today and tomorrow a business class will be meeting in Wheelhouse Studios to create art-based learning projects focused on the book Just Mercy. Wheelhouse Studios is an open art studio located in Memorial Union. Its website describes the art studio as “three versatile workspaces, flexible studio designs, drop-in art opportunities, and classes for enthusiasts and dabblers alike, it’s easy to sign up and get involved.”

Four sections of a 120 student class will go to Wheelhouse Studios to create screen printed posters that they co-designed in small groups around themes of leadership, mental health, and humility from Just Mercy. Each student will get a copy of their poster and a set of the student created posters will be on display to the public at Grainger Hall sometime in upcoming weeks. Two examples of the student posters can be seen on the right side of this post.

Crime&PunishmentPosterWhile at Wheelhouse Studios students will also construct handmade, saddle-stitched notebooks and journals that will be donated to Wisconsin Books for Prisoners and the LGBT Books to Prisoners Project.

For more information about Wheelhouse Studios click here.

For more information about Wisconsin Books for Prisoners click here.

For more information about LGBT Books to Prisoners Project click here.

Madison Public Library Book Discussions of Just Mercy

Several branches of the Madison Public Library are hosting book discussions of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy in the next few months. Stevenson’s book has received much publicity and acclaim since its publication, and it has sparked discussions about social justice and activism at UW-Madison and in the wider Madison community.

Copies of the book are available in hardcover, as a book on CD, and electronically via Overdrive as an ebook or as an mp3 audiobook (which you can access from your iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android phone, tablet, etc.) via the Overdrive app.

If you are interested in attending one of these discussions, the schedule is as follows:

  • Wednesday, October 14th, at 7:00 pm at the Sequoya Library branch
  • Saturday, October 17th, at 1:30 pm at the Goodman South Madison Library branch
  • Wednesday, October 21, at 7:00 pm at the Central Library branch
  • Thursday, November 5, at 6:30 pm at the Lakeview Library branch
  • Thursday, November 12, at 12:00 pm at the Lakeview Library branch
  • Tuesday, November 24, at 7:00 pm at the Pinney Library branch
  • Wednesday, December 2, at 6:30 pm at the Meadowbridge Library branch
  • Wednesday, January 20, at 7:00 pm at the Alicia Ashman Library branch

To visit the Madison Public Library’s web page about these discussions and other events, click here.

To read the list of suggested discussion questions from MPL and Go Big Read, click here.



A New Politics of Human Rights

On November 5th-7th, at the Pyle Center, UW Madison is hosting a conference about human rights. Sponsors of the event include the UW-Madison Human Rights Program, UW Madison Go Big Read Program, Global Legal Studies Center, LACIS, UW Law School, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Center for South Asia. According the the event’s website, the conference, A New Politics of Human Rights: Crossing Disciplines, Regions, and Issues, was planned with the questions listed below in mind.

  • What concepts may usefully undergird an ever-growing and more heterogeneous field of study and practice in a twenty-first century world?
  • If human rights comes to stand for “everything” (every right is fundamental and rooted in the human), does it come to stand for nothing and undermine its premise? Put differently, if human rights becomes a standard language of law and accountability policy, and a standard language of moral claim and political mobilization, does it lose its counter-hegemonic potential?

The conference is free and open to the UW Madison community, community members, and anyone interested in human rights. The conference coordinators ask that attendees register by October 23rd. Walk-ins are also welcome. To register click here.

For more information about the event, including a draft of the conference schedule, click here.

For more information about the Human Rights Program at UW Madison click here.

Just Mercy Reaches Local Police

Madison’s local CBS affiliate, WISC-TV3, posted a video editorial about UW-Madison’s Go Big Read program. Editorial director, Neil Heinen, had this to say about the selection of Just Mercy as the 2015-2016 common read: “It was a wise choice for the book program. It was a wiser choice for Chiefs Riseling and Koval to take advantage of the Big Read in their departments. And yes, it is another example of the Wisconsin Idea.”

Watch the editorial below.

For a transcript of the editorial click here.