On February 26th, the USA Today reported that Google.org, the philanthropic sector of Google, is giving $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson had this to say about the partnership with Google: “They have the skills and the knowledge and the innovative techniques to allow us to do this work in a way that engages a broad cross section of our nation.”
EJI was not the only organization to receive racial justice grants from Google.org. Two million dollars were distributed among other organizations in the Bay area who are working to end racial inequalities in education.
Google is taking an unprecedented stand on racial justice for a technology company. Justin Steele, a Google.org administrator said “Google and our own industry need to do more to promote equality and opportunities for all. Last year Google.org launched a new dedicated effort to support leaders who are doing critical work to end mass incarceration and combat endemic educational inequality for black and brown students.”
To read the USA Today article “Google gives $1M to Bryan Stevenson’s racial justice effort” by Jessica Guynn, click here.
For more information about Google’s racial justice work, click here.
The recent Los Angeles Times article “Civil rights lawyer seeks to commemorate another side of southern heritage: Lynchings” profiles Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative’s work to place memorial markers at lynching sites across the southern United States.
As a part of EJI’s Race and Poverty Project, Stevenson has been traveling around the south talking to city officials to gain support to put up the commemorative markers. He has started out in predominately African American communities and acknowledges that there are some places where white residents may push back on the idea. He argues that to truly achieve racial equality we have to talk about our whole history, even the painful parts, such as lynchings.
As another part of the Race and Poverty Project, EJI conducted a multi-year investigation about lynchings of African Americans in the American south. As a result of the investigation, EJI published a report of their findings called Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. The report documents nearly 4,000 lynchings, or as EJI explains “systemic domestic terrorism” incidents, between 1877 and 1950 across 12 southern states.
To read the Los Angeles Times article “Civil rights lawyer seeks to commemorate another side of southern heritage: Lynchings” click here.
To read a summary of EJI’s Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror click here.
For more information about EJI’s Race and Poverty project click here.
This week, on July 7th, the Equal Justice Initiative released an animated film Slavery to Mass Incarceration. The film is narrated by Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson and features art from Molly Crabapple. In just under six minutes Stevenson and Crabapple tell the story of how the enslavement of African people has evolved to mass incarceration of African Americans today. The film points out that an African American person is six times more likely to be sentenced to prison for the same crime as a white person. And that one in three black men born today can expect to spend some time in prison. With this film EJI hopes to engage people in the conversation about this injustice in the United States and help move the country forward.
Slavery to Mass Incarceration was created as a part of Equal Justice Initiative’s Race and Poverty Project. As EJI explains, the Race and Poverty project “explores racial history and uses innovative teaching tools to deepen our understanding of the legacy of racial injustice.”
Watch the film below.
To read more about EJI’s Race and Poverty Project click here.
As part of this work, the EJI seeks to end the practice of sentencing children under the age of 14 as adults, to end the placement of anyone under the age of 18 in adult prisons, and to end life imprisonment without parole and other excessive sentences given to children. In an effort to spread awareness of children in prisons across the country, EJI, put together a publication called All Children are Children: Challenging Abusive Punishments of Juveniles.The United States is the only country in the world to sentence children to die in prison. Currently about 10,000 Americans under the age of 18 are in adult prisons. As of 2014, 14 states had no minimum age for adult prosecution. The Equal Justice Initiative is working to provide legal assistance to juveniles sentenced to die in prison, to end juveniles being placed in adult prisons where there are at a higher risk of assault and sexual violence, and to challenge the prosecution of young children as adults.
To read All Children are Children: Challenging Abusive Punishments of Juveniles click here.
In March of 2012 Bryan Stevenson gave a TED Talk about his work to reform the criminal justice system. In April of this year Stevenson was interviewed about his TED Talk experience by Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes. In the interview Stevenson admits that when he was first asked to do a TED Talk he didn’t know what it was. Now though, he is very grateful for the experience and exposure. The TED Talk helped the Equal Justice Initiative raise one million dollars and even today, three years after the Talk, the online video helps create awareness of the nonprofit organization and its mission.
Chris Anderson, the man who runs TED, is the one who wanted Stevenson to do a TED Talk. He said that the purpose of TED is to help people spread ideas. He describes what TED does by explaining that:
There are numerous brilliant people out there and they’ve come up with something really important. And so part of the way we see our role is to help them make their knowledge accessible.
Anderson and his colleagues at TED saw Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative’s ideas as worth spreading. Watch and share the TED Talk here. Read or watch Bryan Stevenson and Chris Anderson’s interview with Charlie Rose here.
Bryan Stevenson was recently interviewed by Truthout. In the interview he was asked to elaborate on some of the issues he discusses in his book, Just Mercy. In particular he expands on what the book’s title means, areas of the Unites States’ criminal justice system that he is advocating to improve, and the challenges ahead for helping those most vulnerable in our current system.
Stevenson works primarily on issues in the criminal justice system related to race and poverty, children in prison, mass incarceration, and the death penalty. In this interview he explains why his work is so important an why he started the Equal Justice Initiative as a young lawyer. He sums up the purpose of his work by saying:
It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.
With his book, Just Mercy, Stevenson hopes to bring these issues to the attention of more people. For example in the United States 68 million people out of 320 million people have criminal records. That equates to one out of every four to five people in our country. He sees that number as too high and as a result is devoted to working for social justice.
Bryan Stevenson conducted an interview with NPR back in October 2014. In this interview he shared a personal experience he had in his 20’s as well as the case at the center of his book, Just Mercy.
The interviewer began by asking Bryan about an encounter he had with police in his 20’s in Atlanta. Bryan had been listening to the radio in his car outside of his new home when a police unit pulled up and pulled a gun on him. Bryan describes the terrifying event in a calm and poised voice now, but he admits that at the site of the gun his first instinct was to run. Bryan was a Harvard law student at the time and remained calm, but it was this encounter that led him to ask young boys and men in the area if they know what to do if they are in that situation. He was surprised to discover that the majority of boys did not know what to do, and this was just one of many events that influenced his future work with the Equal Justice Initiative.
The rest of the interview focuses on the case at the center of Just Mercy. The discussion focuses not only on Bryan, but on Mr. McMillian himself. McMillian died in 2013. Bryan had the following to say about the early death of McMillian,
One of the things that pains me is we have so tragically underestimated the trauma, the hardship we create in this country when we treat people unfairly, when we incarcerate them unfairly, when we condemn them unfairly.
To hear the interview and to read the highlights click here