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Bryan Stevenson Names ‘Four Steps to Create Justice’

Image associated with the Bryan Stevenson Names ‘Four Steps to Create Justice’ news item

Author: Timothy C. Ervin

Release Date: Nov 13, 2015

Equal Justice Initiative founder, Harvard Law School graduate and best-selling author Bryan Stevenson discussed the “four steps to create justice” during a visit to the ASU campus on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, was back in his home state and on the campus of Alabama State University this week as part of a “talk” for his book, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.”

In his book, Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate and New York Times bestselling author, details some of his most heartbreaking legal cases and research statistics, proving the criminal justice system is failing millions in the nation.

Shortly after graduation from law school, Stevenson founded the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that helps those most desperate for legal representation — people suffering from mental illness, disability, poverty and racism.

Stevenson addressed a standing-room only audience of students, faculty, staff and community leaders in ASU’s John Garrick Hardy Student Center Theatre. He focused on what he describes as four steps that can be used to change the world and to create justice: get into proximity; change the narrative; protect your hope; and be willing to experience discomfort.

“We have too many policy-makers and politicians trying to solve problems from a distance, and because they are from a distance, they don’t see the details of these problems up close. When you get proximate, things will change,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said he has family ties to slavery, and as a child he attended segregated Alabama schools until lawyers came into his community and got “proximate” with poor black kids like him. Because of their intervention, Stevenson says he was able to receive a quality high school education, attend college and ultimately finish Harvard Law School. 

“People in the United States refuse to have the right conversation about slavery and race,” Stevenson said, adding that the narrative regarding minorities needs to change.

“Injustice prevails where hopelessness exists… Hope is what will get you to speak when other people are silent,” Stevenson said. When working as an activist or protesting, “you have to believe the people you are in front of are capable of something more just than what you are seeing. And that requires hope.”

Stevenson also spoke about Germany, where he said there are historical markings indicating where Jewish families were collected and taken away to concentration camps. He said the Germans are not hiding or denying their history, while most in the U.S. don’t want to talk about the nation's history of slavery. 

“You can’t face injustice by doing only what is comfortable and convenient,” Stevenson said. “We can’t judge a community’s well-being by looking “at how we treat the rich and the powerful and the privileged. We have to judge a community by how it treats the poor, the incarcerated, and condemned.”

The event was sponsored by ASU’s Department of History and Political Science.


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