Some days ago I had the chance to see and listen to Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit founded in 1994 based in Montgomery, Alabama, “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people” in USA. It was one of the most powerful, touchy and inspiring speeches I have listen during this year.
The mission of the Equal Justice Initiative says enough, but their work speaks more about their values, addressing a history of racial inequality and economic injustice in USA as a legacy of genocide, slavery, lynching and racial segregation that conducted to marginalization, disadvantage, poverty and racial bias in the criminal justice system against people of color.
Bryan Stevenson is also the author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”, a book about incarceration and the importance of confronting injustice, based on a true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us and call to fix the broken system of justice.
It was a privilege to listen and meet Mr. Stevenson, and here I want to share some of my personal notes from his speech that struck a chord with me, as a social changemaker and a human rights defender, and that I think it is worth it to share with this global community of amazing fellows from all over the world to reflect on how are we changing the world:
– The power on creating proximity. If we are going to change the world, we need to devote time to listen, we need to be close to communities and to the people we are trying to serve. We are not going to change the world if we became distant to the poor, the discriminated, the people who historically has been marginalized. We need to create proximity, and we need to get there now.
– Changing narratives. Some narratives are distracting attention from the real solutions. Ask the oppressors why they do what they do… It is always about anger and fear. We need to change the narrative of anger and fear, and instead, switch to compassion and responsibility. Who is responsible about incriminating young people, racial discrimination, and human rights abuses? We all are, the challenge is to keep fighting while others are silent.
– Do the inconvenient and uncomfortable. There is no other way that we can change the world unless we take risks, unless we do something inconvenient and uncomfortable. As humans we want to do what is comfortable, but we cannot keep doing the same and expect different results.
– The opposite to poverty is not wealth, is justice.
If you have a chance, I totally recommend listening to this man who has a lot to say and a lot to teach about compassion, love and mercy, which in fact, I agree we need overall to change the world for good.
And then I realize that I am working to defend broken people in a broken system. I do what I do because I am broken too. It is the broken who teaches us our humanity – Bryan Stevenson