Monday morning, Bryan Stevenson received the Belmont College of Law Champions for Justice Award and spoke to Belmont faculty and students about faith and justice.
President Bob Fisher said that the university presents the award only to those who “exemplify Belmont’s mission to uphold Jesus as the Christ and the measure for all things and has lived this out by engaging and transforming the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.”
Stevenson, a graduate from Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government, is the third recipient of the award. He joins Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission, and the Rev. Fred Gray, a lawyer who served for both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Now the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson focuses on race and poverty, mass incarceration, imprisoned children and the death penalty.
Through his personal stories, he emphasized the necessity of people to have proximity to the issues, to change the narratives behind the reality of injustice, to hope and to choose to do uncomfortable things.
Stevenson presented statistics concerning injustice in the criminal law system. He included that the U.S. has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world with 2.3 million prisoners, one-third of blacks born in 2001 will spend time in prison, that many in poverty-stricken areas do not expect to be free or alive by age 21 and that 10,000 minors currently face violence and sexual abuse in prisons.
“In this country, the system treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent,” Stevenson said.
To break this cycle, Stevenson demanded change.
“We are called to stand when everyone else is sitting,” he said. “We are called to speak when everyone else is silent.”
This article was written by Brooklyn Penn.