By Damali and Nii B. Andrews.
Bryan Stevenson – the renowned lawyer, author, philanthropist and public intellectual turned 60 yesterday November 14.
His moral clarity and abiding faith have always served as an inspiration and a beacon in the gloom that often threatens to engulf us all.
In an age when appeasement, resounding silence, long winded spin and equivocation are all often packaged as pragmatism and almost always the tools for the accommodation of evil; Stevenson has demonstrated an unshakeable resilience on the path of courageous action and struggle.
He has been a relentless crusader for truth and human dignity.
As founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), his modest life style, deep religious commitment – moral and intellectual strength, should serve as an example for leaders and common folk everywhere, not least in Africa and particularly Ghana.
Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.
EJI has secured reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.
Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger.
“Injustice prevails where hopelessness persists,” Stevenson often says, “If we’re not imagining things that we haven’t seen, if we’re not willing to believe things we haven’t seen, then we’re going to be defined by all of the inequality and injustice that is all around us.”
Stevenson also adds, “I just don’t think you can doubt the power of love to change hearts and minds. Even the soulless can be moved in ways that shock them when they start feeling something.”
Two highly acclaimed cultural sites which opened in 2018 were pioneered by Stevenson: the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
These new landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of chattel slavery, and institutional violence and the connection to contemporary mass incarceration and discrimination.
Stevenson sees these sites as necessary for the promotion of education, reconciliation and the healing that must occur for real progress to ensue.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRYAN STEVENSON!