Letter from the Executive Director

A Call to Action from Bryan Stevenson

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing Bryan Stevenson speak at Kipp Columbus. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what Bryan said, and the ferocity with which he said it.

Bryan is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and is one of the most prominent advocates for criminal justice reform in the country. His words are more than words; they reflect a deep and lifelong commitment to changing things.

While I hope you will soon read his magnificent book, Just Mercy, or watch his famous Ted talk, I wanted to share a synopsis of the message he shared. He left all of us with much to contemplate and much to do, including a list of four action steps as we seek to truly and urgently tackle poverty, its traumas, and its root causes:

  1. Get proximate with those experiencing poverty and injustice.
  2. Understand the narratives that enable poverty and injustice, and more importantly, change them.
  3. Stay hopeful. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
  4. Do the uncomfortable and inconvenient things that must be done.

Will we be a community that embraces our challenges and embraces these action steps to pursue change? Or will we be a community that pretends we’re doing well enough?

I believe we are the former. I believe our members prove that every day. And I believe we can do something that has never been done before in fighting poverty, in fighting inequities, in fighting racism, in ending segregation, in transforming systems.

These are goals that I hope all the presidential candidates embrace tomorrow night when they converge in Columbus, goals I hope this White House will choose to embrace, as well. But whatever we do, no matter our political stripes, we won’t do much–or much well–if we don’t pursue change with and for the people that need all of us the most.