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Bryan Stevenson at the NAIS POCC, cont’d.

5th Grade Teacher Cemal Ford continues his recall of Bryan Stevenson’s keynote lecture at the NAIS People of Color Conference. You can find parts 1 and 2 here and here, respectively. -Ed.


The third point of Stevenson’s speech was the need to remain hopeful. In parts of the lecture, Stevenson talked candidly about some of his experiences fighting for condemned men, but not always succeeding. He said he has felt battered and bruised by some of these cases, and has identified hope, driven and enabled by faith as the key ingredient in fighting injustice for the long-term. Members of Stevenson’s team have to figuratively ‘sign up’ to a statement of hope in order to be employed by him, “to work for me, you have to be able to believe what you have not seen…” he said. “Hope is what will make you stand when everyone else is sitting and telling you to sit down, hope is what will make you speak when everyone else is silent.”

The 4th and last point of his speech was sometimes we have to do uncomfortable things. Stevenson outlined a commitment to discomfort as being vital to achieving real and lasting change. He spoke about facing down a humiliating strip search from a racist guard in order to see a client with severe learning disabilities, but referred to the trials faced by some of the “giants” on whose shoulders he stands, people like Martin Luther King and the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and reflected that he feels comparatively “privileged” not to have to face a similar level of oppression. The pursuit of justice isn’t easy, it’s uncomfortable. Be willing to be uncomfortable and be inconvenienced. We do what we do because we are broken. There is power in brokenness. This is how the change can come. He ended his speech with “Keep beating the drum for justice.” To sum up, for me- we have to be proximate to change the narrative and remain hopeful as we pursue uncomfortable things in uncomfortable spaces.