As a client of Bryan Stevenson, I have been able to have a different view of him for the past 12 years. Enamored with his incredible oratory skills, the media and public have been able to see the amazing work that Bryan and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) have been doing for the past 30 years.
Through Bryan, I have seen three points from the parable of the Good Samaritan come to life. In this parable, you have a Jew who was traveling and fell among robbers who stole all his goods and pummeled him, leaving him to die. There were two religious leaders who came by and saw the man but went about their business without giving this man a second thought (Luke 10:33-35).
The Good Samaritan did three main things that changed the life of the man who had been robbed. Likewise, Bryan has done and continues to do these same things: (1) see something, (2) feel something, and then (3) do something. The Good Samaritan saw that the man was in need. He felt compassion and sorrow for this man and his state. He then performed first aid, led him on his donkey to an inn, and then paid for his stay until he was well. Without the Good Samaritan, the man would have surely died.
When Bryan walked into a Georgia prison and met his first death row inmate, he saw that there was a need. This is what began to churn his passion and desire to help the marginalized and outcast. He saw someone his own age and with the same background. This rocked him to the core.
Bryan also saw youth arrested and being housed with adults. He heard stories of what the other incarcerated individuals and the prison staff did to these individuals. He saw my brother and me, the way that the system did not properly investigate our allegations, and the way that our lawyers didn’t fully fight for us. They were content on pleading us out. Bryan helped my brother and I obtain parole. He then assisted me with getting into college. He took the time to notice all of this and to be proximate.
Bryan is a man of empathy. He feels deeply and resonates with his clients. He doesn’t just work with them, helps them, and then discards them. He is someone who will continue the journey with them upon their release.
In Alabama, there had never been someone on death row who had been exonerated. Walter McMillian was the first and there have been others that followed. In 2015, Anthony Ray Hinton was exonerated by the work of Bryan and EJI.
Bryan has won numerous Supreme Court cases, most importantly the cases which stated that juvenile life without parole sentences were unconstitutional. This has freed hundreds of people across the country.
His ability to feel the pain and hurt of others is what makes him the person he is, but also a wonderful lawyer who can cause the judge and jury to feel everything that clients endured in life and the harm of their imprisonment. His upbringing in the faith prepared him for his calling and gave him the ability to feel.
“Just Do it!” should be the motto and brand of Bryan Stevenson, because he has been doing it for more than 35 years — and there is nothing that will stop him anytime soon.
EJI has even created The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum to bring light to all of the lynchings that have occurred in our country.
Bryan is a superhero. There are people in law school or in high school who have read his book and are getting ready to see the movie “Just Mercy” in theaters who want to be just like him. This is AMAZING. He has had such an impact on my life and that is why I am involved in criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania. I now seek to be like him — I see something, I feel something, and I do something.
Growing up and at Eastern University, Bryan heard a verse from Micah 6:8 that is still his challenge to this day: “Do Justice. Walk Humbly. Love Mercy.”
We all can be challenged as we see the movie “Just Mercy.” There are people in need, and you have the time, talent, and the treasures to help them. If you need help finding ways to get involved, reach out to www.ejiorg.com. EJI will help you connect with organizations in your area that are doing work in criminal justice reform.
We, too, can be like Bryan and the Good Samaritan.