What author, attorney and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson refers to as "scattered traces of hope and humanity" can be found anywhere—even on death row.
Hundreds of Crossroads parents, alumni and community members gathered in the Grisanti Gym on Jan. 17 to hear a moving presentation by Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who visited campus to argue that our society's character should be measured not by how we treat the rich and powerful but by how we treat the poor, the accused and the imprisoned.
Stevenson's address—made possible through the generous support of the Goldman Family Foundation—offered insights into the connections between the country's history of racial discrimination and the flaws of the American justice system.
Indeed, the author's message of humanity resonated strongly with members of the Crossroads community, many of whom read his memoir, "Just Mercy," over the summer.
"It shows hope for the future," says ninth-grader Ava Shabahang, who is involved with Human Rights Watch. "It teaches the rest of the School that this is a pressing issue that needs to be talked about. It’s really important."
Stevenson's evening talk, which followed his presentation to students that day, underscored the School's commitment to supporting equity and justice through a wide variety of programs and initiatives.
"I became an educator because I believe we have a shared responsibility to each other—in our families, in our communities, in our country and in the world," Head of School Bob Riddle says. "When people commit a crime, for whatever reason, we have failed. We have done something wrong. We're not taking the kind of responsibility that I think we all need to be taking and figuring out how to make it better. Because it's all of our shared responsibility."
Stevenson was introduced by Crossroads alumnus Sam Reiss '14, who spoke to Upper School students last semester and who has worked with Stevenson to help imprisoned people and their families.
"Do we deserve to kill people even if they’re guilty? We strongly believe that the answer to that question is 'no,'" Reiss said at the November assembly. "Everyone is better than the worst thing they've ever done. In every person, there is humanity, love and kindness."