• Gator Quad


Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Bryan Stevenson: How We Arrived Here

I feel very humbled by GatorQuad’s request to share my reflections on this pivotal, challenging time.

As you may know, I teach both literature (with a research focus in children’s literature) and education. In my case, the common thread between these two subjects is children, and in particular, the issue of how the stories we tell and the institutions we create allow all children to grow into the fullest and healthiest versions of themselves--or hinder them from doing so.

Over the length of my career, I’ve been a student of questions like these, and it’s as a student--with much to learn--that I experience this moment in our national history.

The teacher whose vision and wisdom has been incredibly important to my own education, ever since he first came to Allegheny in 2014, is Bryan Stevenson, the director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Mr. Stevenson has spoken in many contexts, from TED talks, his book Just Mercy (now also a film), interviews, and so on.

In the video I’ve shared, Mr. Stevenson defines our current time as a “reckoning” with our nation’s racial and racist history--a history that, as he points out, we have yet to come to terms with.

Among the many things I value about Mr. Stevenson’s work is his effort to re-infuse concepts such as justice, mercy, equality, and reconciliation with meaning for our time.

Just as the EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice (pictured above, designed to confront the history of lynchings and other acts of racial terrorism in the US) is both a symbolic structure and a testimony to historical truths, Mr. Stevenson asks us to make these concepts meaningful, as the only way to establish a world that looks “more like freedom, more like justice, more like equality.” This is the work all children need us to undertake.

~~ Susan Slote (Assistant Professor Director of Education Studies. Thomas M. and Sarah Stewart St. Clair Professorship at Allegheny College)

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