true justice


True Justice: Bryan Stevenson‘s Fight For Equality (HBO / KUNHARDT FILMS, 2019) – 100 min film (free jun 2020)


2 min – starts with bryan and sister swimming.. clearing pool.. ‘you don’t belong’.. what do you do with a memory like that

5 min – i don’t think we’ll get healthy/free.. until we address this problem.. going to have to tell the truth – of history

8 min – i think you can be properly convicted and unfairly sentenced

9 min – my time in law school was frustrating.. didn’t meet any lawyers like i wanted to be.. until stephen bright – whole court system is white

18 min – i had a hard time reconciling this equal justice under law with this doctrine of inevitability

we are haunted by our history of racial ineq.. we are post genocidal people.. what we did to native people was genocide.. we use this narrative of racial diff to justify destruction of communities.. that’s what made slavery in america so problematic..

19 min – in order to own other people .. had to say black people are diff than white people .. so not citizens.. not protected by constitution.. created a racial hierarchy

26 min – i think for my mom.. it was hard to stay silent.. i felt vulnerable going to law school.. until i went to death row.. i realized.. the things i’d been silent about.. i need to be talking about

27 min – sister: starting in montgomery.. a lot of bomb threats..  brother: my father wanted him to make a lot of money.. but they came around.. it (what bryan was doing) looked a lot like church.. and they were familiar with that

29 min – on people on death row the most in need of urgent legal assistance

(guy on death row) how can another human being tell another person.. that’ll you’ll get used to the smell of bodies burning and one day that will be you

32 min – a new way to enforce – lynching – no need to wear a white hood.. could carve body up.. everybody was complicit.. families made to leave bodies up for days.. not saying sir to a white person .. going thru wrong door.. could get you lynched..

34 min – (lynching) was intended to terrorize people into not confronting this racial hierarchy.. in this sense.. not about individuals.. but about the entire african community

35 min – the challenge of living in a community where you have to trust people.. who you know are engaging in the kind of terror/violence that a lynching represents

telling story of walter mcmillan – which is main story in just mercy

39 min – stephen: cases of innocent people.. their trial is just a legal lynching

40 min – lot of people think rosa parks and mlk about bus seating.. but original was innocent youth sentenced to death because of confession he made when they brought him in and tied to execution chair to get him to confess.. he was executed.. pain of that was part of the story that gave rise.. about the way our criminal justice system functions.. about lynching and its legacy

42 min – mcmillan traumatized by time (6 yrs) on death row.. couldn’t get settled.. came to live with me.. lived with sister.. i don’t think there’s anyway to reconcile with that..  burden of incarceration came out as dementia.. power of shadow of lynching destructive.. the consciousness that gives rise to that.. ie: these black people are not fully human.. can’t disconnect death penalty from lynching.. and can’t disconnect lynching from enslavement.. if we don’t see that line we’re going to continue to claim lives unfairly

45 min – (bryan playing piano) – music is therapy.. only place that takes me completely out of my head

sia: bryan is the work.. there’s no way to separate him from the work.. he’s gone on a path no one else has chosen.. incredibly lonely

46 min – randy susskind: on the 24/7 ness of bryan’s work

47 min – sister: most of the time he’s on the go

48 min – brother: i used to worry about him all the time.. needing his own downtime.. but he’s convinced us he’s ok

49 min – i’ve never spent a lot of time thinking about what i don’t have.. you think your life is diff.. but not like a sacrifice.. i have an opp to do these things.. i feel privileged

50 min – anthony hinton on death row 13 yrs – clearing his name would have taken 1 hr.. but my life (anthony talking) was not worth 1 hr

year after year went by..

54 min – stephen: huge diff between law and justice

55 min – jimmy lee dill – we said.. can’t execute because disabled.. but when i brought it up at all levels of courts.. they all said.. too late.. should have brought that up long ago

56 min – talking to jimmy when couldn’t save him.. as he stuttered.. i had memory.. in church seeing little kid.. who stuttered.. i laughed.. my mom saw me laughing.. said.. bryan don’t you ever do that.. apologize/hug/love him.. on night of execution (guy stuttered).. i’d forgotten how that little boy hugged me back.. told me he loved me.. i was holding phone (with jimmy) crying.. client says.. thank you for repping me.. i love you for trying to save my life.. i hung up phone and said i can’t do this anymore..

58 min – thinking.. how do i do what i do.. i realized that night.. i do what i do because i’m broken too..  i am part of the broken community.. don’t have choice in standing up for the other broken

1:00 – mlk being arrested.. rosa parks arrested.. those are the times..

1:01 – when look at our history when it comes to race.. order is a defining characteristic.. every time it seems that people of color have some moment of progress.. there is a reaction against that.. and the reaction is usually to criminalize and use the criminal justice system to reshape/redefine what’s just happened.. so when people start protesting.. what do we do.. we call them criminals.. mlk convicted of a crime for organizing the montgomery bus boycott.. that frame is a constant frame in american history.. that’s what gave rise to convict leasing..

1:02 – convicted of made up crimes (ie: 6 black people together after dark et al).. and leased to commercial entities.. a new kind of enslavement.. the label slave is replaced with the label criminal .. but created the same ability to oppress/control..t

1:03 – using crime/criminality has been an effective tool through out.. so 50s 60s protesting.. criminalized.. and those in uniforms are the foot soldiers in effort to sustain racial inequality.. t

nixon uses same term: we’ve got to have law/order

hard won order.. entropy et al.. gare enslavement law et al

1:04 – 70s.. everybody talking about getting tough on crime.. and commit to a new institution that will operate that control.. and we call it mass incarcertion.. and prison population begins to grow.. we’ve allowed the criminal justice system to be our repository of what we do with our rage/frustration when we’ve had moments of progress in social justice.. we do it to everybody – women, children, disabled.. t

1:05 – more we incarcerate.. more money we make.. indictment on this country

1:06 – on convos w young boys.. say.. i know i’m going to be in jail by the time i’m 21.. so have to go out and get mine while i can

1:07 – biggest migration.. black people coming to north as refugees from terror in the american south.. never been given opp to recover.. today.. very problematic.. fled from violence/terror.. but still being terrorized.. by age 5.. trauma disorder.. age of 8.. drugs first time in life don’t feel threatening menace.. gangs.. a means of community..

1:08 – 13 states with no min age for trying a child.. condemn them to die at 13 and 14

1:10 – 2005 struck down death penalty for children.. but what we got.. kids saying.. i’m just getting a diff kind of death sentence.. incarceration.. all children change/grow and to condemn them seems unfair

1:12 – stephen: one of bryan’s great gifts is to see how you can take a body of law and apply it somewhere else..

1:13 – how we punish.. how we treat the disfavored.. doesn’t just say something about them.. but about us.. i really believe that it’s the most broken among us that can teach us something about compassion.. the way mercy is supposed to work.. t.. show us the power of redemption/justice

bryan saying in beginning.. why he does what he does.. he’s broken too

1:15 – hitton out after 30 yrs.. his is a case study of what’s wrong with our system.. his problem was that he was poor

1:16 – first time every.. all 9 judges said i was entitled to a new trial

hinton: everyday i have to live with fact i lost 30 yrs.. people say.. the system worked because i got it.. i say.. if it worked i would have never got in.. more worried about the people in control of that system.. none of them have apologized..  i guess man of power feel they don’t have to apologize to a man of no power

1:18 – we have a system that makes us think saying you’re sorry .. makes them weak.. we haven’t learned collectively to apologize.. i think us supreme court should apologize for 200 yrs

1:19 – not going to achieve justice we need if stay in courts alone.. people in power won’t do uncomfortable things

my grandmother would hug me so hard.. later.. she’d ask.. do you still feel me hugging you.. she wanted me to understand what proximity can do .. how it can empower you

1:21 – grandmother telling me i heard something in the shed.. when i didn’t think i heard anything.. first time i saw her cry

1:22 – that shack was the slave cabin her father was born.. i felt like i could hear the sounds of enslaved people coming up river.. i heard that when went into prisons.. sound of suffering/agony/misery.. when you hear that.. it will push you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do

there’s a history of untold cruelty that hides in silence in this country.. and i think there are things we can hear in these spaces that can motivate us

1:23 – i don’t think people today are free.. t

none of us are free

starts his monument – filling jars w dirt – and labeling the jars with lynching stories

1:26 – jars of soil make tangible/visible this terror and recognize these people who were never honored/protected.. sweat/tears/blood in the soil.. but also hope in the soil

1:27 – people always tell me.. i don’t want to hear about all that bad stuff.. i think there is a cultural need.. to get us to remember.. so that we can recover/restore..

1:28 – a few things we think have to happen in order to recover – reflect soberly on the history..

we do the opposite.. landscape littered w icon of confederacy, enslavement, lynching.. a lot of it emerged in 50s when people were talking about civil rights..

i don’t think we understand how vast/intense opposition to civil rights was.. narrative won by people who were able to hold onto this view of racial differences..

1:30 – we have to pay attention to the narrative now.. a narrative that pushes us to a new place.. in a way for everyone to say.. never again.. that’s what we’re working on .. to build a memorial/museum

1:31 – on the narrative museum – history of racial ineq in america

i want there to be repair.. for all of us.. i don’t think we can get free until we’re willing to tell truth about history.. can’t have reconciliation w/o truth.. if a place (museum) where we can show that truth can set us free.. we can do it anywhere

across the board [to get to the roots of healing.. it has to be all of us]

1:33 – my grandmother gave me the confidence to believe things i hadn’t seen.. t

1:34 – more than a monument/museum.. a movement.. as we try to create a better tomorrow

not just to remember.. but to be inspired.. we want race, mercy and love to order themselves..

monument for every county in america where lynching took place.. asking people to come claim their monuments and take it back to their place

1:36 – we’re all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.. the other things we are create an opp for restoration/reconciliation/repair

everybody imagines if in alabama in 60s would have been marching w king.. but i don’t think you can claim that if today you’re watching these systems (incarcerating millions of people) being created and you’re doing nothing .. t

1:37 – something better waiting for us in this country.. important to understand all the ugly/brutal details.. they give rise to what one day might allow us to claim something beautiful


just mercy

Bryan Stevenson