Race and Justice Community Book Read

Join Us For Our Community Book Read

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

We invite you to join Syracuse University College of Law and the Onondaga County Bar Association as we and other organizations co-sponsor a series of events that focus on racial justice issues in Syracuse and Central New York.  We begin our series with the Inaugural Racial Justice Community Book Read.  Communities across the country and locally have been torn apart by the effects of institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system.  The discriminatory and disparate treatment of Black and Brown people have caused much anguish and anger and have sparked massive protests against the status quo.  The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have led to renewed protests against the policing of Black and Brown people which has resulted in many other deaths prior to these losses. The intensified calls to address racial injustice, inequality, and broader social justice concerns provide opportunities for communities to engage in conversations that can bring about knowledge, awareness, and transformation.

Our first reading selection is Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), in Montgomery, AL.  Just Mercy has been described as “a powerful true story about…the importance of confronting injustice.”  This acclaimed book has even been published in a Young Adult Version for the 12+ age group appropriate for middle schoolers! We encourage everyone across our community to read the book this summer and prepare to discuss it after the Labor Day Weekend. The book is available at libraries and wherever books are sold.  Information about the dates and details of the fall discussion events will be posted early this fall on the website and Facebook page of the Onondaga Bar Association.

We look forward to your participation in this community event!  Let’s start reading!

NOVEMBER 2:  Chapter 12: Mother, Mother, and Chapter 13: Recovery

Marsha Colbey was a poor White woman who was charged with capital murder after delivering a stillborn son.  She was sentenced to Tutwiler Prison for women in Alabama.

Victoria Banks and her sister Diane Tucker were two Black women who are accused of killing Tucker’s newborn child even though there was no evidence that she had ever been pregnant. 

What were the conditions at Tutwiler? 

How did gender and gender stereotypes influence the charging and sentencing decisions in women’s cases, and their treatment in prison?

What are the intersectional issues related to women is prison, for example, gender-race-sexuality, economic status?  How would you address the particular issues related to women in the criminal justice system?

After his exoneration, Walter McMillian returned to Monroe County.  Why was Stevenson concerned for McMillian to live in Monroe County?  What changes had happened in his family’s life during his incarceration?  What changes did McMillian recognize in himself resulting from his time on death row?

McMillian’s civil lawsuit against the officers and prosecutor did not succeed.  He ultimately reached a settlement with the parties.  What laws make it difficult to sue law enforcement officers for wrongful convictions or other abuses of power?  How should such laws be changed?

How does Walter McMillion’s trauma of being on death row come to a head while Bryan Stevenson is in Sweden?