Spot-On News: Issue No. 6

Upcoming Event of Note: On January 9, Just Mercy, the film depicting the life of Bryan Stephenson, a civil rights attorney from Alabama, will open in the Chicago area. Here is how Variety writer Owen Gleiberman began his review of the film with our emphasis added, “There’s a sequence in Just Mercy — one of many — that will shake you to your soul. It’s the late 1980s, and Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young African-American lawyer in crisp gray suits and neckties, with a degree from Harvard, has come to stay in Monroe County, Alabama, to take on the cases of death-row inmates who are innocent. His most urgent client is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), known as Johnny D., who was railroaded, in a flagrant way, for the murder of a teenage white girl. But Stevenson has other cases on his plate too, like that of Herb Richardson (Rob Morgan), who did commit the crime he was convicted of.” With that small teaser, Gleiberman sets the stage for the issues that will reverberate throughout the film. The movie is based on the autobiography of the same name. Bryan Stephenson has fought tirelessly for social justice through his non-profit The Equal Justice Initiative. Perhaps Stephenson’s greatest accomplishment is a Supreme Court ruling holding that, in the case of juveniles, mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole violate the U.S. Constitution. In 2018, Stephenson spoke at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. His inspiring talk urged students to take up the cause of racial justice. The Institute of Politics, directed by David Axelrod, former advisor to President Barack Obama, is a University of Chicago treasure that Chicagoans should know about. The Institute sponsors dozens of events throughout the year and has brought a host of important speakers to the South Side. Recent speakers have included Caroline Kennedy, Cory Booker, Nicole Hannah-Jones, Madeleine Albright, Julian Castro, Nikki Haley, David Brooks, and many more. Find the Institute's upcoming events on our Talks Category Page. Image Courtesy: The Equal Justice Initiative