Bryan Stevenson.

‘Just Mercy’ author Bryan Stevenson to visit VCU, Richmond

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Bryan Stevenson, author of Virginia Commonwealth University’s 2016–17 common book, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” will speak at VCU on April 12.

Stevenson’s talk will be held at 6 p.m. at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, 1200 W. Broad St. in Richmond. The event will be free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Stevenson will speak with VCU students, faculty, staff and the wider Richmond community about the book, a memoir that tells the story of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice founded by Stevenson that is dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the criminal justice system.

“Just Mercy” was selected for VCU’s universitywide, yearlong Common Book Initiative. Copies of the book were distributed to 3,500 incoming first-year students, and to members of the university and Richmond communities. Students are being encouraged to read the book and reflect on its themes of pursuing true mercy and justice in society.

“This year’s common book, ‘Just Mercy,’ has allowed us to initiate new (and renew long-standing) partnerships across both campuses and in the Richmond community,” said Shelli Fowler, Ph.D., interim dean of University College, director of the Common Book Initiative and director of the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program. “Since early in the fall semester, first-year students have had increased opportunities for real-world learning experiences within and beyond their UNIV 111/112 classrooms. ‘Just Mercy’ has been a catalyst and connector this year, and that’s exciting as we look toward Bryan Stevenson’s visit on April 12.”

Stevenson’s visit to VCU is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and University College. 

His talk is part of a series of events at VCU, sponsored by the Focused Inquiry faculty of University College in collaboration with several university partners, which occur throughout the year in support of the communitywide discussion of “Just Mercy.”

Last week, VCU students visited Open High School to lead discussions about the book, which is also Open High’s common book this year. In the fall, the Common Book Initiative organized a cleanup of the historic African-American East End Cemetery, and hosted a wide variety of events such as a panel discussion titled “Why Trust the Cops?” which featured VCU Police Chief John Venuti and other law enforcement officers who spoke on policing with a purpose, building trust and community-engaged policing. On the VCU Health Sciences campus, the Common Book Initiative co-sponsored an event with the School of Medicine’s International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship, featuring a panel of formerly incarcerated individuals who discussed access to health care inside and outside of the prison system.

On March 28, at 5:30 p.m., the Common Book Initiative and I2CRP will also co-sponsor a screening and panel discussion on the VCU Health Sciences campus of “Until the Well Runs Dry: Medicine and the Exploitation of Black Bodies,” a documentary by Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Stevenson’s visit to VCU on April 12 will include a guest lecture at the Richmond City Justice Center, joining the faculty and students who participate in the educational programming for RCJC residents, which is led by VCU’s ASPiRE Living/Learning Program. Stevenson will meet with formerly incarcerated youth artists and tour an ART180 exhibit that will be in Cabell Library prior to meetings with other campus and community groups prior to his 6 p.m. talk at the Siegel Center.