The true-life tale, which also raises timely issues around criminal justice reform in America, centers on the work attorney Bryan Stevenson has been doing for decades in America.
The Harvard graduate, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989 to serve those who’ve been illegally incarcerated or abused in prisons, said last Saturday at a special screening of the film inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture that he hopes the film moves people to act.
“I’m excited that this film gets people closer to the inequality in our system,” said Stevenson, whose bestselling memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, inspired the movie, now in theaters nationwide. “And I hope it motivates them to get involved.”
In a pre-screening conversation with Stevenson, Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. noted that more than 2 million people are incarcerated, and they are disproportionately Black.
The screening was hosted by WarnerMedia, The Brookings Institution and The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. The capacity crowd inside the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater included politicos, community advocates, corporate executives, and other invited guests.
The program included remarks by the Reverend Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network; Glenn Hutchins, Co-Chair of the Brookings Board of Trustees; and Andrew Reinsdorf, senior vice president of government relations of WarnerMedia.
Sharpton told the audience that Just Mercy was not only a movie, but “a movement.”
Tanya Lombard, Head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances for AT&T told ESSENCE that Just Mercy “masterfully” examines race, criminal justice and the systemic problem of wrongful conviction. “We hope that the film leads to a larger movement and ignites a torch in our communities around reform.”
Just Mercy, also starring Oshea Jackson Jr., Rafe Spall and Brie Larson, is in theaters now.