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Students engage with social justice issues via Buckeye Book Community

Bryan Stevenson, author of this year’s Buckeye Book Community selection “Just Mercy,” will discuss his personal story and the novel on Oct. 26 at the Mershon Auditorium. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

This year’s Buckeye Book Community selection will come to life on Oct. 26 when author Bryan Stevenson discusses his personal story and the inspiration for his novel “Just Mercy.”

A lawyer, social activist, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson published “Just Mercy” in 2014 as a way of sharing his experience and shedding light on the creation of the initiative.  

A true story based on justice, redemption and its author’s coming of age, “Just Mercy” portrays a young lawyer dedicated to helping those in need. The novel tackles one of Stevenson’s first cases, as he represents a man who claimed he was falsely convicted of murder.

In 1994, Stevenson founded the nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Alabama, in an effort to provide legal representation for prisoners who might have been wrongly convicted.

La’Rez Wilson, community relations coordinator for Student Life’s Department of Social Change, explained the connection of these events to the core goals of the university, including fostering an environment which values controversial conversations and open discussion.

Since 2001, Ohio State’s Buckeye Book Community program has selected one book to be read by all incoming students the summer before their first semester at the university. Each year, more than 7,000 new Buckeyes are supposed to read the text.

“Our goal is to help first-year students become more aware about some of the critical issues within our criminal-justice system that many of them may have never thought about and also make some connections to their first-year transition,” said Ivory Douglas, program coordinator for Ohio State’s First Year Experience.

According to the Buckeye Book Community website, these critical issues include racial inequality, economic injustice and mass incarceration.

Wilson described the Buckeye Book Community’s role as an avenue for character development and an asset to all areas of students’ lives.

“Bryan’s journey shows readers what it takes to act on conviction, passion, and purpose,” Wilson said.

The impact of “Just Mercy,” however, is not limited to Stevenson’s lecture. Campus events include a panel discussion with Ohio State professors who teach courses at local prisons, a workshop on courage and character development amid difficult situations and an event with PassGo, an Ohio State student organization, about the importance of diverse communities and advocating for injustice.

First-year students may register for the lecture online at First Year Experience’s website and the general public can pick up tickets at the Wexner Center for the Arts or at the door while supplies last.

Stevenson will speak at the Mershon Auditorium next Thursday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the discussion starting promptly at 7:30 p.m.

 

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