EPI Event Recap: True Justice Screening
By Scott Zeigler, Graduate Research Assistant for EPI
Prior to the closure of Emerson’s campus due to Covid-19, EPI hosted a screening of
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality
on March 10, 2020. After the viewing, Professor Cara Moyer-Duncan moderated a discussion with two representatives from the Massachusetts ACLU: Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program, and Tanekwah Hinds, Racial Justice Community Advocate.
tells the story of attorney Bryan Stevenson’s decades long fight against racial injustice. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, which “is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
After the screening, Hall and Hinds spoke about how the film reflected the struggle for racial justice and reform locally. Hall spoke about changes in the Johnson administration in the 1960s that included the war on poverty and war on crime. These programs did not address the structural impediments that existed in underserved communities including, “substandard housing, substandard education, and substandard employment opportunities.” Over-policing of these same communities
led to the characterization of black communities as the problem while ignoring the systemic causes
. Hall shifted his own thinking while he worked as a prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. “For eight years I was in Dorchester District Court, I was handling cases out in Upham’s Corner, Codman Square, Grove Hall, all parts of black communities, and the people I was prosecuting looked just like me.”
He felt obligated to work against the system that was overwhelmingly invested in prosecuting these people. He joined the ACLU,
where he has been able to work to hold the system accountable and raise awareness. Hall added that it is important to recognize the work being done by Bryan Stevenson to attack the “racist nature of this system that leads so many black and brown people to be incarcerated in the first place, and the lengths of sentence that people receive [which] is the true injustice.”
Tanekwah Hinds spoke about the increased popularity in talking about criminal justice reform within District Attorney offices. She said, “I think for them it’s kind of like wearing cool shoes, they’re like, ‘we’re for lowering incarceration.’” However, she noted that these in-house programs result in the same outcome of incarceration when participants don’t meet expectations. Hinds works to provide community-based solutions that keep people struggling with addiction in their communities with support systems in place to help them change. These community-focused programs place the focus more on behavior and less on incarceration.