Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, tells the story of meeting Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks for the first time. He shared in an interview, “I actually met a woman named Johnnie Carr, who is the architect of the Montgomery bus boycott. She was an amazing person and she called me one day and said, ‘Rosa Parks is coming downtown. And me and Miss Durr’—Virginia Durr was a white woman whose husband, Clifford Durr had represented Dr. King—'we’re going to get together and we’re going to talk. Bryan, do you want to come over and listen?’
And I said, ‘Oh, yes, I do.’ So I was over there listening to Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr and Virginia Durr talking. It was so inspiring, because they weren’t talking about what they had done, they were talking about what they were going to do. In their 70s and their 80s they were so full of energy and passion and life. I was really, really inspired. And after a little bit, Ms. Parks turned to me and said, ‘Bryan, tell me what the Equality Justice Initiative is, tell me what you’re trying to do.’
And I gave her my whole rap. I said, ‘We’re trying to do something about excessive punishment, about the death penalty, about children prosecuted as adults, about over incarceration, about racial bias against the poor . . .’ I gave her my whole rap and when I finished she looked at me and said, ‘Hm… hm… hm, that’s going to make you tired, tired, tired.’ And that’s when Ms. Carr leaned forward. She put her finger on my face and said, ‘That’s why you’ve got to be brave, brave, brave.’”
The work we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ is not easy work. We are called to feed the hungry, to serve as peacemakers, to love our enemies, to forgive, to visit the prisoner, welcome the stranger, and be good stewards of this earth. We are commissioned to speak truth to power, to go last and not first, to value humility and meekness and to give up the desire to be about the things of this world. These are not easy values to live out and if we’re honest then we must be brave, brave, brave to claim ourselves as Christian.
I hope you are finding the strength and courage you need to live out your call. I hope you have others to lean on to give you inspiration and encouragement. I hope you are finding joy. Sometimes the way seems long and there is much that is required; but following the path of women like Rosa Parks, Johnnie Carr and Virginia Durr and men like Bryan Stevenson, we are never alone.
You are the light of the world.
NMCC Conference Director