Dear Business and Philanthropic Leaders: Less Talk More Money, Invest in Bryan Stevenson Today
“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
― James Baldwin
Since the senseless murder of George Floyd by a White police officer, American companies and philanthropic organizations are making tremendous efforts to create the right hashtags and say the right thing about racism in this country. So much so, that it has almost become a marketing ploy. These same companies and leaders whose complicit cowardice over the years has been defined by a deafening silence, have now suddenly found the guts to speak out against the structural and institutional racism that has plagued our country since its inception.
Not good enough.
The question now is: Will these same business and philanthropic leaders DO the right thing? DO is an action word and in our capitalist society, action is validated by an answer to one question: Where are you investing your money? Don’t tell the Black community what you stand for, show us who you’re investing in, what organizations you’re investing in, and how much you’re investing and we can start to believe what you say. Words matter deeply, but the Black community can only trust what we see you do.
That is why the Lewis Family Foundation is announcing our commitment of an additional $1 million dollars to Bryan Stevenson’s vision and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), for a total of a $2 million dollar investment. We firmly believe that they can help heal our country.
Mr. Stevenson and his team at EJI works to shift the systemic and structural racism in this country by tackling it from multiple angles: criminal justice reform, racial justice trainings, and public education. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.
EJI has also opened The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Moreover, EJI has worked diligently to develop a set of curricula for teachers and educators to use in classrooms across the United States that comprehensively explores our nation’s history of racial injustice and connects that history of slavery, racial terror lynching, and segregation to contemporary issues of race, poverty, and criminal and economic injustice.
Now more than ever I hope it is clear to business and philanthropic leaders in this country that our contemporary race issues were not solved with the Civil Rights movement of the sixties. The movement is still living and breathing and being threatened at every turn. Do not waste this critical moment of unrest with inaction.
We implore you to do 3 things:
- Invest deeply in EJI NOW
- Invest in schools who adopt EJI’s curricula for 4th, 8th, and 11th grades
- Take your teams and your families to visit EJI’s Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama
We must all move with a sense of urgency during these times. Invest in leaders and organizations that get results, and are persistent in pushing our country and our citizens to be braver at owning our history of racial terror and injustice. Only then can we begin to heal as a country. Please join us by investing in the Equal Justice Initiative.
President, Lewis Family Foundation