D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Debate Continues Over Impact, Relevance of ‘Just Mercy’

Smithsonian Screening, Discussion Shed Light on Biased Judicial System

Hundreds of area residents swarmed into the Smithsonian on Saturday, Jan. 11 anxious to be part of an evening both revelatory and painful with a screening of the powerful film, “Just Mercy” and a discussion between Black scholar, Dr. Henry Louis Gates and the author of the book on whose life the film is based, attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

The film does more than just address a specific injustice suffered by a Black man from Alabama who’s sentenced to die for a notorious murder that he did not commit. For those unaware of the injustices suffered on a daily basis by African Americans, the film may give one pause to reexamine America’s justice system which has countless examples of innocent Blacks caught up a world where guilt is presumed not due to evidence but rather on the color of one’s skin.

As the protagonist, Walter McMillan, played by Jamie Foxx, says in the movie, “You don’t know what it’s like in Alabama where you’re guilty from the moment you’re born.” This statement alone serves as a serious indictment against the judicial system in the State of Alabama and many parts of the U.S. as well.

But for Stevenson, portrayed in the film by Michael B. Jordan, who has suddenly become the darling of the mainstream media, his longtime belief, as we see in the film, remains, “It’s never too late for justice.”

Consider these sentiments as expressed by the actors Foxx (McMillan) and Jordan (Stevenson):

“Each of us is worse than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“I know what it’s like to be in the shadows.”

“If we can look at ourselves closely, we can change the world for the better. We all need grace. We all need mercy.”

“I got my truth back – you gave that to me.” Ain’t nobody gonna take that back from us.”

If nothing else, the film reminds us that the legacy of slavery and the perpetuation of white supremacy remains alive and well in the U.S. But for how long?

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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