WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Thursday, October 11, 2007

what are we here for?

This guy has been on my mind all week, not in some weird stalkerish way and not because he did anything particularly groundbreaking this week, although in a sense, he does something groundbreaking every week. I tried to post about love/relationships, the confusing twenties or even how much I hate my job but I just kept coming back to him … Bryan Stevenson. This weekend, during one of my monthly visits back home I was perusing my mail (yes, it still gets sent to my mama house…I can’t let go). Anyway, as I laid aside another student loan bill *sigh*... there he was...on the cover of my alumni magazine and I smiled, excitedly thinking, it’s Bsteve! That’s what we called him. We meaning the small cadre of liberal ladies with whom I hung out during law school. We gushed and smiled during his death penalty class, amazed at this man who seemed to us to be the most wonderful person on earth but also the most perplexing. Here was a relatively young (and handsome!) single black man who had dedicated his life to representing those without a voice, expressing dedication on the level of God-like sacrifice. Truly, if Jesus walks among us, Prof. Stevenson could surely be Him!

There were no signs of a wife or a family or even the semblance of a personal life. He shuttled weekly to the city to teach several classes at the law school and then back again to Montgomery, Alabama to oversee the organization he had built from the ground-up. He is profound and thoughtful while also remaining down to earth and approachable….he even plays in the faculty basketball game each year.

As I paged through the article on the plane ride back to my life as it now exists, his eloquence in discussing his life commitment to helping exonerate those condemned to death as well as righting the wrongs within our criminal (in)justice system made me began to wonder, what had happened to me….where was the girl who had avoided tax law and corporations courses like the plague, who was all over any thing criminal or civil rights-oriented, who had written her personal statement about starting her own organization to help educate “her people” so that they would be better able to confront the man, the system, the popos! Where was she? I suddenly got angry at myself for having forgotten her, letting the slightly lazy, shopaholic, worried-about-student-loans me sweep us into the corporate machine.

Of course, this life, my life is not so black and white: I can’t just leave my job today and take a vow of poverty a la BSteve. Like I could really live off only $18K a year while turning over the rest of the offered $50K salary to charity. The student loan man (in my mind, it's always a sour-faced old White man sitting on stacks of my money, collecting more each month) is not gonna let me forgo these monthly payments simply because I now want to change course. And I surely couldn’t relinquish my desire for a husband and children, traveling, and just doing something frivolous every once in a while. Somehow, I don’t think that’s in my nature. But still, even given these considerations, it’s hard to read the story of Prof. Stevenson and not question oneself, his life being a sort of quiet indictment of the way in which I, and young (Black) lawyers generally, can go about the business of mind-numbing doc review and attempts to help corporation X avoid big bad lawsuit Y for 60-80 hours per week without seeing his sacrifice and feeling a little guilty. Especially for someone like me who has dreams of doing such things, took classes to help prepare me for the work and yet am now so far from it. As my grandmama says, if you know better, why don’t you do better? Or better yet, what am I here for?

That’s why I’ve been thinking about this man all week. And I hope that after reading this post and this piece, you will think on him a little bit in the coming week as well and ask yourself these same questions.

“The real question isn’t whether some people deserve to die for crimes they may have committed. The real question is whether a state such as Alabama, with its racist legacy and error plagued system of justice, deserves to kill.”

Bryan Stevenson, as told to Paul Barrett, “Bryan Stevenson’s Death-Defying Acts,”
The Law School Magazine, August 2007

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